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Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast

Mumbition

The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 73: Every business can benefit from the wisdom of Elders

Mundanara Bayles

Founder of Black Magic Woman Podcast and Co-Founder The Black Card

June 27, 2023
Today’s episode of Mumbition has been recorded to honour NAIDOC Week. Mundanara Bayles is mother of five, host of Black Magic Woman podcast and co-founder of The Black Card a specialist consultancy providing cultural capability training and consultancy service to enable people and organisations to work effectively with members of the Aboriginal community, creating a society that includes everyone in a meaningful and productive way by working more effectively with First Nation people and each other.

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Links

The Black Card

Black Magic Woman Podcast

Credits

Produced by - Lucy Kippist

Edited by - Morgan Brown
‍Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
‍Guest - Mundanara Bayles

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Episode 73 Transcript

Carrie Kwan (00:37.506)

We acknowledge and pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of New South Wales where we record this podcast and all Aboriginal elders past, present and emerging. 

Today’s episode of Mumbition has been recorded to honour NAIDOC Week. What follows is our conversation with the exceptional Mundanara Bayles mother of five, host of Black Magic Woman podcast and founder of Black Card a specialist consultancy providing cultural capability training and consultancy service to enable people and organisations to work effectively with members of the Aboriginal community. As Mundanara shares in our interview, Black Card’s purpose is working with people not for people with the genius of Aboriginal knowledge. We took so much away from Mundara’s storytelling and fierce sense of purpose and advocacy for her work.

Now, we are passionate about sharing women's stories whether that's hearing a business pitch or just having a yarn, Mundanara we are so excited to have you here.  Please can we hear your Black Magic Women's Story.

Mundanara Bayles (01:11.033)

Can I just say thank you for your acknowledgement of country? It is a very important cultural diplomatic tradition that dates back tens of thousands of years in this country. So I am joining you from Kabi Kabi  country and the Kabi Kabi peoples are the traditional owners of the Sunshine Coast here in Queensland. But I was born and raised on Gadigal country and the Gadigal people are one of the 29 groups across the Sydney Basin. Redfern, AKA The Block. I always think of J-Lo when I talk about The Block. I grew up on The Block. I'm one of eight daughters. I have no brothers, but you know in an Aboriginal family, all your cousins, especially the boys, are your brothers. And you don't have second and third and fourth cousins, and you don't have half sisters and part or step. There's none of that. You're either related or you're not related. So yes, most of our family are non-blood relatives. 

I grew up in a very proud, vibrant Aboriginal community. I come from a politically active family. My family have been part of the, you could call it the black civil rights movement since the early 60s in this country that we now call Australia. So I feel quite privileged. 

My mother was a Wonnarua Bunjalung and also connections to the Gweagal people. The Gweagal people are next to the Bidjigal, AKA the La Perouse mob. So my ancestor, Sarah Waters, died in Redfern in 1841 at 106 years of age. So I go back to Redfern, six generations. I'll always be from the block and I'll always be a Koori. However, my father was a Murri. Grew up on his grandmother's country. The Dawson River people are the Gungalu people. It's a little place outside of Rockhampton in central Queensland, Theodore, Cracow, Eidsvold, Banana, those little towns in central Queensland. He also was a very proud Wiri man from the Birri Gubba Nation. A place called Nebo is where his grandfather was from.

So I want to acknowledge my mum and dad who have both passed. I want to also pay my respects to my elders and acknowledge any First Nations peoples that are listening to this podcast.  I guess, you know, I'm a mum. I've got five Aboriginal Kiwi, Fijian kids, two were a wedding present. So I gave birth to three. But I claim all five of them. I met my husband in beautiful Brisbane on the south side of the Mairwar, aka the Brisbane River. And just recently, three years ago, we bought our first home outside of Noosa on Mount Coolum, which is the site of a 25 million year old volcano, I believe, and the second largest rock to Uluru. So I feel very privileged to be on this podcast and to also share my story with you all. So thank you for having me.

Carrie Kwan (05:01.562)

Recently at a yarn, that I was involved with, with three inspiring Aboriginal women hosted by IGA being a voice for generations, I was really struck by how the culture and community influences them as an employer. How does your perspective on the world shape your business and influence how you run it?

