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Natalie Joyce breaking her silence: How Barnaby betrayed us

In this exclusive interview, the former second lady, Natalie Joyce, breaks her silence about the worst two years of her life, the moment she confronted her husband’s mistress and how the love and support of the greater rural community ultimately saved her.

By Lizzie Wilson
Left abandoned at a Sydney airport departure gate, Natalie Joyce cut a lone figure as she watched her husband of 24 years walk away.
The former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, never did look back with one last wave for the woman who had stood so faithfully by him.
Rather, Natalie's lasting memory from July 5 last year is of the man she knows as Barney, the father of her four daughters, sprinting towards a departure gate, bound for Canberra, straight back into the arms of his lover and former media adviser, Vikki Campion.
"I stood there paralysed, my stomach wrenched in a million knots, and I knew then the marriage was all but over," says Natalie, 48.
"The man who always made sure I got home safely, regardless of where we were in the world, left me to find my own way home while he jumped on a plane to be reunited with her ... On that last leg home to Tamworth, the tears came fast. I'd been used and spat out, and I can't recall a time in my life when I've ever felt so alone."
That final blow had come after one last-ditch attempt at marital reconciliation – though, in hindsight, Natalie believes she was taken for a ride – a pawn in a cruel political game that began when the media adviser "insisted" that Natalie and Barnaby attend the high-profile Mid Winter Ball.
"The photos of us smiling and happy couldn't be further from the truth," she admits. "Barney and I, we love to dance, but that night he never asked – he hardly spoke to me."
Then, in July, Barnaby invited her to accompany him on an official trip to the UK, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.
"I gave it one last shot," she says. "Apparently [Vikki] had given 'her permission' for me to go. I thought that he needed me by his side. At one time, we'd been a good team. So I agreed on one condition – no contact with her for two weeks – but she was relentless and called sometimes 20 times a day."
Natalie is standing up and setting the record straight for both her herself, and her daughters. (Image: Paul Suesse)
It was after that trip, changing from the international flight to their domestic connections, that Barnaby left Natalie without a backward glance and she knew it was over.
"I was so stupid to think we had a chance," she says.
Natalie's decision to finally speak out, to set the record straight, came easily. She says she had four very good reasons: her girls Bridgette, 21, Julia, 20, Caroline, 18, and Odette, 15.
In this unpaid and often brutally candid interview, Natalie opens up about happier times with one of the country's most polarising characters – a man she feels she no longer knows and who she worries could be on the brink of a breakdown.
She shares memories of growing up in the country, which she still calls home, and of her work as a teacher. And with grace and conviction, she speaks about the woman who, in Natalie's own words, "stole my life".
"I'm normally a very private person but knew I had to find my voice," she begins, sitting by the fire in the Joyces' rural homestead.
"They thought I would lie down but, this time, I couldn't. Before the critics label me the scorned ex-wife or a pathetic victim or imply that this is some sort of revenge attack – and before any ridiculous suggestion of ours being a loveless marriage – I want to say, for the record, that nothing could be more wrong. I'm doing this so the girls will feel empowered and know their mum stood up and defended our fine name. I want to give them plenty of reasons to feel proud of at least one of their parents ... I can put on my 'big girl pants' and wear the constant king hits, but it's not fair that our four daughters suffer at the hands of their father's betrayal. Our girls are the real victims here."
Natalie and Barnaby in happier times. (Image: Getty)
Natalie describes Barnaby and Vikki's recent television appearance as "an absolute disgrace ... the final straw. For the pair of them to drag an innocent baby into this mess with a price tag on the poor little boy ... and for the girls to see their dad for the first time with a child they have yet to meet ... Goodness me, someone had to speak the truth."
In May 2016, in a move that ultimately cost the bush-loving, no-nonsense maverick his job, the then Deputy Prime Minister and current Nationals Member for New England fell headfirst into the murky world of infidelity, appointing former tabloid journalist, Vikki Campion, now 33, as his media adviser for the upcoming federal election. The woman Natalie describes as "frighteningly ambitious" and anything but trustworthy came into their lives much like a "wrecking ball".
"She wanted my life from the get-go," says Natalie.
