Please note: This article contains reference to domestic and family violence, including LGBTIQA+ violence, that some may find confronting.
“I always knew that I was gay and I came out when I was 16,” said NAB’s Ben Nielsen.
Ben was the youngest of four and grew up in the small town of Strathalbyn, south of Adelaide. He was a talented musician, loved writing, and had a thing for technology.
“My parents were children in the 50s and grew up in religious households,” he said. “My dad was quite violent, so I had an experience of domestic violence in my childhood as well.
“I think coming out was the most courageous thing I have ever done. I cannot fathom my 16-year-old self having to do that.”
But coming out “didn’t go down very well”, and at 16 Ben was kicked out of home.
“I moved to the city and the school arranged for me to board with this older lady,” he said. “Then I ended up renting by myself, and I had to pick up part-time jobs and borrow money from my very generous friends.
“The positive part of the story is that a lot of my friends’ mothers became proxy mothers, in a way. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
A turning point was when Ben was introduced to the Pinnacle Foundation, which provides scholarships and mentorships to LGBTIQA+ students to help them finish their studies.
“The mentorship component specifically aligns with your career and also your gender and sexual identity,” he said. “I was paired with people who I could aspire to be, and I’m still in contact with them today.
“I’ve had a very successful career so far, I think, and it’s a testament that support that I’ve received.”
But Ben’s subsequent career as a journo was also thanks to his ability to hustle!
“The ABC just happened to be right across the street from uni, so I hounded the producers,” said Ben.
“I was like, ‘When am I going to get the job? I will wash the floors, just let me work here!’”
Ben eventually got a job at the ABC, and not just washing the floors. He started as an online editor for Classic FM, then moved to Albury-Wodonga to hone his skills as a news reporter.
He then hustled his way into a gig on the beloved news program for kids, Behind the News!
“People grew up watching BTN so it felt really special to be doing it,” said Ben. “I remember the TV being rolled out into the school library and sitting on the ground, cross legged.
“Some of my friends who are teachers tell me they still use the stories that I created in their classrooms!”
Today, Ben is on the committee of his beloved Pinnacle Foundation and is a Senior Associate in NAB’s External Communications team. He credits his own life experiences for giving him the empathy and drive to make a difference for others.
“I’ve worked in domestic violence, I actively contribute to the LGBTIQA+ community, and I have a strong passion for social justice,” he said. “I want to make things better for people.”
As Network Engagement and Events Co-Lead for NAB Pride, Ben has been central to the organisation of this year’s Midsumma Festival, for which NAB is a Principal Partner.
“It’s obviously fun to participate in the big flashy events – but it’s great to see NAB showing up for its LGBTIQA+ colleagues and customers in many other ways too,” he said.
And Midsumma’s theme of ‘A Brave(R) Space’ has made him reflect on his own life journey, and the journey for other kids facing similar challenges.
“I don’t necessarily think that I’m brave, but I’m definitely surprising and resilient and courageous,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of my resilience, and it has taken a long time for me to say that.”
When asked to name his rainbow hero, Ben is characteristically inclusive.
“I thank the elders in our community upon whose shoulders we stand, and who have moved mountains for us to exist today,” he said. “But I think our whole community is so brave.”
Midsumma Pride March 2024
The Pride March is a signature event of Midsumma Festival, proudly sponsored by NAB for more than a decade.
Join NAB colleagues and the community at the Pride March this Sunday 4 February, celebrating the #RainbowSuperheroes among us. For more information, visit the Midsumma Festival website.
To learn more about NAB’s support and advocacy group for our LGBTIQA+ employees and people everywhere, visit the NAB website.