The 29-year-old, who moved to Australia from Sri Lanka when he was three, is one of three people of colour on the show this year alongside Mary Viturino from Brazil and First Nations contestant Renee Barrett.
There may be fewer POC on reality TV because “from experience, there are less POC auditioning for reality TV,” he told news.com.au, citing “very strict cultural backgrounds” as one reason they may not be participating.
“For the ones who do and are successful, there is another hurdle an individual has to conquer to actually make it to the filming stage. They have to convince their families they are happy for them to go on reality TV.”
Niranga said traditional views in some cultures “don’t always allow this kind of public display.”
For the aircraft engineer, making his mark in reality TV hasn’t been as difficult because his parents were very supportive of his decision to audition for ‘The Bachelorette’ in 2019.
“Mum’s always asking when am I going to find someone and settle down because I’m getting pretty old now,” he told HuffPost Australia last year before appearing on the dating show.
He said his parents never forced him to have an arranged marriage, a common custom in some South Asian communities. Instead, his mother and father were “happy for me to find someone on TV.”
“They’re pretty excited and open,” he said at the time.
Niranga’s comments come after some viewers have called for more air time dedicated to him.
In a statement to HuffPost Australia, a Network 10 spokesperson said the TV channel is committed to diversity.
“Eligible contestants on all Network 10 shows are considered regardless of race or background. Network 10 takes its commitment to diversity seriously and we cast as broadly as possible across our entire slate,” read the statement.
Last year, ‘Love Island’ contestant Tea Fraser, the second Black woman to be on the Australian series, also said that on-screen diversity is difficult to achieve if minorities don’t audition in the first place.
“Some people don’t feel that’s something they want to do because with reality TV, it’s a bit hard to put yourself out there,” she told HuffPost Australia in October, before admitting she was also apprehensive about signing up for the show. “I saw the applications coming up so early and I put it off and then I finally decided to apply.”
Last week, 2016 ‘Bachelorette Australia’ contestant Carlos Fang (aka Carlos Jay F.) said he believed the Bachelor franchise has often played to racial stereotypes and tokenism when casting contestants of different ethnicities.
“I knew going on a show like ‘The Bachelorette’ there would always be a ‘token’ guy,” the Chinese Australian reality star told HuffPost Australia.
“It’s your advantage because you know there’s always one person cast to represent that mix but it’s likely to be a disadvantage for the final outcome of the show. Rarely is there a person of colour standing there at the end of the season.”
Carlos said he believed Australian reality TV considers cultural diversity during the casting process, but he scrutinised the subsequent stereotypes that could be portrayed on screen.
“I think there’s consideration given to minority groups. Most shows place someone of colour so that they are showing themselves to be culturally diverse,” he said.
“But that representation needs to not play into certain stereotypes. It would be great to see a dark-skinned surfer or an Asian tradie. It doesn’t always have to be, and shouldn’t be, so cliché.”
Australia’s first Black male lead on ‘The Bachelor’ was Blake Garvey in Season 2 in 2014. Since then, people of colour have featured as contestants, but not as leads.