First Nations journalist Merinda Ninyette got her start in the media courtesy of Brisbane broadcasting icon Tiga Bayles, who passed away on April 17 after a long battle with cancer. Here, she pays personal tribute to a man who shaped her career, and her identity.
The first time I met Uncle Tiga was at the beginning of 2010 when 98.9fm was still in an eight story building in Fairfield, an industrial suburb in Brisbane.
I was a shy 14 year-old Noongar girl who was ashamed of who I was when I got the opportunity to do a school-based traineeship at Triple A Training.
As I was waiting at reception, Tiga Bayles came around the corner and introduced himself, asking me who my mob was.
I introduced myself and said I was a Noongar, but you couldn’t tell because I had fair skin. He replied, “It doesn’t matter that you are fair skinned; a black coffee is still black, even with a little milk in it. What you choose to be is what you are. Don’t let anyone take away your identity.”
From just that one conversation with Tiga, I changed the way I looked at myself and my culture, and not a day goes by when I don’t appreciate what he said to me all those years ago.
I stayed on with Triple A Training and 98.9fm for three years; and every morning, as part of the training course, the students listened to Tiga’s Let’s Talk programme to learn about what was going on in our community and what was being done about it.
All the students developed a passion for learning about our people, culture and our rights with many going on to join Aboriginal Embassies around Australia, or become activists in the fight for our rights.
At the beginning of 2013, I was asked by uncle Tiga and Karen Scott to join the National Indigenous Radio Service news room as a cadet journalist.
Uncle Tiga continued to nurture and support me through the process and I was always welcome to yarn with him about our culture, which I’m still learning about to this day.
Tiga had a way of listening and explaining culture that never made you feel unwelcome, even if you thought what you asked was ignorant.
Working at the National Indigenous Radio Service, NIRS, I was privileged to work alongside Uncle Tiga and lucky enough to have a mentor with so much passion and experience to look up to, and to learn from.
Uncle Tiga was a strong, courageous and understanding man who did a lot for me, but also the rest of our First Nations communities. I am a wiser and more cultured Noongar woman, and I am proud of who I’ve become.
Thank you Uncle, for the amazing experiences and your never wavering belief in me.
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