Mundanara Bayles (05:35.481)

I was at the Queensland Female Founders Festival last night at QUT and I was on a panel and it's exactly the same question, a member in the audience, a young woman who I'm pretty sure, you know, wants to start her own business. She said the same thing. So I'm gonna tell you exactly what I said last night.

My elders in the Black Card, I went into business with my elders. My grandmother's sister, Dr. Lilla Watson, was the first Aboriginal lecturer to be employed at the University of Queensland in 1980 and the first Aboriginal person to serve on the university senate. My aunt Lilla and her best friend, sister and colleague, Dr. Mary Graham. Not only did they write three courses, for UQ, they taught Aboriginal perspectives, Aboriginal approaches to knowledge, and Aboriginal politics to undergrad and post-grad students over three entire semesters. So when we started Black Card 10 years ago, literally the elders came to me with this idea and we went into business 10 years in NAIDOC week. They wanted to, you know, they really wanted to educate mainstream Australians about the accumulated knowledge that developed or evolved over the tens of thousands of years that we've lived in this country. And we refer to it at Black Card as Aboriginal terms of reference. So in Aboriginal terms, what does family, community, country, governance, identity, logic, just to name a few, what does that mean in our terms? Because the opposite to that is Western terms or white terms of reference.Which refers to knowledge that comes from somewhere outside of this country. Those are based on Western ideologies that have been imposed on this country, now known as Australia, and imposed on Aboriginal people. So knowing that we've got these two different systems, the Aboriginal knowledge, Western knowledge, Aboriginal world, Western world, how do we navigate these two very different worlds that are both so valid? And also equal. How do Aboriginal people navigate these two worlds? And how do non-Aboriginal people come on over into the Aboriginal world and learn about the history, the heritage and the culture of the place that they call home? So having elders as my business partners, they are the cultural authority. In Aboriginal culture, elders are the cultural authority.

Having the elders guide me and school me to be able to deliver the Black Card training today, AKA cultural capability training, I would say that we are practicing what we preach. Aboriginal terms of reference is what we teach and how we run our organization is based on Aboriginal terms of reference. So today I am the only shareholder of Black Card, but the decision-making.

That's interesting. There are three elders, my uncle Charlie Watson and my auntie Lilla Watson are literally my grandmother's brother and sister and their best friend is auntie Mary. They are the Black Card elders. We come together at least once a month and we talk about, you know, the strategic direction, what we're trying to achieve, what resources we need, what clients are wanting to utilize our training.

So the elders are part of everything. I'm part of the decision-making, but the buck doesn't stop with me. So in the Western world, mainstream Australia, I am the CEO, I'm the managing director and co-founder of Black Card. But in the Aboriginal world, I'm an apprentice serving my apprenticeship. And it's so important that as I navigate these two worlds, that I always remind myself.

And I'm always conscious of when I'm being drawn over into white terms of reference. So not big noting yourself, Aboriginal society is a non-ego based society. It's non-competitive and non-judgmental. It's a group based society. It's all about the collective. So it's very different to the Western world, which is a highly individualistic society, all about competition, egos and highly judgmental in my experience.

So trying to navigate those two worlds as an Aboriginal woman in business and running an organization with 19 people on our books, I always make sure that I check in with my elders. And I don't want to ever get to a point where my aunt Lilla rings me and says, I heard this or I’ve seen this, or this was on the news, or this was on social media.

So being in business with my elders not only keeps me grounded, but there's a whole level of accountability. And I love that. I think every organisation should have an elder.

Carrie Kwan (11:09.095)

We agree, that would be amazing. And I hear strength, I hear humility, and truly the collective and community base there. So fascinating insights, thank you.

Lucy Kippist (11:28.93)

Mandanara, your passion just shines out of everything that you're speaking of and sharing with us today. So thank you for that. But I'm also struck by the numbers and the reach of your work. So you mentioned, and correct me if I'm wrong, 19 staff, close communication with several elders in your life, and was it five kids at home? Okay, so good, just so I'm clear on that. I'm wondering what...

Mundanara Bayles (11:52.721)

Yes.

