July 22, 2024

Ahead of the NAIDOC Awards this weekend, co-host Steph Tisdell on the theme of Loud and Proud in 2024 and a vast improvement in First Nations voices in the screen sector.

How are you preparing for the NAIDOC Awards and what can we expect to see?
ST: I’m preparing by reading the bios of the nominees and thinking about what NAIDOC means post referendum “No.” It means this year’s theme is very apt. I’m specifically pondering on my own connection to my Aboriginality and how joyful it is to celebrate in such a high-end way!

What other highlights of NAIDOC Week are you looking forward to?
ST: This year, I’m mostly working and doing prep for the awards! But I’m also releasing a book soon so there’s lots of last minute things I’m doing with that, too. It’s a book about the nuances of being Blak so it feels fitting this year for that to have my focus; I want it to be a voice for my people.

What does this year’s theme ‘Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud & Proud’ mean to you personally?
ST: For me, it’s the “loud and proud” that I’m embracing most heavily. I believe we’re in a position, more so than in the past, to stand tall and rise against what we’ve learned about the voting public during the referendum.

Are you seeing advancements in First Nations voices in front of and behind the camera?
ST: Like you wouldn’t believe. The next step is for First Nations voices to be in positions of power and for places to become more culturally safe. It’s still, very much, a lonely place to be a person of colour of any kind. Often the burden of making sure representations are done correctly land on actors / those in front of the camera. I believe we have space for more nuance than that.

Where would you like to see further change?
ST: My big motto currently is “diversity in diversity.” I hope we move away from tokenism and embrace how diverse blackfellas are. I’m not representative of every blak person in this country in the same way that not every blackfella has the same experiences. That’s an important distinction that I believe we will get to after normalising our experiences over time.

You’re juggling comedy, drama and presenting. Is there a personal favourite and what’s been a career highlight?
ST: Acting is my absolute highlight. That, and being in writers’ rooms. I love the creative freedom of building and imagining a character to reflect real life and the messaging you can do through it. I crave perspectives that challenge my own and there’s a feeling of community and collaboration on set and in writers’ rooms that light me up unlike anything else I’ve done.

What’s coming up for you?
ST: I’ve got a book being released on the 1st of August! It’s called “The Skin I’m In” and it is the single most vulnerable thing I feel I’ve ever done. I’ve delved into the depths of what it felt like to be a teenager to deliver a fictional YA novel that speaks to the nuances of being Blak in this country.

I’m also always writing and jotting down ideas, concepts and the like. I’m constantly imagining things I can turn into something. I’ve got stories bursting at the seams and I’m moving into becoming a storyteller in the ways that feel best to me!

NAIDOC Awards hosted by Steph Tisdell and Narelda Jacobs screens 7:30pm Saturday on ABC / NITV.

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