The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Matthew Newton: He did it again

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on September 5, 2010

Matthew Newton has committed domestic violence. He is a criminal and needs to go to prison.
Matthew Newton is a drug addict and mentally ill. He needs our pity and our help.

I’m no psychiatrist, but I do know this:

However, troubled or drug addled Matthew Newton may be,  he’s committed a serious crime, and it’s not his first offense.

As we wait to see whether Newton will be held accountable for his latest actions, we should ask ourselves why a man who just three years ago went to court over a similar incident was allowed to re-offend, and, why he was allowed to grace our television screens.

Even before this latest incident, It’s been a sorry decline for Matthew Newton.

Not that Channel Seven seemed to mind. After checking himself out of rehab earlier this year, Channel Seven offered Newton a $200, 000 contract to host their brand new reality-TV series, The X-Factor.

How quickly the commercial networks forget!

The question posed by Media Watch is this: why was Newton offered the job in the first place?

Or indeed, any other acting jobs following his court appearance in 2007?

(If you haven’t already, make sure you watch this episode – it just confirms how lucky we are that journalism like this still exists to keep the mainstream media accountable, especially in the current climate of horse-race journalism)

Just in case you’re as forgetful as Channel Seven, here’s a refresher: in 2007 Newton was charged with two counts of common assault, one count of stalk/intimidate with the intent of causing physical/mental harm and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. According to media reports at the time, the catalyst for Brooke Satchwell to bravely speak out, occurred after she was repeatedly punched  in the head by Newton whilst she yelled for him to stop.

Um, Channel Seven, is this really the type of guy you want to host your network’s answer to Australian Idol?

Unfortunately, Channel Seven clearly held the same opinion as Newton’s star struck appeal judge.

What should have been an open and closed case, rather strangely (or perhaps not, considering Newton’s connections) ended with Newton walking away innocent man.

Newton’s lenient 12-month good behavior bond was quashed by a Sydney judge on appeal.

According to News.com.au the judge considered Newton an “utmost gentleman” who had committed the offense because of severe depression.

Apparently he was unlikely to re-offend.

The justice system’s handling of this case was another slap in the face for Australian women: the career of a well connected actor is more important than your right to safety.

At the time of the charges a number of recognisable faces sprang to Newton’s defense, offering character references for what they saw as an unfairly targeted Newton.

At the time of the court hearing, Newton was dating Gracie Otto, Barry Otto’s then 19-year old daughter.

Barry Otto:

“Matthew is a great friend and a great person. I don’t understand why people are trying to destroy his reputation with this sort of stuff,”

Sue Hill, mother of Gracie, wife of Barry:

“Matthew is the sweetest, nicest person in the world. He would never hurt a flea”.
“He would be absolutely devastated about all this becoming public.”

(How about the devastation Satchwell endured through firstly, the incident(s) itself,  facing the public with her allegations, and finally dealing with the miscarriage of justice performed by a  judge who rendered her abuser innocent)

The Otto’s must be eating their words now.

It certainly didn’t take the commercial networks very long to become convinced of Newton’s supposed innocence either.

Although, you’d think that even despite an overturned conviction, an actor who’s name had become synonymous with domestic violence would be enough to keep the commercial networks away…

As the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity – and with that, Newton’s career was resurrected to play the role of Terry Clark in Channel Nine’s Underbelly.

To tidy Newton’s image up, although as Media Watch pointed out, the role was rather apt,  News Ltd. got to work on some cross promotion last year with this hard-hitting piece of journalism.

It’s good to see Newton doing what he does best — acting. It’s easy to forget, amid the swirling controversy of the past couple of years, what a good actor he is.

Yes, indeed, great actor. The Hun’s Erin McWhirter sure fell for the shameless PR coordinated by the Herald Sun and Channel Nine.

Contemplating his life in the past two years has brought Newton some sense of inner peace. He hints that turning 30 has played a major part in turning things around.

‘‘Mistakes of your 20s, professionally or whatever, you just come into your own a little bit in your sense of understanding, ” Newton said.