Lucy Kippist (11:56.326)

in order to keep the energy that you've obviously got for the work that you're doing, what do you have to stop doing in order to keep your focus but also keep obviously some space for looking after all the people in your life at the same time?

Mundanara Bayles (12:14.945)

Yeah, boundaries are really important and my business coach has been reminding me for years to have healthy boundaries. So I'm now, I'm not on Facebook, I'm not a messenger, I don't have my personal Instagram anymore. I've got a business Facebook, I've got my Black Magic Woman podcast Instagram and I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter. So I've put boundaries in place.

I guess also I've got an amazing husband, so a big shout out to Peace, who looks after our beautiful family and the house, you know, cooking and cleaning and driving to football training and basketball training and my Tiger Lily, she does Oz-funk. So look, the, you know, I guess you've got to get the balance right. We've got a really good partnership at home where, you know, back in the day when I was, you know, having the babies and breastfeeding, he was working.

And then once we started this business, then the roles changed. And that's what I really appreciate is that my husband has given me, you know, not the green light, but he has supported us, myself and the elders, in chasing our passion. You know, it's so important that we do the best that we can within our lifetime. And for some of us, it's not a long life, especially for Aboriginal people.

You know, educating the masses because the Australian government and past governments chose not to educate citizens in this country. We're now in this position where, you know, this is what I'm now, I feel is my calling. So how do I reserve the energy when I'm constantly delivering training and also dealing with, you know, some of the most racist people, you know, that happen to expose their racism within these workshops, and that's the nature of the work that I do. Most people would say that, you know, I operate in culturally unsafe environments. That takes a lot for anybody to turn up to work every day, knowing that they're potentially working in a culturally unsafe environment. So yeah, you know, I get a massage, I'm getting a massage at four o'clock today.

I definitely do a lot of, like I've got Focus, I've got Perfect Potions, Essential Oils. At night time, you know, we've got all of the different oils just to relax us to switch off. Massages, oils, I go to FS8, don't go enough. I live on a mountain, you'd think that I'd go out and just put my feet into the beautiful ground here and just connect to the land. When people say, you know, you know, it's good to connect to country and to go and recharge the batteries. I live on a mountain. And I don't know when the last time was when I just went outside and put my feet into the ground. So I don't want to come across as a hypocrite, but I do know that self-care is really important. And especially for the work that I do, like this is a long game. And yeah, I honestly believe that, you know, having good people around you, you know, those really good family and friends, those support networks are so important. And, you know, not feeling like you have to take on the world. A lot of us, you know, born into this world as Aboriginal people, it comes with so much extra pressure, especially in a workplace when you are the only Indigenous person.

People expect you to have an opinion on everything. People expect you to be able to articulate your culture. Not all of us were privileged to grow up with our Aboriginal families. My mother was forcibly removed under government policy. My grandmother was forcibly removed. Her mother, her mother, and her mother were stolen children. I am the first generation that was not forcibly removed under government policy. We're talking about what happened in people's living memory, and we're talking about recent history. You know, trauma is transferred, it's in the memory of our DNA. It takes seven generations to heal from trauma. My children, they are the seventh generation.

And to me, that's what gives me strength, knowing that they're the seventh generation. I hope that my children don't feel the need or the pressure to do the work that I do, to do the work that my parents did before they passed, to do the work that my grandmother and my grandmother's siblings, like my Aunt Lilla's still alive, she only retired at the age of 84. I do not want to be delivering cultural intelligence training, you know, when I'm in my 50s and 60s, because to me that's not living.

I want to actually live my life and I want to live my life to its fullest potential. And that means not having to have conversations every single day, not re-traumatising myself and not feeling triggered when I share my family history. And I hope one day that comes true that I can actually do something else.

On that note, that's why I started the podcast. It was like an escapism. It was during a global pandemic, it was in lockdown, and I fell back on an old skill set because I was in media for a long time. My family are pioneers when it comes to Indigenous media, and my dad was the vice-president of the World's Indigenous Media Association, and he had a head office in Montreal and Canada.

So, you know, media and radio is in my blood. I never thought that I'd ever be, you know, behind a microphone again. But to me, I feel like it's an opportunity to do something different, to inspire myself and to inspire more and more Australians about the beauty, the richness, the deadliness, the black excellence pf First Nations peoples, what we've been able to achieve with just the last 50 years of being citizens in our own country. 