"This was a whole lot more than a fleeting office romance. The first day I met her, back in 2016, she was so cold. She had come to our family home in Tamworth to pick us up to go campaigning. Then, after watching them at the Nationals Christmas party later that year, I had a feeling they were having an affair. As it turned out, their tawdry union was the worst kept secret in Canberra. I was probably the last silly mug to know."
Barnaby gradually drifted from his family and in the end, he just stopped coming home. Natalie was desperate, so in March last year, when she was told her husband and his mistress were at his local electorate office in Tamworth, she jumped in the car and drove the 30 minutes into town.
"The fact she went on national TV to talk about the stoush means it's best I set the record straight. I was very measured," says Natalie of that day, "and made sure I didn't raise my voice. She and Barney were smoking outside. He bolted when he saw me. I turned to her and said, 'My husband is out of bounds, off-limits, he's a married man with four children,' and then I called her a home-wrecking wh*. It was not one of my finer moments but, looking back, I'm proud I stood up to her."
It was one blow after another for the Joyce household. (Image: Paul Suesse)
Watching the breakdown of her marriage play out so publicly was, for Natalie, excruciating. She didn't think the humiliation could get worse, but she was wrong.
"In late September 2017, I gave him back my wedding ring. He said, 'Nat, give me a week. I thought I had this sorted. I love you – you know that – I just f* up'. Not a week later I got the news: Vikki was pregnant."
"My world came crashing down. I chose not to tell our girls – Caroline was doing her HSC, Odette was in Year Nine at boarding school, Bridgette was in third year Commerce and International Relations and Jules in first year Criminology. They didn't need to know until I had time to work out when and how to tell them."
There followed an emotionally charged meeting at the Joyce family home. "I asked him to come home," she recalls. "He said, 'I can't, she's pregnant and I have to be there for my son.' I was wild! I said, 'What about our daughters?' He always wanted a boy and, while the girls really are the epicentre of his universe, we had no chance: she was giving him a son."
The final blow came on February 23 this year. While Natalie was enjoying a lunch out in Sydney, her phone went into meltdown. Barnaby had just stepped down as the country's Deputy Prime Minister. As it happened, The Weekly was with her that day, in the early stages of discussing a possible interview. Natalie hung up her phone, wiped away a tear or two and said only, "he's finished".
"He was crumbling," she says now, "and something in me still wanted to reach out and pick up the pieces of this broken man. It was gut-wrenching."
There followed the very public birth of Barnaby and Vikki's son.
They named him Sebastian: the name that had always been number one on Barnaby and Natalie's list of favourite boys' names. "It felt like another malicious taunt in a very long line of appalling behaviour."
Spending time with Natalie Joyce these past months, it's clear why she has so many friends. A warm, welcoming soul, she doesn't suffer fools, though she admits there have been plenty who have tried to derail her.
When we sat with a few of her closest family members to watch the Sunday Night interview, it was hard to imagine a woman who could be more resilient.
"I wasn't surprised she sold their story," says Natalie, "and certainly not surprised the $150,000 went to her child, but it begs the question, how could Barney have allowed his four girls to be overlooked? In saying that, I wouldn't want a cent of that money. It was all we could do to watch it without throwing a brick at the TV."
Natalie took call after call that night from her girls, each broken-hearted and angry, shedding many tears, wondering why their dad would do this to them. Natalie counselled each with a gentle calmness.
"They were asking if their dad ever changed their nappies and, for the most part, I had to say no. It's disgraceful to air such rot. Did they consider the girls were in the middle of exams? I was gutted and in the end, behind closed doors, I fell apart, wondering how he could do this – we're his family."
Natalie is focusing her energy into teaching and changing the lives of her students. (Image: Paul Suesse)
Turning one's back on family is foreign to Natalie. Her close-knit clan has walked every step at her side these past two years.
Born Natalie Therese Abberfield on December 17, 1969, at the Tamworth Base Hospital, Natalie grew up on the land with her mum, Melissa, a respected district nurse and midwife, and dad Ken, a hard-working farmer who operated an earthmoving business in the nearby town of Manilla. Natalie remains close to both her siblings, Stephanie and Derk.
