‘Bachelor In Paradise’ contestant Renee Barrett has opened up about her Indigenous Australian heritage, saying she often felt “segregated” at school, and has been told she’s “pretty for an Aboriginal’ in her adult life.
Born and raised in Darwin, the 26-year-old Larrakia woman said her heritage “played a huge part” in her upbringing and is still central to her identity.
In childhood, she was discriminated against by other kids because of the way she looked.
“In school I was always known as the ‘black girl’ and for me, being so young, I didn’t understand why I was being segregated,” she said.
In time she learnt more about her cultural roots and the history of First Nations people in Australia, saying it helped her connect with her hometown given the Larrakia people are the traditional owners of the Darwin region.
“As I grew up my family really started to teach me about my heritage and how important it was to always remain respectful to others around me,” she explained. “I have been pretty blessed to live in Darwin with my clan. This is my home and this is where I feel like I belong.”
Last year fellow ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ contestant Brooke Blurton said she had been told by strangers she’s “pretty for an Aboriginal”.
“Unfortunately, like Brooke, I did also receive these comments [in the past],” said Renee.
“These statements are so hurtful and are so detrimental to a young girl’s mental health. I remember going home in tears and asking why people didn’t like me. No one should ever have to feel like that.”
After initially appearing on ‘The Bachelor Australia’ in 2019, Renee returned to the small screen this year on franchise spinoff, ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ which is still airing now. During her time on the dating show, she’s been surrounded by drama, confronting her ex Ciarran Stott earlier in the season about him cheating on her in the outside world.
“I had lost my voice and identity in my previous relationship. It took a lot to return to the independent woman I was,” Renee told HuffPost. “With the help of some close friends and my family I became that strong woman again.
“I did not know how the viewers would understand the situations that developed in Paradise especially with the public perception of Ciarran, but before entering Paradise I had said ‘I wanted to stay true to myself in Fiji’ and I believe I did just that.”
Her actions on-screen have been praised by many viewers, particularly other Indigenous woman who appreciate her setting an example and representing First Nations people on national television.
I am honestly so overwhelmed by the amount of messages from young girls and older women thanking me for being such a good role model,” said the healthcare coordinator. “It’s not something you ever really expect but I am so honoured that I can be someone they look up to.”
She also said “there is not enough diversity” on Australian TV, and that this should be considered when casting ‘The Bachelorette’ next year.
“I am hoping that the public really gets behind having a beautiful, strong, intelligent Indigenous women as their next bachelorette for 2021.”
The ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ finale airs on Sunday at 7:30pm on Channel 10.