The Indigenous business sector is growing at twice the rate than the mainstream Australian business sector. We only make up 0.06% of the 2 million Australian businesses. So to me getting on a podcast and yarning with different people's not always First Nations, kind of fills my cup. And I kind of get this feeling where, you know, I don't know, I just, yeah, I feel like, you know, I feel rejuvenated after having a yarn. I feel inspired. And I'm like, you know what? I've definitely got more fuel left in the tank. I've got to keep going. So yeah, having a podcast gives me an opportunity to also amplify as many First Nations voices.

Lucy Kippist (20:02.59)

How wonderful. You're creating such an incredible legacy with the work that you're doing. Now this is a question we love asking all our guests and I feel like you've touched on it but I'd love to hear your answer. At Mums & Co we talk about the value of harmony so other people might call that you know striving for balance which as you've just shared before how difficult that can be at times with the amount of stuff you've got going on. But anyway, so we talk about it as a triangle. And for us, it's our ambition and our livelihood and our wellbeing all in a triangle. But if you had to name a shape of the perfect life for you or a great life for you, what do you think that would look like?

Mundanara Bayles (20:47.345)

It would be a circle.

And based on the culture that I've grown up in, it is circular. Like life is circular, it's not linear. It keeps on going round and around. It doesn't start and we reach this point and then we die. In our culture, especially within our belief systems, it keeps going round and round. But what I love about a circle is I love the fact that there's no pointy ends. I love the circle. It feels much more smoother. It feels rounded. I feel more wholesome. I feel like I'm part of something. So, you know, I start thinking about reciprocity, you know, giving to somebody and then giving back. You know, I give to you, you give to me. Thinking about the land.

You know, the land invented us, it gave birth to us. It literally threw us up and made us human. So we are forever obliged to look after it. You know, it gave birth to us, we've got to look after it. So then that reciprocity comes back in again. So this round and round, back and forth, to and fro, the circle definitely was the first thing that came to mind.

Lucy Kippist (22:10.974)

Love it. Love it. Now at the risk of squeezing 200,000 years of continuing living culture into a 27 minute podcast that we're doing today, could we please invite you to share some of the cultural awareness and practices with our community to ensure our own awareness and appreciation in the work that we are doing.

Mundanara Bayles (22:35.921)

Yeah, there's a few really good tips and you know, just be mindful that there are nearly one million First Nations people or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that live in Australia. There's more, we know that there's more but not everybody ticks the box and that's another conversation for another day that people still don't feel culturally safe especially in the workplace to identify as First Nations.

Asking somebody to justify their cultural identity. And as an Aboriginal woman, it's something that I've experienced nearly every day of my life. You know, when I identify as Aboriginal, most people say to me, oh, but you're not a full Aboriginal. Are you part or are you half? I've even been told that I speak really good English. I've been told that I'm the prettiest Aboriginal that they've ever seen.

And I've also been asked why aren't the rest of them like me?

So please don't think that it's okay. It's actually quite disrespectful to ask somebody, a complete stranger, somebody you work with, who happens to identify as Aboriginal, Indigenous or First Nations, to question their identity or to ask them to justify how much Aboriginal they are. It's so offensive and it's not a way to start off a relationship.

So one, I've got eight sisters and seven of us look like me and the youngest Jida was born with blonde hair, blue eyes and very light skin or fair skin. She's had a very different experience growing up in this country because of the color of her skin. You can imagine in certain circles that she'd be overhearing conversations and people have no idea that she's an Aboriginal woman from Redfern.

So one kind of, to me, that sticks out really quickly is that there's this stereotype that Aboriginal people look like our ancestors did 200 years, 200 years ago. So yeah, I think people need to come out of under the rock that you've been living under and really start to see that there are thousands of Aboriginal people that are also Christians, Muslims. You know, they've got Japanese heritage or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Indian heritage. So, you know, not to judge a book by its cover, but also it goes back to the colonial times where, you know, the system, the caste system was introduced to remove Aboriginal children from their parents. So it's quite offensive and can be quite traumatizing and really triggering. Even the term half caste. 