Newton’s reintegration into commercial television was a success, so much so, Channel Seven chose to ignore a couple of tense moments between Rachel and Newton earlier this year and a stint in rehab when it decided they wanted him on board to host X-Factor.

Following Seven’s announcement, another bout of cross-promotion ensued, handy seeing as many Australian’s are unaware that mainstream media is pretty much completely owned by a couple of key players.

“My New Start”

“A changed man
. Putting the past behind him…
…a refreshingly honest interview…

— New Idea, 9th August, 2010”
(as cited on Media Watch website)

Today Tonight were keen to get in on the action also.

Matt White: You haven’t been boring, have you?

Matthew Newton: No, no… I’ve just always done my thing.

— Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 2nd August, 2010
(as cited on Media Watch website)

Why the soft treatment? Vested interests of course. Today Tonight, on Channel Seven. Who publish New Idea? Why,  Pacific Magazines, of course. And who are they? Why, they’re apart of the Seven Media Group.

Fair enough when you consider Channel Seven spent 22 million dollars to buy the rights for it.

But how’s the media treating Newton now? Surely he’s not going to get the soft treatment again?

Think again.

The lack of focus on domestic violence in the media since breaking news of Rome, has recast Newton as mentally ill. Apparently Newton has a series of problems stemming from his childhood spent growing up in the limelight. It’s all a bit ‘poor Matthew.’

A source quoted on the Herald Sun online even went as far as this:

“He’s just got that typical tortured artist’s mind.”

Oh god, really?

To summarise, I’d like to quote Neil (not in relation to ACA, but appropriate nonetheless) who left this comment on the Media Watch website last week:

Wonderful how the vested-interest media are turning “Matthew” into a victim here. “Matthew” now has a mental health issue and “We” in this country are not doing enough to help people with mental health issues. Cleverly, we’re now partly to blame for this maggot’s tanties.

Indeed:

‘Schizophrenia’ fears for Matthew Newton

UPDATE 12:49pm: TROUBLED actor Matthew Newton is suffering schizophrenia-like symptoms from dangerous use of hard drugs such as ice.
Newton, 33, who is undergoing treatment at Sydney’s Northside West Clinic, has been dumped by leading acting agency RGM, which represents Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne and Anthony LaPaglia.
It tops off a week in which Newton was sacked from the TV show The X Factor and dropped by his manager, Titus Day.
Newton is understood to have been taking a cocktail of ice, marijuana and cocaine.
His drug use was known to his family and to some senior employees at the Seven Network, when it hired him.

Absent from this update is any mention of the incident which sparked Newton being dropped from by his management. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Because of this omission, I guess it’s no wonder Daryl posted this at the bottom of the article:

Daryl Posted at 4:47 AM August 30, 2010
Matt has taken a brave step forward and is getting treatment, good on him. As a sufferer of depression for many years myself, it’s not easy to admit to a problem and to seek help. Don’t give up Matt, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Channel Nine, aired this interview with Bert and Patti Newton.

I’m certainly not criticising Patti or Bert for sticking up for their son, after all they’re just being parents. Yet we should not let their parental defense cloud our view of what Newton has done, and therefore deride the seriousness of what happened to Rachel Taylor, Brooke Satchwell and other victims of domestic violence.

Yet, it seems ACA did exactly just that.
At the end of ACA Tracy Grimshaw says this:

We urge anyone suffering from mental illness or depression to call beyondblue or lifeline.

Absent from this is any mention of how women affected by domestic violence can get help.
Again, Bert is under contract with Channel Nine, so perhaps this is why Grimshaw gave the issue the soft touch, and after all, we can’t blame them for their sons behavior. However, regardless of the reasons, ACA is doing their female viewers a disservice by ignoring the issue of domestic violence.

Too many women die each year as a result of domestic violence. I’m hoping that this time around, we’re going to see justice served for Rachel Taylor and Brooke Satchwell (who must be observing the current events with sadness and anger – she knew the seedy underbelly of this “utmost gentleman” all along).
Like all men who abuse their partners, Matthew Newton should be held accountable for his  actions.

