real life

Cassandra Thorburn wants to open up about divorce. But the public is trying to silence her.

Cassandra Thorburn came to the public’s attention as Karl Stefanovic’s wife, when the couple separated after 21 years, in 2016. As divorces go, they don’t get much more high profile in Australia, and everyone was hungry for the details; was there a third person involved? What would be the arrangement for their three children? Who’d get the house?

Thorburn, now 48, attracted the extensive empathy of Today show viewers, and they appeared to turn on Stefanovic, who left the show in 2017. Since then, Thorburn has appeared on Dancing With the Stars and given front cover interviews on the split.

Considering all of this, you would be forgiven for thinking the public were interested in her as a person.

Cassandra Thorburn on leaving Dancing With The Stars. Post continues below.

Video by Ten

That’s what makes the backlash against Thorburn’s most recent move so curious.

Now a confident single mum, Thorburn is co-hosting a new podcast, Divorce Story – Surviving Separation, which dropped earlier this month. With journalist Annaliese Dent, Thorburn, according to the 12-episode pod’s description, “will help you navigate your separation, provide advice from experts and help you relaunch your life post-divorce.”

The podcast delivers on its promise, with the first two episodes covering the healthiest way to recognise and talk about the end of a marriage. The hosts speak to the CEO of Relationships Australia, a psychiatrist, and divorced women, in a helpful manner.

And yes, Thorburn shares some relevant bits of her experience, admitting, for example, that she was devastated when her husband chose to leave.

But as she speaks, there is no bitterness; it is clear to anyone who’s listened that Thorburn is offering constructive advice from an experienced perspective.

“Any trauma has to be grieved,” she shares. “And divorce is a trauma.”

Listen: Mamamia’s divorce podcast The Split discusses what happens when divorce gets nasty. Post continues after audio.

She advises listeners at one point, “You can’t take all of it to heart. It’s not as personal as you think it is.”

Thorburn was once a journalist – which is how she met Stefanovic. In this new phase of life, Thorburn is simply doing what so many of us do in the media every day; sharing stories and information to educate, guide and inspire.

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What exactly is wrong with that? Plenty, according to the social media backlash to any post about the podcast. But why have the public turned so viciously on someone they once supported? Why does the public now want to silence Thorburn?

Let’s break it down.

Thorburn is wealthy.

A common comment on social media is that Thorburn is profiting from her misery when in fact, she already has plenty of money and assets, and thus should keep her stories to herself.

It doesn’t make sense – but that’s Tall Poppy Syndrome for you; a desire to keep people down – or pull them down from success.

“Isn’t she embarrassed still going on about it?”, one person wrote on Facebook.

“Cassandra just think of the other women that have been left high and dry from their husbands, with not even a cent to their name. Grow up, shut up and focus on your millions.”

This comment was liked 70 times.

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Image: Facebook.

Another curious comment was, “Like she's the only one that's been through a divorce seriously can she just go get a job like everyone else does to earn a living.”

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Image: Facebook.
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Earn a living? But… isn’t that what she’s doing?

Thorburn is “bitter”.

In October 2017, Thorburn said that her ex-husband was now “dead” to her.

“The children still have a father but I don’t have a husband. He really is dead to me and no, we won’t ever be friends again.”

Yes, Thorburn did speak angrily, the year after her marriage breakdown. But the podcast makes it clear it’s not Thorburn’s personal sledge session.

Anything she shares (and if you listen, you’ll hear it’s minimal) is intended to make someone who was once in her position know that in the midst of despair, there’s hope for a positive future.

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Image: Facebook.

But the comment section begs to differ, and offers the reason why. Now that Stefanovic is back in public favour, that same public doesn’t want to hear the information they were once so interested in.

They’ve ‘moved on’ and believe any mention of Stefanovic by Thorburn indicates she needs to, too.

Thorburn should “get a life”.

This is an interesting, and again common, accusation in many of the online threads.

While Thorburn is quite literally using her life experience, and earned wisdom, in a constructive offering, trying to be a voice for Australians in a topic she knows about, the advice in the backlash is for her to “get a life”… when that’s really what she’s doing.

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Image: Facebook.
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One commenter said, “Just get a life for yourself you have beautiful children to occupy you.”

Interpretation: please get back in your box and stay in your box.

Thorburn is sad.

Yes, Thorburn was sad, and now she’s not. That’s the point.

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Image: Facebook.

Rather than “disappear”, Thorburn is embracing her experience and offering help and solace to so many others. But in the criticism, there’s an absolute refusal to acknowledge that a woman can grow and speak about a divorce in a healthy way. A woman can change from being an “ex”, to return to her own identity.

Yet even after breaking it down, the nasty nature of the backlash is baffling, especially considering how the attention on Thorburn was much more favourable after the divorce. And trying to understand the accusations is not easy, but rather confusing, because they’re conflicting and hypocritical.

Putting all of that aside, one question remains: in 2020, shouldn’t we be supporting women who want to share advice with others; not trying to silence them?

Feature image: Instagram/@cassthorburn and Facebook.

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