Another thing that I would say is that Aboriginal people have, we have our own logic. And I'm sure that most other ancient cultures around the world, it's not just the West that have their own logic, which is based on Aristotle. Aboriginal logic is closer to Chinese logic. So we think differently. So there's obviously a lot of misunderstandings and miscommunication between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians because of how we think, but also because we speak Aboriginal English. 

Aboriginal English is a recognised language. It's not standard Australian English or SAE. And what is Aboriginal English? Because it's not broken English and it's not pidgin or creole. Aboriginal people were self-taught the English language.

So we have given added meanings to the English words that we use. So when we talk about family, for instance, you know, we could be talking about our immediate family, our extended family, our non-blood relatives, or the whole community that we're part of. Whereas in for non-Aboriginal people, usually family is your nuclear family, or you would say they're my extended family, but then it stops there. 

And another good example is land. Most people see land as a piece of real estate that can be bought or sold. For Aboriginal people, you could never own land. It's got such spiritual significance. And I talked about it earlier, the land is our mother. The land invented us, it gave birth to us. And we have this obligation to look after it.

And that's what we've been doing for tens of thousands of years. You know, we are custodians of land. We are caretakers of country. And that's something that every single person in this country and around the world, you do not have to be an Indigenous person to see the earth as your mother. It is literally our life force. It keeps us alive. The land does not need us but we need it. So think about this in terms of relationships, because this is my next piece of advice. How you treat land is then like a template for how you treat people.

You know, what kind of society you're going to have is always contingent on the relationship between people and land. And that's such, you know, you might think of it's highly philosophical, but it's so important when you think of global warming and climate change. You know, we have wrecked this country in like under 250 years. We've wrecked this country.

How can we all be caretakers of country? How can we all see ourselves as custodians of country? Because our future generations, they are entitled to a healthy planet. They are entitled to clean air and clean water. And that's all of our responsibility, not just First Nations.

Carrie Kwan (29:18.826)

With a very respectful nod to Mother Nature and in the spirit of women supporting women who are the mumbitious those that are unapologetically blending motherhood and ambition or their goals that you would like to say hello to?

Mundanara Bayles (29:36.721)

Stop it. It's like asking me out of 110 episodes, who's your favorite? Which someone did ask me yesterday. Do you know what? I just want to say this. In Aboriginal culture, women are the strength of our culture.

Through child rearing practices. And there's so many of our women that are sitting in prison. There are so many women that have had their children taken from them by the system. They're the women that I wanna acknowledge. I wanna acknowledge our women that have kept our families together, that have kept our communities together.

And they might not get the acknowledgement that they deserve. Because when you're out of sight, too often you're out of mind. So I want to acknowledge our women, and not just Aboriginal women. I want to acknowledge all women that have done their best within the circumstances to be the best mothers, to be the best daughters, to be the best sisters, to be the best aunties. We know that you're there, like I always say this, to my own sisters who were struggling with addiction. Four of my sisters are in and out of prison. Five of my sisters are single mothers and four gave birth as teenagers. So I'm talking about my sisters. They might not be able to hold a job down.

But you know what, they've done the best that they can within the circumstances that they're in. So I want to acknowledge that.

Carrie Kwan (31:33.25)

Thank you so much. It's been an absolute pleasure and honour to speak with you today, Mundanara. Thank you for sharing your incredible words of wisdom. We're really grateful to have you as part of our community here.

Mundanara Bayles (31:53.95)

I just want to say thank you in giving me an opportunity to share my culture and my family history, my lived experience, my knowledge to share the work that I do with my elders at Black Card and also the podcast if you haven't listened yet, Black Magic Woman. It's now on the iHeart network. I'm the first ever Indigenous podcaster on the iHeart network in Australia. And I just want to say thank you because when people talk about being allies or advocates, like this is allyship in practice. This is reconciliation in action. You're giving me an opportunity to share my culture and to share my experiences with your audience and with people, you know, hopefully all around the world.

We make up 3% of the Australian population. You know, you're part of the 97% of the population for non-Indigenous Australians. Hopefully after listening to this story, you might be more curious to wanna learn more about the history and the heritage of the place that you call home. So thank you.