SBS World News’ Anton Enus’ most treasured moment in his journalism career was covering the 1994 national elections in his native South Africa — the first democratic elections since the end of Apartheid where all South Africans were allowed to vote, regardless of their race.
“It was just a magical moment.”
The end of Apartheid not only brought racial equality but also the creation of a new Bill of Rights in the South African constitution, which in a world-first made it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation.
Despite the country’s progressive legal protection of gay and lesbian people, Enus, by then an emerging TV newsreader, was not out publicly. But all that was about to change thanks to a fellow journalist.
“At that point it was a whole new thing that legally, (being gay) was all above board but socially there was still years and years to come, to adjust to this reality that we’re out in the open,” Enus explains.
“It was interesting in my case, I was outed. It wasn’t really my choice to certainly make that kind of statement, because I was in the media, I was a news presenter. It was still a fairly sensitive time… it was the mid-90s.
“I had a bit of a profile, I was trying to build a career and suddenly a reporter for a Sunday newspaper phoned me and said: ‘We’re doing a story about you, which will reveal that you are a homosexual, would you like to comment or not’.”
Enus was caught in a dilemma. Not knowing how the public would react to his sexuality, he felt he had to give an interview to ensure he could tell his side of the story.
“So that was it. It was a Sunday newspaper that said I was gay,” he says.
“Oddly enough there was not the slightest controversy about it. People were going: ‘So what?’ It was no big deal.”
In 1999, Enus and his current partner decided to move to Sydney for a couple of years on a “big adventure”. Within a week of arriving he landed a freelance gig in the SBS newsroom.
“On my very first day, they said to me would you like to audition for this news presenter job,” he recalls.
“It was one of those amazing coincidences of timing, that I arrived at the exact time they needed someone to fill in for their regular news presenter who was going to take long service leave.”
The rest of course is history and Enus has been a popular stalwart of SBS’ news programming for most of this century.
However, in a remarkable case of deja vu, he went through a second public outing — this time from a journalist at the magazine TV Week.
“I got called up by a reporter from TV Week magazine in the early 2000s and he said: ‘I would like to do a little feature on you’. And because I was fairly new to the job, I said yes, absolutely,” he explains.
“The reporter — that i’m still quite friendly with — bless his cotton socks, had done his homework. He said: ‘You know I came across this Anton Enus, who in the gay games won a silver medal playing squash, was that you?’
“He had obviously done a bit of research, because that was me.”
Comparing the two surprise public “outings”, Enus says he was more concerned about the consequences in South Africa.
“In South Africa I was a lot more trepidatious, I really thought that might be the end of my presenting career,” he says.
“I thought if there was a backlash against that, if the public felt they couldn’t put up with that, that would’ve been the end of me. As it turns out there was no negative reaction at all.
“Here… it just came out of the blue. It was really completely unpredictable, and once again it was like: ‘So what, what’s the big deal?’”
Enus believes Australia’s media industry is accepting of LGBTI people in the workplace and SBS has always had good workplace inclusion policies.
“It’s fantastic. To say on a public platform ‘I’m gay’, is completely unremarkable,” he says.
“I don’t think anyone’s concerned about it in anyway. And you don’t get pegged to within a certain type of media or certain type of job.
“Anything goes for anyone now.”
Outside of the newsroom, Enus is preparing to invite a new family member into his home with his partner of 27 years when they adopt a rescue puppy in June.
“We’re counting down the days,” he says. Enus also explains the secret to a long relationship. “It sounds like a cliche to say, but I feel loved everyday,” he says.
“Everyday he says something or does something that makes me feel loved. I never ever doubt that and I never feel like we’re drifting along.”