At a time when the representation of Indigenous people in mainstream Australian media is still lacking or often linked to negative stereotypes, Mundanara Bayles is working hard to try and change that.
The entrepreneur's podcast, Black Magic Woman, became the first Indigenous podcast to join the iHeart Podcast Network Australia earlier this year. Her priority has always been to use her platform to help elevate the voices of others within First Nations communities – something she’s learned from a young age after growing up in a rather politically active family.
“To be honest with you, I never wanted to be behind a microphone,” Bayles tells Missing Perspectives, adding, “I'm obviously my father's daughter. I’m doing what he was doing in a way, with my own flavour”.
Bayles is connected to the Wonnarua and Bunjalung people on her mother's side and the Birri-Gubba and Gungalu on her father's side. Her father, Harold James Phillip 'Tiga' Bayles, was a pioneer in his time when it came to Aboriginal rights and media. As well as being involved in the Tent Embassy movement in Canberra and the Chair of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, he established Radio Redfern in the 1980s and helped establish the Brisbane Indigenous Media Association which operated the radio station 98.9 FM (Brisbane). Growing up, Bayles would see her father’s advocacy work from afar.
“I didn't really know what my dad was doing back then,” she said. “But as I got older, I started to work with him at the Brisbane Indigenous Media Association. I got to sit in on a lot of meetings with him… I started to really see my dad and appreciate his activism and appreciate what he did for not just his family and community, but this country.”
Bayles says podcasting is a way to help provide “a voice for the voiceless” within Indigenous communities.
“When you start to engage with mob to be on the podcast, we’re amplifying Blak voices,” she said, adding the appeal can also be global, helping teach international listeners about a culture with a rich history going back at least 60,000 years.
“Having a podcast goes beyond an Australian audience,” she said. “Now we get to celebrate our culture and tell our stories to the world because they want to know more about us.”
As well as being on air, Bayles is the co-founder of BlackCard, which specialises in providing cultural competency training. She says a lack of cultural safety in the workplace is often an issue that First Nations women come up against, where they don’t feel as though they’re treated as equals at work.
In moments where she herself has felt “uncomfortable” walking into a client boardroom to deliver cultural training, Bayles has thought about her family and ancestors who are “protecting” and “guiding” her.
“I’ve gone to these places where I felt really uncomfortable as a young Blak woman having the platform that I have with BlackCard,” she said. “I walk in these spaces and I’ve got to remind myself that my people are always with me.”
She also said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women often face unique challenges when it comes to career progression, partly due to family structures and cultural practices.
“It’s the roles and responsibilities and cultural obligations that Aboriginal women have in their family and community,” she explained, adding that the “work/life balance is different and usually not supported [by organisations]".
“In our communities, we [women] are the backbone of our families and we are the ones who are nurturing young people and looking after older people. It hinders us from taking on senior positions or climbing the ladder in a corporate organisation,” she said.
“We can’t take on that extra responsibility. Even though it would be good to earn more money, we’re trying to balance out our cultural and family obligations that most Australians do not understand.”
On Sunday October 22, Bayles will speak more about her family, culture and what she learned from her father’s legacy in episode 4 of Rebel with a Cause on NITV and SBS at 9:10pm.