ABC radio replaces Sunil Badami’s show with Rhianna Patrick of Speaking Out
Sunil Badami is something of a game changer in Australian media, one of the few ethnic faces to crack the mainstream with a presenting gig on ABC Local Radio.
But now ABC bosses have decided Badami’s show Sunday Takeaway will not return to the airwaves next year.
Just when everyone was rejoicing Waleed Aly winning a co-hosting role on Channel 10’s The Project—what does this mean?
While it may look like a backwards step in the battle to get multicultural Australia into the mainstream, Badami revealed to The Indian Sun that the reality is surprisingly less gloomy.
“I didn’t go into Sunday Takeaway expecting any kind of job security, especially in a high(ish) profile position as a presenter,” Badami said.
The author and performer at Sydney’s famous Belvoir St Theatre said he never even seriously considered a career in radio. While he dabbled with a show on community station 2SER, the opportunity to get his voice on the ABC came entirely by chance.
“I was asked to come in and talk about potential roles, based on my now manager’s seeing me at the Sydney Writers’ Festival,” Badami explained. “I should point out how extremely lucky I am—from no real radio experience this time last year, to my own show in a few months.”
“Although I’m sad that Sunday Takeaway is no more, I’m really glad I had the opportunity,” he said.
Badami’s departure from the airwaves on Sundays will not mark a loss of diversity at the ABC as such. His evening timeslot is being filled by Rhianna Patrick, the indigenous Australian host of ABC’s long-running show Speaking Out.
“I’m really pleased that the wonderful Rhianna Patrick… is the new presenter for Sunday evenings, and best of all, not doing a show centred around her cultural identity,” Badami said. “Although I hope she will bring that to the mix, and give more and more non-Indigenous Australians a chance to share in Indigenous culture and appreciate Indigenous perspectives outside a specifically Indigenous show.”
So having seen the inside of the industry, how optimistic is Badami about ethnic Australians getting their fair share of the spotlight?
He believes, “Many South Asians… aren’t in the media now because they’re either encouraged by parental expectations to enter other professions or they don’t see a place for themselves”.
“I don’t think this is necessarily institutional discrimination—after all, one need only look at Waleed Aly’s successes at the ABC, Fairfax and now Channel Ten to see that if someone is intelligent, personable and interesting to watch, read or listen to, they’ll be in demand, regardless of their ethnicity.”
But he pointed out that the media had vastly improved from when he was a child growing up, “when there were NO non-white faces”. The success of stars today like Benjamin and Michelle Law, Waleed Aly, Jeremy Fernandez, Kamahl, Leah Vandenberg, Indira Naidoo, Stan Grant, Rhoda Roberts, Rhianna Patrick is testament to that.
Badami predicts ethnic media will become less necessary as migrants become a bigger part of the Australian community, and take up more roles in politics and media. “Programs dedicated to only South Asian concerns won’t be as necessary as they might once have been for first generation immigrants in a newly post-White Australia… when it was difficult to find avenues to express and celebrate your cultural identity,” he said.
“ABC Radio’s recent enthusiastic involvement and broadcast of events such as the South Asian Festival in Perth and Parramasala in Sydney reflect the ABC’s growing commitment to acknowledging and celebrating diversity in a way that all members of the community, not just South Asian people, can appreciate.”
However, he still sees a role for some specialist ethnic programs to, “encourage listeners to learn and appreciate their or their parents’ language and culture”.
“As a coconut myself (kalachierra, goramaan—if that’s the right expression, I don’t speak Hindi), while I appreciate learning about Indian culture, I approach it from an Australian perspective, just as my children do—it’s a huge and integral part of our identities, but only one part, not the whole,” he said.
Badami said, “One thing I really appreciated about doing Sunday Takeaway—apart from being given the creative freedom to come up with the format, title and more from scratch in the first new national show on ABC Local Radio featuring an entirely new presenter in 15 years—was that I was engaged to present a show as myself, not pigeonholed into a “South Asian” show or as representative of my community.”
Thankfully for fans, this is not the last we’ll hear of Badami’s voice on the radio. He will continue to pop up on ABC occasionally as a fill-in presenter and has also scored a spot filling in an afternoon shift at Brisbane radio station 4BC (part of the Fairfax Radio Network).
“Although I’m happy to be corrected, I think I might be not only the first Indian, but first non-white presenter on commercial radio in Queensland, if not Australia!” said Badami—a sure silver lining if ever there was one.
Published in The Indian Sun