It was just four years ago when the SBS series Every Family Has A Secret first premiered.
And at the helm of the show as host was Noni Hazlehurst – AACTA, FCCA and Logie award winning actress, known for her roles in Little Fish, A Place to Call Home and Play School.
So what initially drew Noni to an observational documentary series? Mostly, the “storytelling” aspect of it she told The Weekly.
“When they [Every Family Has A Secret producers] approached me, I did a bit of research into the people who were behind it and was immensely reassured to know that they’d worked on producing things like Australian Story and the early series of Who Do You Think You Are in Australia, so I knew I was in good hands in terms of storytelling.
“And I’m a storyteller. I mean, honestly, no matter what the medium is, whether it’s radio, film, stage, presenting, whatever it is, I like to tell stories that I think have some meaning and some value to the person listening to the story. So, it was a no brainer really.”
Of course, in 2023, Every Family Has A Secret’s fourth season is about to debut on October 19. And Noni has proudly hosted all four seasons.
“I’m really proud to be associated with the programme because it has done so well. And because it doesn’t exploit the audience or the subject, which you know, many so-called reality programmes do. It’s a very honourable way of telling great stories; human stories,” Noni said before thoughtfully adding:
“And the other side of it is, you know, I’ve just turned 70 and to be a female presenter of this age, on a programme that’s had remarkable success, I’m really delighted. I think, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to continue being a part of the show?’
“Another reason I’ve stayed with the program for the last four years is the team; I’ve built a really great rapport with the crew and the production company. And they’re fabulous, they’re amazing; mostly women in positions of authority, which is interesting.”
As the whole premise of Every Family Has A Secret is unearthing family secrets, the conversation inevitably turned to whether some secrets are better left buried. But Noni believes finding out the truth, no matter how ugly, can be incredibly fruitful.
“I mean, ultimately, it’s history. It’s not you going through it. It’s a relative of yours and I think when you know the context in which they made their choices, and that’s what the programme is so good at providing – those little historical breakouts, you can achieve some understanding of why they made those choices.
“And I think even though it’s sometimes painful or embarrassing, at least you have some sense of the truth. There’s an old saying, ‘The truth can set you free,’ and these people have come to us very courageously, haunted by something that’s bothered them, their whole lives in some cases.
“But I’ve never yet met one of our subjects who was sorry they went on this journey, even if the outcome wasn’t what they hoped for, or was worse than they expected. They’re all pleased they tried to find the answer to their issues. It’s better to know than not know, ultimately.”
The Weekly spoke with Noni before Australia went to the polls for the Australian Indigenous Voice referendum, and while we now know that the country ultimately voted against the Voice, Noni had hoped that Australians would use our collective knowledge of past events to inform their vote.
“History repeats itself. I think it’s really important that programmes like Every Family Has A Secret give us historical context in which people make decisions because we’re all doing that at this moment. We’re about to make a historical decision in this country. And if we don’t know history, it has no context and has no meaning.
“So it’s better to not have a black armband view of history; it’s better to actually know what happened and to make sure that never happens again. Sorry to be topical, it’s a bit pertinent to me right now,” Noni shared.
As for whether there will be another season of Every Family Has A Secret following this year’s upcoming series, Noni isn’t sure – but she would happily return to host.
“I hope so! There’s been no official word but fingers crossed. It’s up to SBS, and it’s up to the audience to watch Season Four.”
Season Four of Every Family Has A Secret premieres on SBS and SBS On Demand on October 19 at 7.30pm.