Making a conscious decision to take a stance on how you want your culture represented is no easy feat. Marlee Silva did just that, launching an Instagram platform ‘Tiddas4Tiddas’ with her sister Keely in November 2018.
Off the back of NAIDOC week in July of that year, the then 23-year old communications student at U.T.S decided to sustain the momentum of the pride and celebration of that week.
Since then, she has teamed up with Mamma Mia to set her own Podcast which showcases successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women role models and their stories, circulate advice and academic, sporting and other opportunities for young Indigenous women to reach their potential. She has interviewed Australian superstars like best-selling author Tara June Winch, Founder of We Pledge Barbie-Lee Kirby and social activist Tanya Hosch.
Ahead of her speaking event on March 6th for International Women’s Day, addressing the topic of The World Won’t Listen Unless Women Shout, for the Institute of Managers and Leaders, I spoke to Marlee about her incredible rise and acclaim as a young activist.
You started the platform ‘Tiddas4Tiddas’ in November 2018, on the back of NADOC week that year. What compelled you and your sister to do something that year?
Every year, NAIDOC week has a theme and that year it was “Because of her, we can!” which extended for the entire year. We spent the year championing our aunties, and grandmothers and all the women who’ve never got the spotlight that the men have had. We wanted to celebrate not just male sportsman, and those idolised as indigenous success. I thought, it would be such a shame for girls to grow up and still not see any female role models.
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In celebration of the 2020 @aflwomens League that kicked off this weekend, we present to you #tiddas4tiddas S2 EP3 featuring a yarn with the amazing and inspiring Torres Strait Islander tidda Tanya Hosch!! Tanya is the General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the AFL. She’s passionate about women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and justice and she’s dedicated to building a more welcoming sporting community for all – kick off your Sunday right, go listen to the podcast on your fave pod app and let us know what you think! Thanks so much to Tanya for being a part of this! 🖤💛❤️💚💙🤍 . . . . #aboriginalwomen #aboriginalaustralia #torresstraitislander #afl #aflwomens #leader #rolemodel #culture #sport #diversity #inclusion #podcast #newepisode #listen #sunday #release #episodethree #season2
How did the podcast come into being? How did you make connections with Mamamia?
Mia Freedman saw one of the posts that we made on Instagram. She loved the page and wanted to hear what our plans were. At the time, the account had only been live for less than six months. I didn’t have any ambitious ideas. But I knew there was nothing out there like what we had, and we wanted a more dynamic way to interact with Aboriginal female stories. Mia wanted to get to know me. She offered support and I asked her “How does Podcasting work?” And she guided me through that process.
We wanted a place where we can hear the stories, our culture is aural storytelling. And the next thing I knew, within two week, I was in their office doing an audio test. Mia took a bet on me and let me have the creative direction. It’s been amazing. I was clear in my message of the sort of platform we’d create. Mia was a great support. It’s been almost a year now. She’s also just someone I can talk to.
Both you and Keely have spoken publicly about the racism you’d faced in high school. You said you’ve turned discomfort into pride. How did you do that?
I think that it was benefited by how strong my family is and the support system I had around. I was never willing to change myself and I came to terms with that quickly – of having really strong parents who have so proud of our culture. They always told me to be Aboriginal is a really amazing thing.
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What’s better than a tee that expresses you’re a dangerous female not to be messed with? One whose profits go directly to helping women escape violence 🙌🏾 thank you for all you do @dangerousfemales – go check out their work and grab a shirt 💗 p.s. ignore our not so dangerous looking biceps 😂
You studied creative writing, politics and communication. At what point did you know that was what you wanted to study?
I always knew I wanted to write. My parents were proud of me regardless of what I studied. I started in journalism but discovered that I don’t do well with restrictions. I then figured out what would be more freeing was in creative writing. I did my Honours at UTS and continued my research in the representation of Indigenous women in film and television.I pursued what I love and what I am good at.
And you have a book coming out in September!
Yes! It’s so crazy. I had a publisher reach out to me on Instagram. It’s been my dream since I was 15. It was a huge, beautiful achievement because I was able to interview amazing Aboriginal women. It’s been lovely to send the end product to them. They’re crying when they’re reading it. The publishers are very happy, they think it will have a positive influence.
There’s a language of deficiency around being Aboriginal in this country. There’s a lot of sad and dark stuff. But there’s a lot of beautiful stuff. There’s a silver lining too to a lot of the story. I wanted to focus on the positive stuff.
The women I’ve interacted with has a range of diverse experience, but there’s also a lot of universal things we get through.
Can you tell me what you’re planning to speak about at the International Women’s Day Event on March 6 in Melbourne?
We are debating on the titled, “The World Won’t Listen Unless Women Shout.” I’ll take the stage with other amazing, smart women. It’s meant to be fun, a bit of humour. It’s a space where we will hear a range of perspectives on what needs to improve, having female voices elevated.
Marlee will speak on March 6th. See event details here.