Because really, how many women does a man need to assault before he’s convicted and his celebrity career is over?



9 Responses to “Matthew Newton: He did it again”

  1. josie said

    I’m not sure if it’s a class thing as well or if I’m imagining it but the emphasis on his mental health seems to me to add another layer to the rhetoric. Successful actors from Great Australian Families don’t choose to beat women, they suffer from mental illnesses which make them do it but blokes from the suburbs who bash their wives are scumbags.

    Plenty of people do suffer from mental illness and it can be debilitating and devastating for their families, but once you start hurting other people and making them fear for their lives, their right to not be harmed trumps your right to be sick. If the justice system for the rest of us paid the same attention to mental illness as the justice system Matthew Newton got access to, or the AFL tribunal who sentenced Travis Tuck, the prisons would be much emptier.

  2. lilacsigil said

    No reason why he can’t be both a violent offender and mentally ill. No reason why he can’t be held accountable for his actions and receive help. They are not mutually exclusive, and the justice system is not for punishment alone.

    But yes to everything else – the excuses that people are making, and the erasure of several women from the public narrative is just disgusting. Someone who attacks their partner(s) should not be protected or praised.

  3. Frances said

    Framing his attacks as a loss of control due to his mental illness is completely misleading. He didn’t ‘lose control’ with just anyone; he repeatedly ‘lost control’ around his partner. He never ‘lost control’ around people he knew that would pull him in line.

    Depression is an illness, but domestic violence is a choice.

  4. James said

    Matt Newton may be a psychopath which is a mental “illness” that affects the whole world. Diagnosis of psychopathy is difficult because most people are not aware of the magnitude of deception and emotional “mask” these remorseless humans put on. Some are better than others and put their energies in different pursuits. On a individual and societal level we are all suffering from some degree of PTSD at the hands of psychopaths. Unrecognised psychopathy is the biggest mental health issue.

  5. Nico said

    Making excuses for Matthew Newtown makes a mockery of the ‘Australia says no’ campaign against domestic violence. The message going out now is something like, “domestic violence is not ok, unless you are a public figure with popular parents.”

    I don’t think trying to cushion Newtown from the consequences of his actions has helped him at all. He was given another chance after his assault charge on Brooke Satchwell, and a couple of years later it is happening all over again.

    He certainly needs proper treatment for his substance abuse probs and mental illness – perhaps out of the public eye for a measure of time.

  6. womanvsfeminist said

    I totally agree with this post. There is no excuse for beating up your partner. If Newton has a mental illness, he should seek treatment. But violence is not a mental illness, it’s violence.

    What’s particularly insidious about this is when Patti Newton says things like, Matt is deeply troubled and has a mental illness rah rah rah “but I’m not excusing his actions”. With one fell swoop she justifies what she (and the rest of those who support her line of reasoning) is doing by SAYING that she’s not! Calling domestic violence anything other than domestic violence IS an attempt to ‘excuse the behaviour’. Where are the words ‘domestic violence’? Why is no one in the media using those words?

    On a brighter note, I recently asked a class of media studies students what they thought of this interview, and most of them agreed that saying Matt Newton is suffering a mental illness ‘lightens’ the issue and excuses him.

  7. Maggie said

    Our justice system cannot be expected to provide answers to domestic and sexual violence. I’ve worked in prisons and the justice system for 30 years and have never seen any real attempt to tackle any of the underlying issues. The fact is that many people who go to prison are “mentally ill”. The wholesale adoption of the medical model and the adversarial nature of the system means that defendants have no choice but to seek to characterise their actions in this way. I know firsthand that domestic and sexual violence crosses all boundaries of race and class but the fact is its the most disadvantged who end up in prison which only serves to reinforce their disadvantage.
    Newton may be able to buy the help he needs to control his violence but prisons only reinforce it.

    • eilish said

      In the case of violence, we are not expecting the justice system to find answers. We’re settling for punishment for the offence.

      • Maggie said

        Why don’t you want to end it? Do you really think brutalising someone will make them stop being violent?

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