Jacinta Tynan: Former Sky News presenter on why her redundancy was a blessing in disguise
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Standing across the road from the Family Court of Australia on a muggy day in February, Jacinta Tynan experienced a confronting feeling of déjà vu.
The last time she was there was during one of her assignments covering a story for ABC’s The 7.30 Report – for which she was a reporter from 1997 to 2000.
“I remember thinking at the time, ‘How on earth do you end up here?’” Tynan tells Stellar. “‘How does it come to this between two people who once loved each other?’”
Now, four years on from the moment she took her own children and moved out of their Sydney family home in 2015, Tynan was back in the same spot with a much clearer understanding of the long, tough road that leads to the doors of one of the city’s most intimidating buildings.
“Even just walking through those doors is a shock,” she admits. “To find yourself [there] when you started out with the best of intentions and left with the best of intentions… Sometimes you have no choice but to step up for the sake of your kids. The way that I cope is to rise above it as best I can. Those that are out on the other side tell me I will move on and not look back. I just wish there was another way to get there.”
Tynan’s sons Jasper, 10, and Otis, eight, have been her highest priority throughout her separation from their father.
“I have to weather my children from the fallout of what they’ve been through. I’m hyper-sensitive to the impact the split might have had on them. So I’m constantly checking in with them, getting them to talk about their emotional state, maybe even too much.”
She laughs as she mimics her sons’ exhaustion at her doing so: “‘Mum, do I have to talk about my feelings again?’ We do a thing where I act out taking all of their worries off them and putting them on my shoulders so I carry them instead. My oldest calls me ‘the worry ATM’, where he can deposit all his worries.”
The life she has with her boys is not the one she had envisioned, but it is still one in which she takes pride. “I look for the positives in our situation,” Tynan says. “I’m always reiterating to my kids how lucky we are we’ve got a roof over our heads and they’ve got two parents who love them.”
She treasures their connection, and says she makes a conscious effort to ensure she is present with them when they spend time together.
“The beach near where we live has wonderful rock pools. I take them there often and I’ll say to them, ‘Boys, this is our special place,’” she says, her voice cracking. “I’m trying to give these memories significance so when they look back on their childhood, these little moments will override everything else.”
Until recently, Tynan, 50, was a news presenter at Sky News. But as the impact of COVID-19 hit Australian shores, she became one of many journalists in the local and international media to be retrenched. “There have been catastrophic job losses across almost every industry during this time. I’m proof that no-one is immune,” she explains.
But while she admits to being shocked at being made redundant, Tynan notes on reflection it was a blessing in disguise.
Like many parents around the country, she’s had to become a teacher, supporting her children with their homeschooling – a juggling act that was becoming increasingly difficult when she still held her job.
“On one occasion, I had no option but to take my boys to work,” she recalls. “They sat in the foyer for five hours while I presented the news and prepared interviews between running out to check on them. It was incredibly stressful and wasn’t fair on my kids. So when I was laid off the next week, it felt like the timing was right. Something had to give.”
Without the added pressure of work commitments, Tynan says, “We’ve been bunkering down together and reconnecting, recalibrating. We three really needed that.
“For the first time since they were babies, I’ve got the opportunity to be really present with them. Life has slowed. We’ve been going on lots of bushwalks, playing Cluedo, cooking together. These are days we will never get back.”
Through the rocky times, Tynan has a not-so-secret weapon up her sleeve that has helped keep her on an even keel. “I learnt Vedic meditation when I was pregnant with my first baby,” she says. “It triggered a spiritual awakening.”
Tynan begins and ends every day with a 20-minute session. “I sit up on my bed, I light a candle – on a good day – and repeat a mantra to myself. It’s as much a habit as brushing my teeth. I’ve been through an enormous amount these past few years. There’s been a lot of emotional pain. Meditation keeps me going.”
But while Tynan credits meditation for her ability to stay the course, perhaps it’s also a fundamental part of her personality.
Her close friend of 20 years, ABC News presenter Juanita Phillips, has long admired Tynan’s resilience. “She takes a knock, then bounces back,” Phillips tells Stellar. “She can be remarkably calm in the face of calamity, when most of us would be hiding under the doona.
“She reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara in that scene from Gone With The Wind where she declares, ‘Tomorrow is another day!’ She has her own version of that – one of her favourite sayings is, ‘Keep the camera rolling.’ Whatever happens, she just sees it as another lesson to be learnt, and another nudge in the right direction.”
Tynan’s optimism is also evident in her work. As creator, producer and host of the regular Change Makers segment on Sky News, she made it her mission to generate more positivity in the world by, in her words, “Using the airwaves for good. I had this opportunity to share information with people, so I thought, ‘Well, what can I do?’”
The segment covered people and organisations trying to make a difference, and profiled innovative social enterprises, not-for-profits and thought leaders who are doing their bit to elevate others.
Among others, Change Makers featured Man Cave, who work with young men to foster healthy masculinity; Heart On My Sleeve, which aims to empower young people struggling with mental illness; and The Healthy Tradie Project, which brings yoga and mindfulness practices to construction workers – whose industry has workers six times more likely to die from suicide than other injuries.
“I feel drawn to these topics because, as a mother of two boys, I feel an overwhelming responsibility to raise good men,” Tynan explains. “Young men, in particular, are really struggling at the moment with escalating rates of mental illness and higher rates of suicide. A lot of them don’t have the courage to be in touch with their emotions, so I admire organisations that work to change that.”
It’s a theme Tynan hopes to continue through her future work. “One thing we’ve all had the opportunity to learn over these last few months is what really matters, and it’s not what we used to think.
“People are looking to change their lives and connect with others like never before, and I’d like to continue to create content to help facilitate that change. I have evolved and grown so much over the last few years,” she says. “It’s time for my work to evolve with me.”