After the ‘world stopped’, Indira Naidoo searches for meaning in Compass

Indira Naidoo is one of Australia’s most experienced and distinguished broadcasters. A journalist, TV and radio presenter and author, her latest role is as the new host of Compass.

You seem to have a lot of jobs. Are you exhausted?
I think the people around me are exhausted! It does take a little bit of tap-dancing, I have to admit, at the moment. But I think it’ll calm down in a week or so. I think we’re in the eye of the storm at the moment.

Indira Naidoo presents Compass: asking bigger questions.Credit:ABC

It’s nice to be in demand, isn’t it?
I think most of it I put my hand up for, in a way. Sometimes I think things just happen when you open yourself up to be interested in things, and sometimes it all happens at the same time. I think I’m the sort of person who says, all right, let me take it on board and then I’ll work out how I can manage it all. It just happens sometimes like that.

Is there anything you haven’t done that you still want to?
Well, you know, at the moment I’m involved in applying and campaigning for the role on the ABC Board as the staff director. So that would be a role, very much, that I would love to have. We’ll see how that pans out. But in terms of my broadcasting work and journalism work, you know, there’s always interesting things around. I’m not somebody who makes long-term plans about where I want to be or what I want to do. If something happens to grab my interest and I happen to be in the right place to do it, then I’m up to get involved in that. But sometimes there are things that I do that are a little bit left-field, that even I wouldn’t have thought that would’ve been an area I’d be fascinated by, and then I am.

Such as?
If you’d told me as a cadet that I’d write a book about how to grow food on a balcony, I would’ve said, “Really? Really?” So there you go. Sometimes I don’t even know the sorts of things I’ll end up doing or being interested in. I keep myself guessing.

You’ve had great longevity in the industry, lasted a lot longer than many do. Is part of what has allowed you to last that attitude of not planning too far in advance, so you’re always ready to take the next opportunity?
I think what I’ve done, without being really aware that I’ve done it, I’ve always backed my creativity and my curiosity. That’s always come first. And how I can use that to help other people. I think that’s always been my mix, and that guides where I go. Sometimes it leads me in a traditional path and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m a curious person and I think curiosity is what keeps you excited and engaged and connected and energised to do things.

Which leads nicely into your new role on Compass. What would you say is the mission statement of the show?
What I think Compass has always been about, but I think it’s even more needed now, is helping people in their search for meaning. I think that’s something that we are all more aware of, particularly after the last few years that we’ve had, where the world’s stopped and we’ve had to look death in the face and suddenly thought, what does this all mean, what should I be doing, where am I going? I think we’ve come out of that phase with this sense of: I don’t want to keep doing the things that I’ve done, or I want to do more of the things I love. And we’re asking ourselves bigger questions than we have for a long, long time. Which is perfect timing for a show like Compass, because what Compass has always done, and what we’re absolutely determined to keep on doing, is help people with finding the answers to those questions, giving them all the options, showing them all the different paths you can follow to get those answers to your questions. Whatever your answers are, that’s up to you: we’re not there to tell you this is the way you must think or feel, or this is the faith you must follow. But it’s very rare to find a television show that allows you to just be exposed, and then you decide for yourself. It’s really about how to help people live deep, meaningful, purposeful lives.

Have you found that kind of meaning and purpose in your life?
I have found some of that, definitely. I have found that my purpose is to use my skills and abilities to help others. I know that’s my path. How I use those is where I think every day you find different ways to do that. I think that if you put yourself in the bigger picture, if you think how can I help, where can I help, that helps me to get through the struggles that we can sometimes get lost in: why am I stuck here, why hasn’t this job worked out, why has this love floundered? Some of those questions can make you internalised and stressed, but what helps me through those things is to lift yourself outside yourself, and look at how you help others. And that tends to answer most of the questions. You don’t get so fretful about things when you don’t think me me me, you think us.

Compass returns on Sunday March 19, 6.30pm, ABC.

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