In a rare interview, former deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has opened up about a tragic incident from his childhood that led to the accidental death of his younger sister. He tells Insight host, Jenny Brockie, how the experience came to shape his life.
It was Easter, 1970.
Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson - then nearly 14 years-old - was home from boarding school in Sydney and playing cricket in the expansive front yard of the family property in northern NSW.
His father was bowling, and as Anderson felt the pitch connect with the “sweet spot” of the bat, he sensed his father brimming with pride; a recognition of Anderson finding his feet in the family’s history of sporting skill.
But in the moments that followed, something went terribly wrong.
Anderson’s younger sister, Jane, was sitting to the side of the game, playing with the family kitten, General Smuts.
She looked up as the boy’s strike - a six, Anderson is almost certain - flew towards her. She turned away, but there was no avoiding a collision. It hit her in the back of the neck, and she died instantly.
Almost five decades on, it is a memory Anderson finds difficult to talk about.
He rarely spoke about the incident during his time in politics, and in the years since, but as part of Insight’s look at what it’s like to feel responsible for an accidental death, he has agreed to discuss it.
He is clear from the outset:
“This is something I talk about only because I trust it may be of value to people who have been through one of these terrible experiences … If it helps just someone, then I’m prepared to do it. It makes it worthwhile.”
Due to a schedule clash, Anderson was unable to join the forum discussion. He sat down with Insight host Jenny Brockie for a candid interview, reflecting on his “effervescent, confident” sister, and the profound affect her death has had on almost every aspect of his life; his teenager years and adulthood, his personality, faith, relationships and political career.