Just a couple of years earlier, on April 17, 1967, Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce entered this world at the very same hospital – born to local graziers Jim and Marie. Natalie and Barnaby both hailed from strong Catholic backgrounds and families that are much respected throughout rural NSW.
"As kids, growing up in the bush, you take for granted the simple things, like playing in the back paddock until the sun sets or walking to school on those cool autumn mornings, the leaves crunching under our feet," she says.
"Our four girls were born in Tamworth and I do think kids from the bush are different – more resilient and fearless – something our girls have in truckloads."
After completing Year 12 at Saint Scholastica's College in Sydney's inner west, Natalie enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts, then switched to Early Childhood Education, at the University of New England.
That's when she caught the eye of a confident third year Accounting student by the name of Barnaby.
"He was very sure of himself and very funny," Natalie smiles, "a larrikin on one hand, yet wonderfully warm and protective. I was the shy girl but he brought out the cheeky side of me. Whatever happened in our future, we knew that we both wanted kids and we shared a genuine love of rural Australia."
They married in November 1993. There followed a 19-year road trip that took them from Moree to Werris Creek, from Kingaroy to Charleville, and after a brief stop in Emerald, to the Queensland town of St George. They were wonderful years that made precious memories of four little girls and their doting dad, now filed somewhere close to Natalie's heart.
Then, in 2013, the Joyce family moved back to Tamworth, while Barnaby pursued his dream of winning the federal seat of New England.
Just weeks on from her darkest days, we're sitting on the front verandah of the Joyce family home, overlooking the rolling farmland of the Peel Valley.
Natalie's 13-year-old dachshund, Misty, is at her side and we're talking about the close-knit group of friends and the wider local community who've rallied around her these past months.
"What I've been through is nothing compared with the real stuff our rural folk face every day," she says stoically. "Crippling drought is just one of our challenges. Look around, it's so dry. We need rain. It keeps us honest and keeps everything in perspective. It reminds us of what really counts."
Since the separation, Natalie says, she has gone back to full-time teaching.
"I try to instil in the kids the importance of kindness and I tell them that good manners take you everywhere in this world. I want them to remember Mrs Joyce as someone who really cared that they learn. I want to be tapped on the shoulder in 10 years and have a student tell me that I made a difference in their lives."
There were rumours, earlier this year, that Natalie was considering an invitation from the Australia First Party to run against her husband at the next federal election.
"I did receive a letter from them – imagine Joyce vs Joyce," Natalie exclaims. "But my husband, for all his mistakes, is a fine politician so I'd be an idiot to run against him.
Someone in his inner circle sent me a message recently and said I should run because I'd probably win. But I would find it very tough entering a world that I partly blame for ruining my marriage – it's a cesspool of mischief that I don't need in my life."
For now, Natalie is content to wait and see what's next. Her only focus is to guide her girls through these next few months.
"Whatever happens, I'll always have them," she smiles.
Natalie admits there was a part of her that wanted to pick up the pieces when Barnaby crumbling. (Image: Getty)
"They've been pushed aside and it remains to be seen if that can be mended. There are many casualties here. Barney's family is very close to us and we're united in saying he needs some time out – time to get well and let the healing begin. He's not himself, and if [Vikki] really does care, she should be encouraging him to seek the help he needs."
Natalie insists that she wants the girls, "to have a loving relationship with their father. The door will be open for him anytime he needs us. Despite everything, we're here. I'm very clear that woman will never be in our lives. Whether the girls ever meet Sebastian, that's their decision, and I will support them either way."
It hasn't been easy, these past weeks, reliving the pain she has been through for this interview, but it's been worth it.
"I'm very proud to be honoured in this issue of The Weekly – a tribute to rural Australia," she says.
"I'm humbled to be amongst such an extraordinary group of inspiring women. When the girls found out I was doing this, they told me to stand tall and speak out, and to remind myself of who I am. The last time we were together, the girls and I, we belted out a resounding rendition of Helen Reddy's I am Woman, reminding me I can do anything. I am strong, I am invincible but most of all, I am Natalie Joyce – and yes, I do have a voice."

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