Avani Dias still remembers listening to Triple J’s Hack program as a teenager, hoping one day she would be part of the popular youth issues and current affairs show. Fast forward several years working as a journalist in various newsrooms, and the 28-year-old has just been announced as the 2020 host of Hack.
However, from suggestions she’s merely meeting a diversity quota to bribing employers with curry, the Sri Lankan-Australian journalist has faced a wave of criticism in her career rise to date.
“I think the most annoying kind of racism I’ve experienced in the industry is that people can assume – or tell me directly – I got hired because I’m brown,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“I worked very hard to get here and I’m proud that I’m from a diverse background and here on merit. Actually, some people asked me if I gave curry to my managers to get a promotion – that was creative.
“To be clear, I didn’t,” she added.
Racial stereotypes have emerged in the past week since Australia’s national youth broadcaster Triple J announced her new role as part of its revamped lineup.
“When people congratulate the wrong brown girl for her new job,” Dias tweeted on Thursday, after colleague Shalailah Medhora, Hack’s political reporter, revealed people were mistaking her for the show’s new host.
But Dias hopes her appointment will help change attitudes and encourage other South Asian women to pursue a career in media.
“Of course, I’m also stoked and proud to be a woman of colour at the helm of a national show like this,” she said. “I’ve had messages from some young women from different backgrounds saying how excited they are about it too and that’s incredibly special to me.”
Dias recalled seeing only one culturally diverse person on television whom she looked up to while growing up in Sydney’s south west in the 90s.
“There was Lee Lin Chin… and she’s not actually South Asian,” she said.
“So, I barely saw myself reflected in Australian media as a child, and although it’s getting better and there are some amazing people from diverse backgrounds leading the charge, things are still lagging – especially in upper management levels.
“It’s natural for our lives and backgrounds to influence the stories we’re interested in and pursue as journalists. So, I hope the media does become more culturally diverse so the next generation feels more ingrained in Australian society.”
Last week Triple J announced its 2020 lineup of presenters who will be taking the reins on its radio popular shows from January.
In addition to Dias taking over from Tom Tilley as Hack host, Lucy Smith will host the mornings program, while Torres Strait Islander comedian Dave Woodhead will front the lunch show.
The breakfast program will be hosted by Sally Coleman and Erica Mallett, with Bryce Mills taking over their ‘Weekend Arvo’ slot.