Former Gladstone man reveals confronting truths on racism
WHENEVER he had to take the train to Brisbane for work, Aaron Nagas would play a game.
He'd see how long it took before someone would sit next to or even in the same row as him.
Sometimes, even during rush hour, no one would.
Mr Nagas, an Aboriginal-South Sea Islander man from Gladstone who now lives on the Sunshine Coast, is one of four brave Australians who will open up about their experiences with racism in this week's episode of Taboo.
The documentary series follows comedian Harley Breen as he gets to know four people from a minority group and then writes a stand-up routine that he performs in front of them and their friends and family.
Even though he was familiar with and liked the show, Mr Nagas - a senior cultural project officer for the Queensland Government - was wary of his family being exposed to any potential backlash.
"I was pretty nervous about the whole experience. Racism is a pretty touchy subject most of the time, let alone going on national TV, but I thought someone's got to talk about it," he said.
"I'm happy I experienced it, but I will wait for after the show to say if I'm happy I've gone through it.
"I said some things that will be controversial to certain political stances in Australia and I am prepared for that.
"I wasn't going to have a chance to speak on national TV and not say those things."
Mr Nagas's experience on the train is a common theme in the episode, with all four participants sharing stories of discrimination on public transport.
"It's really confronting. It's your first time on TV and you have two or three cameras, a mic boom, they're doing Harley's make-up and saying 'Are you ready? Action!' and I'm supposed to share my life story," he said. "But having those three other genuinely amazing people there made it easier to open up and forget about the cameras.
"Harley got as much therapy as we did. We spoke on and off camera about what is acceptable and how he could mold the show. People are still going to be offended because he is a white male, but I'm not sure that can be avoided. We gave him permission to be in that space and he's a really genuine guy."
The father of three hopes shows like Taboo won't need to be made by the time his children are his age.
"The key for me is how do we create a national conversation that creates a better life for people of colour or different cultures," he said.
"There's always going to be a section of the community that needs to have some sort of hate - that seems to be a human trait - and this is really about cutting down and minimising discrimination towards people. I think some of my friends are going to be really surprised at some of the stuff that goes on.
"This is not a gimmick and we're not just complaining to be whingers. We're giving people that lived experience."