'I might be the wife of a former Prime Minister, but I am my own person.'

Jenny Morrison shares her story

Jenny Morrison – wife of our former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison – opens her front door dressed in jeans and an elegant linen top. Her feet are bare and her smile is broad. I’m a little nervous because I thought this was going to be a Zoom interview. As I listen, however, to her berate and cajole her coffee machine to spew forth its frothy brew, I’m lulled into believing she may really be just like the rest of us.

Jenny is a mother, wife and friend. A creative soul, she finds joy in drawing, making things with her hands and making memories with her family and friends. Her warmth and ease with people make it obvious why she was well-known in her local community long before her husband stepped into local or national politics. “I’m a person as well. I might be the wife of a former Prime Minister, but I am my own person. I always was my own person,” she says.

“I’m a person as well. I might be the wife of a former Prime Minister, but I am my own person. I always was my own person.” – Jenny Morrison

Her family and friends marvel at how many people in their local community know her not only as “Scott’s wife,” but just as Jenny. “I’m passionate about people. I like meeting people. I like finding out about people. I can be at my local café, chatting with people and just hearing their story and making a connection,” she says.

Jenny Morrison

Top Left: Jenny with Singaporian First Lady, Ho Ching. Bottom Left: Jenny with Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios of Australia. Right: Scott and Jenny in the US. Images supplied. 

Owning her story

Going from the local to the national political stage was a huge adjustment for the Morrison family. Having a public profile meant that people formed snap opinions of her based on a photo, an assumption about her faith, or her husband’s political party. She notes that “people form an opinion of you before they’ve met you, which is sometimes difficult to alter.” In the hyper-connected, digital news cycle, it was easy for commentators or the general public to post opinions about her character and choices without conversation or consequence. She reflects that she was portrayed as subservient because of her choice to be a full-time mother: “I was portrayed as a subservient person without ambition. I was portrayed as not having a life, that looking after your children was a negative.”

As with most choices that women make, Jenny’s decision to leave her part-time job to raise their children during Scott’s term in office had nuance. Two major factors in her choice to raise their family full-time was her struggle with infertility prior to having children and the demanding nature of Scott’s job as Prime Minister. “It took 14 years for me to have children. I’d really wanted them so much that I wanted to spend time with them. Scott’s job was also all-consuming. I wanted to be around for the girls, so that’s what we chose,” says Jenny.

Through 14 years of waiting, 10 cycles of IVF and major surgery, Jenny and Scott never gave up hope.

A painful journey through endometriosis and IVF

Jenny has spoken publicly about her journey to motherhood and her extensive endometriosis. As one in nine females who suffer with endometriosis know, the painful condition can be debilitating. Even the medication caused intense sickness. Through 14 years of waiting, 10 cycles of IVF and major surgery, Jenny and Scott never gave up hope. She speaks candidly about the experience of IVF in the 90s versus today’s medical advancement, acknowledging that it was a physically and emotionally draining ordeal. She says, “They were very hard times. But they also provided me, I think with a strength, a real inner strength. I could take a lot. I could go through a lot.”

She held on to many Scriptures that built her faith and gave comfort in her quiet moments. She particularly loves the verse (Psalm 56:8)  that says, “He collects all our tears in a bottle.” “He just knows what we’re going through,” Jenny adds.

Faith carried her through

Even in the darkest times, she had faith that God had something in store for her and Scott. She tells of a time after one IVF round: “I remember thinking, I don’t know how to tell all my friends again. It hasn’t worked. I thought, I just can’t talk to anybody. So I sent a text to everyone: ‘I’m lying here. I’ve just found out it’s negative again. I don’t know what’s next for me, but obviously, God has something far better for me than I could ever imagine. He can see it all, and I can’t. So, I just have to trust.’”

Jenny was taught from a young age that God is faithful, “God hears your prayers. I always felt that nothing is impossible for God. Always.”

Her family and friends were an important source of support during this season. One special lady who prayed constantly for Jenny and Scott was her Aunty Margaret. She tells of one day coming home to a letter: “There was a letter from my aunty. She lived in Queensland and she was a beautiful Christian woman. She and a friend from church had been praying for us. One night after praying, her friend had a dream, a vision that I would be having a baby very soon and to start giving thanks for the baby. She told my aunty about the dream the next day. So, Aunty Margaret wrote me a beautiful letter.”

Jenny Morrison with Aunty Margaret

Jenny with Aunty Margaret and baby Abbey. Image supplied. 

They received that letter at the end of July and by October, Jenny had fallen pregnant naturally at age 38. “That letter was very precious. I sent her a Christmas card with a little picture of the ultrasound picture.”

