Narelda Jacobs: In Safe Hands

Narelda Jacobs and Karina Natt at Sydney WorldPride Pride March
Image: Instagram

Narelda Jacobs has been at the forefront of Australia’s most significant events in 2023, from the Women’s World Cup to the Voice to Parliament. She sat down with QNews to explain how important the Voice is for the nation and for her personally.

To say that 2023 is a big year for Narelda Jacobs is an understatement.

She’s already been a Rainbow Champion for WorldPride, headlined the NITV coverage of the Garma Festival, and was a Legacy ’23 Ambassador for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

She is also at the forefront of the Voice to Parliament campaign, and, to top it all off, she found love with her partner, Karina Natt, this year.

Although she admits feeling fatigued, she’s been looking forward to 2023 for some time.

“I always knew this year was going to be huge. Anyone who spoke to me about 2021 or 2022, I would always say, just make sure you are your best self for 2023, because it is going to be a monumental year. But I didn’t know that it would start with me falling in love!” Narelda explains.

Out of all those commitments, it is the Voice to Parliament that has her strongest focus.

“With WorldPride, we saw the queer community and allies come together, and with the Women’s World Cup, we saw Australia united in a way we’ve never seen before. But the biggest is yet to come with the referendum on The Voice,” she says.

Fighting for the rights of First Nations people runs deep in Narelda’s family.

Her father, Cedric Jacobs, was part of the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) which travelled to the United Nations in 1981 to present a way forward for a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

The fact that there’s been little progress in that time isn’t lost on her.

“That was over 40 years ago and we still aren’t much closer to having a federal treaty or treaties with First Nations people in this country,” she says.

The vying Yes and No campaigns have sowed a mix of hope and division, with many polls indicating a drop in support for the Yes vote. However, Narelda remains optimistic.

Staying firm on the messages of the Yes campaign is something Narelda sees as key.

“The No campaign has had to get really creative. They’re constantly bringing out new bits of misinformation and new bits of mud to fling,” she says.

“With the Yes campaign the message has always been consistent. It’s an advisory group of First Nations representatives with no power of veto over the government. Sovereignty will not be impacted, and they’ll be offering advice on issues specific to First Nations people. That’s all this has ever been about.”

Narelda recently anchored NITV’s coverage of the Garma festival, Australia’s largest Indigenous gathering and a celebration of the life and culture of the Yolngu people.

It was Narelda’s first Garma, and she appreciated the event’s importance in such a historic year.

“I understood the impact of Garma. The people there have been instrumental in starting so many important movements in this country,” she explains.

In attendance at Garma were the Prime Minister and other politicians, as well as academics, legal experts, business leaders, education and health advocates, and foreign delegates.

While some might find it controversial, the involvement of the business community is something Narelda believes can be a strong weapon for the cause.

“With marriage equality, it was the corporates getting behind it that really pushed the government into acting, and it’s the same thing with this referendum. To have all these top executives listening to First Nations people and our elders, it’s really beautiful. It’s awesome to feel part of a national change,” she says.

The similarities between the Voice to Parliament referendum and the marriage plebiscite are not lost on Narelda.

“There are lots of similarities with the ugliness that we’re seeing,” she says.

However, there is one key difference.

“At least with this referendum, the government is onside. For marriage equality, the government was not supportive, and that’s huge in itself,” Narelda explains.

When asked what message she hopes the LGBTIQA+ community can reflect on for the Voice, she explains the similarities.

“We both know what it’s like to live in a marginalised community. We both know what it’s like to be discriminated against. We are the most vulnerable in our community. And yet we have people making decisions for us without asking us what’s best,” she says.

“This is a chance for First Nations people to give advice on issues that impact First Nations people.”

Although Narelda has been in the trenches this year, there have also been some real moments of hope and joy.

Not only has she been supporting the Matildas as a fan, she is also on Football Australia’s National Indigenous Advisory Group and is a Legacy ’23 Ambassador for the Women’s World Cup.

The Advisory Group was instrumental in negotiating with FIFA to get the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags flown in all stadiums, something that had never been done before.

And that word “legacy” is something Narelda wants to ensure includes tangible action.

“We need more conversations about including trans and gender-diverse folks in sport,” she explains.

“We’re still in the very early days of those discussions, and I think Football Australia has really led the way, and that’s the beauty of the Matildas, they are an inclusive team.”

It’s no surprise that the Matildas are inclusive with 10 publicly out players, more than any other team at the Women’s World Cup, and that queer visibility is something Narelda has proudly shown herself.

“Karina and I have been in the stands with our Progress flag and our Aboriginal flags, and every time there was a goal we would wave those flags so high!” Narelda says.

“The Matildas have the Progress flag above their exercise bikes and gym equipment. It was a shame that FIFA refused the players from wearing rainbow armbands, but I’ve been loving seeing so many of the women having their nails or hair in the colours of the Progress flag. There are all these signs of resistance by the teams in the World Cup and it’s been so great to watch.”

It is remarkable that Narelda is at the forefront of so many 2023 events even while doing her day job and being involved on the board or as an ambassador for multiple social justice and equality organisations.

But fighting for equality is in her DNA and something that drives her.

“To be positioned in the middle of all these conversations, it’s just a dream come true. To be able to use your influence for good is seriously a blessing. I’m just loving everything about this year,” she says.

Helping get through the difficult but rewarding journey of 2023 is her partner Karina, who is now also working as her agent.

Narelda explains that working with Karina, a former political advisor, is something positive for the couple.

“This is a nation-building year and when we got together, we realised that it’s also a relationship-building one. We wanted to be there for all these moments together, so that’s why we’re now working together,” she says.

With two powerful queer women striving to make Australia the best nation it can be in 2023 and beyond, there’s no doubt that we’re in safe hands.

Narelda Jacobs is a Whadjuk Noongar woman and presenter for Channel 10 and NITV.

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Dale Roberts

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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