Lisa Wilkinson: Natalie Had No Choice But To Defend The Family Barnaby Deserted

What to do when the family next door is engaging in the mother and father of all loud squabbles – one that involves all the kids, too?

The instinct, of course, is to look away. So long as everyone is safe, the fact is it is usually none of our business, and the best thing we can do is to give them the space and privacy they need to heal the hurt.

There is no such option with the Joyce family.

For, of course, this is not just a squabble from the family next door, it is one that involves now two families of the one man who, just a few short months ago was still our Deputy Prime Minister.

And in the history of our country, I daresay there has never been a more public settling of accounts than the one offered by both of Barnaby Joyce’s competing families – his old one and now, his new one. The latest development is that after keeping a dignified silence for many months, Natalie Joyce, who is still his wife and most certainly the father of his four fine daughters – Bridgette, 21, Julia, 20, Caroline, 18, and Odette, 15 – has entered the fray, by giving an exclusive, unpaid, interview to the Australian Women’s Weekly.

“I’m normally a very private person but I knew I had to find my voice,” Natalie Joyce explained. “They thought I would lie down, but this time I couldn’t. [I’ve done this] so the girls feel empowered, and know their mum stood up and defended our fine name.”

Natalie Joyce on the cover of The Australian Women's Weekly. (Image: Supplied)

She does all of that and more, making clear just how hurt she has been by the whole devastating fallout from her husband’s affair, her anger at his new partner and – most touchingly – her continued empathy, despite it all, for Barnaby as the father of her children.

Though Natalie acknowledges watching the Sunday Night interview where Barnaby and Vikki Campion gave their side of the story, she was firm in her assessment.

“It was all we could do to watch it without throwing a brick at the TV,” Mrs Joyce told AWW, assessing the interview, “an absolute disgrace.”

Channel 7's Sunday Night program, featuring an interview with former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and partner Vikki Campion.  (Image: AAP Video/Supplied/Channel 7)

She followed up.

“I wasn’t surprised [Vikki Campion] sold their ‘exclusive’ story, and certainly not surprised the $150,000 went to her child. But it begs the question: if Barney agreed to be a part of it, how could he allow his four girls to be overlooked? In saying that, I wouldn’t want a cent of that money. ”

As to Barnaby himself, the Weekly tell us that the woman who knows him better than anyone in the world, “now believes, [he] is on the brink of an inevitable breakdown.”

The out-take in this for all of us?

I am not sure that it is the one the Weekly hopes for, that, “In so bravely and eloquently finding her voice, she will no doubt inspire women across Australia . . .”

I, for one, am not convinced my primary emotion is inspiration.

I applaud her extraordinary resilience, most particularly in remaining the stable rock of family her daughters most need, when – despite her husband’s endlessly pious pontifications on the virtues of traditional family life – their father provided no such thing, and was otherwise engaged.

Barnaby Joyce with his family in Canberra, on August 16, 2005. (Image: AAP Image/Alan Porritt)

But mostly what I feel is overwhelming sadness.

Most family breakdowns have at least a thin curtain of privacy placed around them, whereby only those in the immediate circle understand the pain involved.

On this one, of course, the nation has been given a full-frontal lesson on just how ghastly it all is. I wish all strength to Natalie Joyce and her daughters. I do hope that Vikki Campion and her new son can achieve a stable calm of their own, despite the extraordinary turbulence of the wee one’s beginnings.

But I must say this.

Seeing all the family pain up close like this, I can’t help but wonder if Barnaby Joyce, when he looks at himself in the mirror each morning, doesn’t feel a little of what I feel: “What the hell was he <<thinking>>?”