With tears in her eyes, Jenny recounts that Margaret became unwell over the course of her pregnancy. “Not long after I had Abbey, Aunty Margaret died. I owe her a lot of thanks for all her prayers.” They were able to visit Margaret in hospital on the Gold Coast one last time, so she could meet the baby she had long prayed for. Jenny remarks that, “faith helped me through very hard times and I just look around at the beautiful creation around me. [God is] in the beauty and in the heartache, quite frankly.”

“I’d be the first to champion any woman that can do all these amazing things and have a fantastic career. All power to you! But on the flip side, it would be nice if people could champion women making choices that are different from their own.”

Women carry a lot

The reality of having a spouse serving in high-profile political roles is that Scott was not able to be home for long stretches of time. Though the couple are both deeply committed to their family and each other, Jenny values the independence and resilience she developed through the height of Scott’s political career as Prime Minister.

“I’d be the first to champion any woman that can do all these amazing things and have a fantastic career. All power to you! But on the flip side, it would be nice if people could champion women making choices that are different from their own.”

She acknowledges that “many people don’t have the choice and need to work outside the home. There are all different reasons why women choose to do things the way they do. But it is that family’s decision to make and not for anyone else to judge how a family works. What works for one family doesn’t work for another.”

Her experience speaking to women from different backgrounds has given her insight into the lives of others. She notes that “I think most women are just trying to work it out. Unfortunately, it’s women who judge other women the most. I think we all need to give women a break. Give yourself a break. We all need to be a good friend to the women around us. Quite often someone just needs some help. Just help if you see your friend who’s struggling.”

Meeting extraordinary people

When asked about the most incredible people she’s met, she speaks about everyday Australians who have endured the most difficult things in life and those who have done incredible work in the community. She tells of the Australians of the Year she’s met who are doing remarkable things to help their communities – “just normal, everyday people that are doing amazing things. Just simple things that they had thought to do to make a difference, and then made it their thing to do that.”

During Scott’s time as Prime Minister, she was also able to be a support and advocate for organisations and causes, such as the i4Give Foundation, Gidget Foundation and The Shepherd Centre, as well as IVF, endometriosis and mental health awareness. She also built relationships with community and cultural groups such as the Hellenic Lyceum, the Greek Orthodox community, the Lebanese community and the Maronite Church.

Jenny Morrison with Bridget Sakr and Abdallah family

Jenny Morrison with Bridget Sakr, the Abdallah family and Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay. Image supplied. 

The standout for Jenny, however, was meeting Bridget Sakr and her partner, Craig Mackenzie, and Leila and Danny Abdallah whose children, Veronique (daughter of Bridget and Bob Sakr), Anthony, Angelina and Sienna were all tragically killed by a drunk, drug-affected driver. Their faith and ability to forgive left an indelible mark on both Jenny and Scott. “They had just incredible, strong faith. Meeting them enriched my life and sharpened my own faith.”

Meeting the late Queen Elizabeth was, of course, another highlight. “She was an absolutely delightful person. She made you feel at ease, because it was very intense and nerve-racking meeting the Queen. But she was lovely. She just chatted and she made us feel at home. She was very kind.”

Scott and Jenny Morrison with Queen Elizabeth II

Scott and Jenny Morrison with Queen Elizabeth II. Image supplied. 

The future for her girls

Jenny spoke about her daughters and the challenges they may face as women. While she’s happy that her daughters have more opportunities in today’s society, she notes that the sheer volume of choices available can be overwhelming for young people. She wonders if it may become increasingly difficult for her daughters to show their faith as they get older. “I think the strength of their father and what he’s gone through, what they’ve seen him endure in the public eye and, to a lesser extent, what they had to endure will stand them in good stead.”

“It’s good to have your own opinions, as long as you’re not hurting other people in the way you express them.”

She and Scott are determined to raise their daughters to be independent and wise young women. One of the highest values that Jenny wants to instill in the girls is kindness. “My big thing is always kindness. Doesn’t hurt to be kind. I do like manners and I know they’re old-fashioned, but I think it’s just a way of showing other people respect. Being respectful of people is a discipline in itself.” She is teaching her daughters to “try and listen to what other people have to say. It’s good to have your own opinions, as long as you’re not hurting other people in the way you express them.”

As I reflect on my conversation with Jenny, the thing that remains with me is her openness. She shares generously, but she is also open to hearing the stories of others without judgment. Despite being scrutinised and at times even publicly ridiculed for superficial things, she has not allowed others to define her based on her role or their expectations. She strikes me as being free, untethered to the past and ready to embrace whatever comes next.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6