Bianca Hunt speaks to Refinery29 Australia's Culture Editor Alicia Vrajlal about the challenges faced by First Nations creatives in the Australian media industry.
Growing up in Brisbane with her parents and two siblings, Bianca Hunt was always the “creative kid” in her family. While her brother played AFL, and sister was a runner, she loved dancing and singing.
The Kamilaroi, Barkindji, Ballardong and Wadjak woman had her sights set on becoming a music teacher until the 10th or 11th grade — as she recalled — when “a very culturally insensitive” high school class about Aboriginal music put her off pursuing a music career for life.
Fast forward 10 years, and the now-25-year-old has an established career in the Australian media space, having been a host of the 2019 National NAIDOC Awards, a guest on ABC’s The Drum in the past, and also a co-host of Indigenous TV network NITV’s Yokayi Footy program last year. But even then, she’s often struggled to find her place within the entertainment industry, facing an issue many First Nations creatives do: finding representation via an agent.
“Last year I had Yokayi Footy and I also had a kids show called Healthy kicks that was done with the AFL and AFL Max on 7Plus. I had two national shows behind me, I had all of this other experience, and I wasn't getting an agent,” Hunt told Refinery29 Australia.
“To me, it didn't really make sense that I was booking all of these gigs all on my own. It's just that sort of thing where I'm like, ‘If I can get these things through the pipeline myself and through the connections that I have, why is no one representing me?’”
While there are agents who represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Hunt felt some she had considered didn’t align with her values.
“A lot of the agents that I was looking at, either their books were closed and they didn't really want to have a conversation, or their values, beliefs and the jobs that they would have been getting for me were not what I wanted to do,” she said.
“I'm not the token Black fella that's coming in here, and not to say that the people that are represented by these spaces are, but that's just what it felt like.”
She also witnessed peers in the industry, including photographers, videographers, and TV and radio presenters being unfairly treated or again, not securing representation with a talent agency.
“It's like, ‘Why aren't we being represented? Why don't we have someone wanting us to get paid’, rather than us feeling like it's a broken record of being like, ‘Hey, why do I have to justify my rights all the time?’ That's a very common thing,” she said.
This drove Hunt to launch her own talent agency, AGNT BLAK in mid-July, aimed at providing a safe environment for First Nations media personalities, speakers and influencers to thrive in mainstream spaces.
After witnessing more Indigenous people being engaged by organisations to speak about race following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, safety and respect are big focus points for the entrepreneur.
“We need to feel safe when we're engaging in these gigs and spaces, and especially with the uptake in the last year-and-a-half of seeing more of our faces being on these campaigns,” she explained.
“I can't help but think, ‘Are you getting paid enough? Are they engaging with you outside of the week of NAIDOC, what are their terms of engagement and how are they supporting you as a Black freelancer or performer or model?”
According to Hunt, the lack of culturally diverse representation in corporate positions in media is closely linked to how Indigenous people working within the industry are treated.
“It's not our fault that we're underrepresented in these spaces. We have been excluded for so long. It's quite clear that most of the powerful people in this country, or seem to be as powerful people in this country, are Anglo Saxon. They're not Indigenous, they're white people.
“Therefore, they don't have the lived experience of our people and it is literally since colonisation that this has occurred. We were seen as not valued and that we didn't have knowledge.”
The ways in which stories are told by the media are also often problematic.
“It shouldn't be that they're talking about us, but that they're talking with us, and consulting and having those conversations in this environment and this is one way of being able to do that.”
So far Bianca has five people personalities up to the agency: TikToker Tallulah Brown, Deadly Choices radio host Shen’e Clemments, Trading Blak’s Jarin Baigent, NITV’s Grayson McCarthy-Grogan and 2021 WA Young Person of the Year Derek Nannup.
With the hope of adding to that portfolio very soon, Hunt summed it up: “I feel like I'm one extra person that can support our faces being seen in these spaces.”