Vale Tiga Bayles 1953-2016

April 22, 2016
Tiga Bayles: through his radio work he helped give Aboriginal people a voice.

Tiga Bayles, a Birri Gubba Gungalu man and a Dawson River Murri has died after a long battle with cancer.

When I heard that Tiga had passed away I was taken back to when I first met him at Sydney's Radio Skid Row. He felt strongly that Indigenous voices should be heard on air, and helped set up Radio Redfern, which started broadcasting for 10 hours each week on Radio Skid Row in the early 1980s. He told me at Radio Redfern in 1989: “My people have an oral history and culture so we use radio.”

Radio Redfern was soon considered the voice of the Aboriginal community in Sydney, and through it Tiga played a vital role in coordinating political protests against the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988. He said 200 years of white settlement that began with an invasion should not be seen as a cause for celebration.

Tiga was a leading figure in the land rights' movement and a former chair of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. He was in the thick of the Aboriginal protests throughout the 1980s, and a powerful voice against Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Tiga later moved to Brisbane to found the National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS) of Brisbane Indigenous Media Association, the home of 98.9FM. Tiga's morning program Lets Talk was broadcast for decades, five days a week, around the nation through NIRS. It focused on issues relevant to First Nations people and was recognised as one of Australia's most popular and successful community radio programs.

His work in Indigenous media was recognised when he won the Deadly Award for Indigenous Broadcaster of the Year in 1997 and Amnesty International's Inaugural Media Award in 2014 for his work around decolonisation and the arrival of Europeans in Australia.

His influence and activism in many areas involving indigenous affairs was legendary.

NITV Channel Manager Tanya Denning-Ormann said: “Throughout his life, Tiga led and fought furiously for the rights of First Nations people, from land rights and health services to justice and education, including the right for Indigenous people to own and control our media.”

He also helped found the Murri School in Acacia Ridge and served as its chairperson until he died.

Binowee Bayles, Tiga's daughter, said he was “an awesome father, a strong, proud, deadly Murri man, who has made a difference for all Aboriginal people nationwide". She described him as the voice of Aboriginal Australia.

Tiga's voice was lyrical and deep. Radio was his media and he spent a lifetime ensuring as many other Aboriginal voices as possible were heard. Through his radio work he helped give Aboriginal people a voice.

Tiga's death at 62 was too young for such a great man to pass away and many of the fights he fought for First Australians still need to be won. Tiga was a powerful figure who fought for his people the best way he could.

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