Torres Strait Islander man and radio broadcaster William “Bill” Patrick Thaiday is being remembered as a man who worked for years ensuring the voices of Australia’s First Peoples were heard.
His life was celebrated last Friday at a funeral service in Worrabinda, Central Queensland, after he passed away in Rockhampton.
“He could see the issues and the problems with the mainstream media, the lack of reporting on our issues, the lack of celebration of our achievements, the lack of promotion of our recording artists and all that,” said Tiga Bayles, the 989fm CEO and friend of Thaiday’s for more than 30 years.
“He could see those issues, the lack of black faces on television, the lack of black voices on radio, he was a strong advocate for First Nations people.”
In 1982 Thaiday set up the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Media Association (TAIMA) where he was involved in the Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme and served as deputy chairperson from 1999-2000. He became the inaugural chairman of the Indigenous Remote Communications Association in 2001. He also crossed the border to teach students broadcast media in the inaugural Indigenous media training course at Batchelor College in the Northern Territory.
In 2005 he was recognised with a Preston Award for Lifetime Achievement at the National Remote Indigenous Media Festival.
Tiga Bayles says many broadcasters can thank Bill Thaiday for his guidance and wisdom.
“There would be a number – I wouldn't be able to put a finger on a number – but there would be a number,” Mr Bayles said. “And he was always smiling that fella, always smiling and always had a joke and a laugh. He was an amazing man and he'll be sadly missed. Big shoes to fill with Bill Thaiday gone.”
Uncle Bill grew up on Palm Island in the 1950s. He was the son of a Girrimi woman from Tully region, south of Cairns and a Torres Strait Islander man whose mother came from Darnley and Murray islands. His grandfather was from Lifu Island on the east coast of Noumea.
He spent his childhood under the Aboriginal Protection Act that was enacted in 1989 by the colony of Victoria. The Act gave Australian governments the power to control the lives of Indigenous Australians, such as their housing and employment. This time of oppression he said he managed by immersing himself in the story world of radio.
Uncle Bill was the husband of Rose (Rosa), a greatly loved father, father-in-law, great-grandfather, brother, relative and friend.
"Life is a one way street: You got to get out there and give it your best shot. Nobody is going to do these things for you – you got to do it yourself," he told Screen Australia.