From History Major to ABC Journalist: An Interview with Bindi Bryce

A degree in history is ideal training for a career in the media. ABC journalist Bindi Bryce spoke to Sofie Onorato about how her History major at the University of Melbourne helped put her on the path to a cadetship with the ABC.

What is your current position at the ABC? How long have you been working there?

I’m a cadet journalist with the ABC in Sydney. I’ve been with the ABC for just over three years now.

What led you to this job? How did you start working at the ABC?

I always knew I wanted a job that involved plenty of writing, and I was always curious about journalism, partly because my dad also worked at the ABC.

When I first applied for an ABC cadetship it got rejected (and the next year after that, and the year after that too). But they eventually gave me an internship at Pacific Beat, which led to full-time work.

Bindi filming a piece to camera, 2019. Photograph courtesy Bindi Bryce

What sparked your interest in history?

I think my interest in history started at a very young age, because my family has always been big on storytelling and talking about our past. As an Indigenous Australian, I learnt little about my history in school, and when I did, it was told in a very different way to how my family remembers it. That made me realise at a young age that history isn’t one dimensional.

How has your history background informed your practice as a journalist?  

It has given me the tools to interpret news that is happening now. Every time you’re chasing a news story there is always a background or a buildup that has led to that event. You need to be able to give the audience context and outline the important debates around that story.

I think people who have a background in history are openminded, tolerant and are never ignorant or ill-informed. The skills you develop from analysing and writing about the past are handy in any job and make us very adaptable.

Studying history is a pretty obvious choice if you want to work as a librarian or a museum curator. I can definitely say it is a good option if you’re interested in media or journalism. Since I’ve been working as a journalist there have been many developments in areas of history that I studied at university. Last month, Rwanda marked 25 years since the Tutsi genocide, which I learnt about in my third year. In a news environment we are always covering commemorations of major historical events, like the World Wars.

What was the best part of your history degree at Melbourne, and why?

I loved learning about big events in history, like the World Wars and revolutions, but learning about events that for some reason were not widely known or had been swept under the carpet was my favourite part of studying history. These were things like the Armenian Genocide, the Tiananmen Square coverup, and the Stolen Generations in Australia.

Bindi interviews Anangu artist at Uluru Statement awareness event, 2019. Photograph courtesy Bindi Bryce

What insights can we gain from studying history, and why are these important?

History gives us a good lesson about what to do and what not to do. When there have been conflicts or disasters, it is important to analyse how they were resolved so we can respond better in future.

I think it is also important when studying history to look at why people might use different interpretations of history. Leaders might be reluctant to acknowledge historical atrocities for fear of upsetting other countries or their voters. It is very relevant to politics.

What advice would you give to current or future students thinking of majoring in History?

Definitely give it a go, studying history at university is a lot more enjoyable than studying it at school.

The teachers were great, and what I loved most is that the tutors were open to my journalistic way of doing assignments. I always treated my assignments as if I were writing an article, and most of my tutors gave me good marks for trying to make my essays interesting and enjoyable to read.

If you are doing history, don’t be afraid to challenge the “boring” stereotypes of the subject. I think we need more young people to write about history in a way that is fresh and easy to follow.

Bindi Bryce

Bindi Bryce completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Melbourne in 2014 with a double major in History and English, before going on to obtain a Graduate Diploma in Communications and Media at Victoria University. In 2013, she won the Renate Kamener scholarship, jointly awarded by the Kamener family and the Australian Jewish Democratic Society in partnership with the University of Melbourne’s Ormond College. In 2018, she became the first recipient of the ABC’s Caroline Jones Scholarship, created to provide financial and on-the-job support for a talented young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander journalist.

You can follow her on Twitter @bindibryce

Feature image: Bindi presenting a t radio bulletin on Radio Australia, 2018. Photograph courtesy Bindi Bryce