Australian super star Hugh Jackman’s wife, Australian actress and activist Deborra-lee Furness, has been working behind the scenes on a storyline for Neighbours, the soap’s producer has revealed.
Furness and Jackman, married since 1996, are adoptive parents to a son and daughter, and their experiences inspired Furness to co-found Adoption Change, a charitable organisation which works to provide safe homes for displaced, vulnerable children.
Fans have been following Aaron Brennan and David Tanaka’s journey to becoming foster parents, and as the plot develops in the coming weeks the fostering process for same-sex couples will be explored, based partly on the show’s producer Jason Herbison’s own experiences of adopting a child with his partner.
“I always wanted to explore Aaron and David’s journey to become parents,” he tells RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview. “Plus, having adopted my daughter with my partner, I also wanted to do a storyline highlighting adoption and fostering, so I reached out to Deborra-lee Furness and her organisation Adopt Change to see if they’d like to be involved.
“We received expert guidance from Deb and the team, including the wonderful Dr Stacey Blythe. Deb and Adopt Change collaborated on the narrative from outline to script, then finally with Deb on set directing. She was especially keen to depict the trauma displaced children can go through, it’s truly heartbreaking. Many moments are ripped from real life.
“That said, we also wanted to show some of the joy – there are amazing foster families in our community and we want to honour their work.”
Aaron finds himself affronted by the initial line of questioning from the foster agency around a same sex couple becoming parents, and Herbison admits Neighbours was committed to an unflinching portrayal of how the system works.
“Same sex couples can face more obstacles as well as judgment from the community,” he continues. “We explore the application process and the continuing government involvement, the challenges and the obstacles. The fact Aaron and David are gay is addressed, but ultimately the story is universal.
“What I always find interesting is that children inherently don’t have prejudices, that is something learnt from adults. Children just need a stable, loving home.”
In 2018, David and Aaron famously threw Australian TV drama’s first gay wedding after same-sex marriage was legalised for real down under the year before. Herbison admits the fellas starting a family was always in their future as the pioneering relationship progressed.
“We saw Aaron and David fall in love, marry and discuss having children, so this is the next step for them.
“As a same-sex couple, the journey to parenthood is not easy and I wanted to reflect all the ups and down. I feel very strongly that your sexuality has no impact on your ability to be a great parent.
“Adoption and fostering is a complex issue,” he continues. “People sometimes confuse it with separating children from their biological families, which is never the goal. However, where biological parents can’t look after their children, adoption offers a sense of love and permanency that every child deserves.”