On air … with Melanie Tait
Broadcaster and author Melanie Tait gives insight into her thoughts on diversity as she appears in discussion and Q&A segments during the Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2015, and shares her incredible media career and her love of storytelling.
From a small regional town to London theatre, and now with the ABC, Melanie Tait says it’s a privilege to work in the Australian media landscape.
“I had this conversation with my dad and brother recently, when I was little there was a woman who walked into the store (my parents have a small grocery store) and she worked in the costume department of the ABC, I thought it was so amazing because she worked for the ABC, anyone who had anything to do with the ABC, had she been in the mailroom, had she been answering phones and complaints that would have been incredible to me, so if I look back to then, that’s amazing.
“Because I worked in theatre, it was never my goal to be in the ABC but I really admired it as I think a lot of Australians do – so I feel very privileged to be part of it.”
In her late teens, Melanie left her home in Sydney to pursue a theatre career in London – becoming artistic director of The Old Red Lion and playwright of popular play The Vegemite Tales, based on an autobiographical Australian character, Maddie in a house-share comedy.
“I ran a theatre called the Old Red Lion Theatre and The Vegemite Tales played for seven years in London and two years in the West End,” she says.
Upon moving back to Australia years later, Melanie admits she was at a crossroads as to which direction her career would take – when independently her mother and best friend encouraged her to consider entering radio.
“And it just so happened that two weeks later a news radio course was starting and the only person I knew in radio had a community radio show and he was going overseas.
“So I took over this show of his and learnt news radio and current affairs, and I think within about two months of doing that speech I had a job at 2UE and I was producing at 2UE with John Laws. I was with the John Laws Show and 2UE for a while, and then he retired and I got a cadetship with the rural department with the ABC and I’ve been with the ABC ever since.”
Currently, Melanie is on air in Hobart, unearthing the hidden stories of the southern state.
“I do this great thing I love on a Monday night called the Tasmanian Treasure Trove where an interesting Tasmanian brings in four items from their life and talks about those things and why they’re special and in doing so tells us the story of their life.
“I love that and I’ve done some really interesting things in that. I spoke to one guy who is a jeweller and in every minute of the process of making jewellery he is involved, he goes to Madagascar to find jewels. Tasmania is full of interesting people, and so many self-starters.”
She reflects fondly on her almost nine-year career with the ABC.
“The ABC is a great place, because I think in a lot of jobs I had before I worked in theatre I spent a lot of time pretending I wasn’t creative whereas the ABC loves it if you’re creative and want to do different things … I find within the ABC all the things I’ve fought against in the so-called normal jobs I did, like always being really curious about people, and creative, the ABC just loves so I’ve been really lucky!”
“My favourite job I ever had that has just finished in the last three months was Books and Arts Daily on Radio National, I was the weekend host of that.
“And I loved that job so much because arts is kind of my thing, I hope eventually I’ll go back to that show in the next few years.”
Melanie’s work has also appeared on ABC television, including The Mix which was filmed in Sydney and focuses on art.
Her other passion is diversity, and women.
“Women in everywhere, women in the arts, women in the world, I get really obsessed with women not being properly represented all over the place,” she imparts.
“If I see a comedy line up with nothing but men on it, God help me I get so angry, I contact those people. They’re the discussions I’m most interested in. And diversity in general. I don’t think there’s enough diversity in our media, or enough anywhere.”
Although, Melanie does admit, “it’s getting better because more people are talking about it and people like me who have instruments such as a radio show becoming aware of it.”
“I don’t think it’s happened that I’ve ever had a show interviewing just men, I’m very mindful of that on my program at least and I know a lot of other people are as well.
“That’s what Australia is, we are a diverse, multicultural country … and I feel like our media outlets, our films, our television should better reflect this.”
During her time at the festival, Melanie’s storytelling segment, Now Hear This, centres on Sunshine Coast community members telling their true story to suit the theme, with gender diversity on the agenda, followed by a Q&A the next day.
“What I love about this festival too is it’s so beautifully organised, everything is taken care of for you, so you can just concentrate on the events you’re doing … it’s my third festival, I feel like Noosa is actual paradise, the National Park is just heavenly.”
“I’ll hopefully be back next year and in the meantime, we’ve got more of the Now Hear This shows coming up around the state, and I’m always planning on writing a book or writing something!”
Melanie will return to Noosa for the 2016 Noosa Long Weekend Festival from 15-24 July. For more information and to book your tickets visit www.noosalongweekend.com