'There's no way forward without a Truth-Telling Commission.'
Lala Bayles talks about the privilege & responsibility of knowing her roots.
Guyala Bayles had a pretty tough, traumatic childhood, she tells us. Her strength and resilience got her through it and she's thankful for the lessons learnt. Hailing from a family of renowned political activists, she grew up learning about her family and community’s culture, language and history, with knowledge that’s been passed down from generation to generation. To Lala this is an incredible honour and privilege, but also a responsibility.
Growing up as a First Nations woman in Australia, she found it strange that people thought she didn't align with the "typical image of an Australian person". ‘It's so hard starting out because, as an Aboriginal model, there weren’t that many Aboriginal women to look up to in the industry. There was only really Samantha Harris. She was such a big inspiration to me [but that lack of representation] made me want to get into the modelling industry because I couldn't relate to any other models.’
In this industry, or in any really, she says, the most important thing is looking after your mental and emotional health. Believing in yourself, but also remembering who you are and where you came from. Remembering that ‘people did this before us. Our elders, our ancestors. We wouldn't be here without them. So we've always got to draw strength from our ancestors and the people that paved the way before us’.
She believes things are starting to change, albeit slowly. Thanks to the ongoing advocacy of the Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement and local work on Deaths in Custody, she’s seen ‘a lot of people willing to get out there and actually take the time out of their day to educate themselves and own up to their privileges’. It wasn’t always the case. Growing up her family would take part in rallies and marches, but she always noticed how few non-Indigenous people attended. ‘It really started a fire in my stomach to be able to get that message out there and share my experience, culture and history with non-Indigenous people, so that they knew who we are and the significance around Invasion Day, as well.
I think Australia's got such a long way to go in terms of accepting our history and moving forward as a nation. And I think we can't move forward until we actually have a Truth Telling Commission.’
The issue, she says, is that ‘at the end of Invasion Day or even when that month is over, as First Nations people of this country, we still feel that transgenerational trauma. We're still in in mourning. We're still feeling that pain that our ancestors felt.’ There’s no moving forward without the truth being addressed, without reparations being made. ‘Non-Indigenous people are in denial about [the past], a lot of people in Australia are in denial about it. They don't want to talk about it because it's too confronting, it's too upsetting. It's too uncomfortable. And the thing that I think people don't realise is that we've been uncomfortable for almost 250 years in this country. We've got communities with no access to clean water. We've got a new Stolen Generation -the highest rate it's ever been. And it's not exactly getting any better because at the end of the day we've got a government illegally operating on stolen land thinking that they know what's best for us. When we know what to do for our own mob. So I think until we really have that sit down and chat about our history, and our culture, then we're not really going to move anywhere in the future.’🔥
Guyala Bayles is a model, actress, poet and passionate activist hailing originally from the Murri Community in Queensland. Growing up, Lala took inspiration and guidance from her grandfather, respected Australian radio presenter and land rights activist, Tiga Bayles. Tiga was known as the voice of Indigenous Australia. Activism has been a cornerstone of her family for generations. Lala’s Grandmother, Maureen Watson, was an avid supporter of Aboriginal rights in Australia as well as a renowned actor, vocalist, writer, musician, and storyteller. Lala is proudly following in her Grandmother’s footsteps, paving her own way in the acting industry. Also a successful model, Lala, has already amassed quite an established client list, having shot for Marvell Lane, Sunsoaked, Riders, Cotton On, The Iconic and Maybelline.