Natalie Joyce feels “deceived and hurt”.
The estranged wife of Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has shared her sadness in the wake of news her husband of 24 years, and the father of her four daughters, is expecting a child with his current partner and former media advisor, 33-year-old Vikki Campion.
“This situation is devastating on many fronts,” she said, in a statement published by The Australian. “For my girls who are affected by the family breakdown and for me as a wife… who placed my own career on hold to support Barnaby through his political life.”
Natalie said her family life had been extensively shared during her husband’s career, and campaign and office staff were often invited into their home – a reality that left her feeling “deceived” by the actions of Barnaby and Campion.
She added that she was “deeply saddened” to hear that “this affair has been going on for many months and started when [Ms Campion] was a paid employee”.
How must that feel? To give up so much – to put another person’s ambition before your own – only to be bitterly disappointed by the person you sacrificed it for?
Listen: Jessie Stephens and Mia Freedman discuss all things Barnaby Joyce – including his new partner, his wife’s comments and the hypocrisy of it all. Post continues after audio.
Natalie Joyce met Barnaby while she was studying education at the University of New England, and went on to marry him just a few years after graduating, in 1993. Today, she’s listed as a student support teacher at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth, although it was reported in 2009 that at one point, she worked as a part-time administrative officer within her husband’s office.
Over the last 24 years, Natalie Joyce has no doubt tried to make the best decisions she could for herself, her family, and her marriage. Her profound personal sacrifice, I’m sure, may have at times felt less like a decision and more like a duty.
In 2017, Natalie told the Weekend Australian about the toll her husband’s career had taken on their family. She said her youngest daughter Odette, now 15, has never known “anything but politics”.
“Every time he’d come home she actually wouldn’t go near him because he hadn’t been home,” she recalled of Odette’s early years. “It’s taken a long time to get that father-daughter rapport.”
“In the end they give up on you. They just don’t think you’re going to be there,” Joyce added of the strain.
Perhaps Natalie imagined that while her husband’s political career would be at the centre of their family unit for a significant portion of their lives – it wouldn’t be forever. As their daughter’s grew up, and Barnaby’s career ran its course, they’d have time together again, and work wouldn’t always come first.
Perhaps she had hopes for the future of her family – ones that didn’t involve her husband leaving and starting a new one.
But ultimately, and especially today, she was left bitterly disappointed.
And she's not alone. Because, overwhelmingly, it's the woman in a relationship who makes the sacrifice, and none of us, no matter how in love, how dedicated, or how certain, can predict the future.
In September 2016, a story not unlike today's was making front page news. Today Show host Karl Stefanovic had separated from his wife of 21 years, Cass Thorburn, and just months later, he would make public his relationship with 34-year-old Jasmine Yarbrough.
The couple had three children together, and Stefanovic had spoken at length about the sacrifices his wife had made for his career. “She gave up a promising career at the ABC and I’m forever thankful and tremendously appreciative of that,” he told the Herald Sun in 2015.
When the Today Show won the ratings year in 2016, Thorburn made a point on congratulating herself for her contribution to her husband's success. "Apparently Today Show finally won a year," she wrote on Facebook. "This took a huge toll on my family and I, and I’m congratulating myself today for all the effort that went into making that happen."
But for Thorburn, there was no champagne, no accolades, and no pay rise. There was no party or job opportunities. Because such recognition was intertwined with her marriage - the one she had sacrificed her own professional life for. And the one that had broken, despite that investment.
We all know, or perhaps are, women who have given up the pursuit of a career for the benefit of relationships, marriages or kids. For some women, the break down of that partnership can be irreperably destructive - financially or psychologically.
To give up work for a partner is not a decision that can be ever be judged in terms of whether it's fair or right, especially given that it is overwhelmingly a choice a person makes out of love. And if and when that relationship does end, pity isn't a helpful response.
It is, however, important to acknowledge those women, whose achievements might not be seen in the halls of Parliament House or within the walls of a major TV network.
We see you. We see your work, your support, your morning well wishes and your wise afternoon conversations. And on days like today, we see your pain, and we see your sadness.
We see your strength.
Because sacrifice is never easy.
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