There are always certain topics we tend to shy away from. Out of shame, fear, or just thinking no one else has experienced that, we tend not to speak up. That’s one of the things that Charmaine Hunzwi wants to change.
At 33, she has had many different fulfilling roles that focus on community work, specifically in the African Australian community here in Melbourne. Her latest venture though, is one that aims to get us talking.
Can We Talk About It!? Is a new podcast hosted by Hunwzi, and along with co-host Adongwot Manyoul they discuss all the taboo topics that we are often too afraid to speak up on, in order to open up the conversations that we need to have.
“It’s essentially themed around the experiences of African Australians, so we talk through themed topics about uncomfortable conversations that we usually don’t have within the community,” she tells upstart.
“I haven’t been able to have these uncomfortable conversations be it with my friends or family and then with my work in the community, I identified that there was a key issue where everyone is just talking around these topic’s as opposed to actually addressing them.”
Hunzwi, through her episodes, covers a range of different, often awkward, subjects including sex, relationships, growing up multicultural and black pride, addressing the stigma surrounding these topics.
“It challenges people to actually have those conversations and shows them how to have the conversation as well because some of the topics are uncomfortable, who wants to be talking about sex or talking about racial issues they face at work,” she says.
“You feel like nobody’s going to believe me, no one’s going to listen to me so knowing that someone else has experienced that as well gives you that safe space to be able to explore it and talk about it.”
Outside of her podcast, Hunzwi’s big focus is on community work. Through this work, she finds many different areas that are often neglected or ignored. In her work for the Incubate Foundation, she has found many areas that were often overlooked and used a lot of her experiences as talking points for her podcast.
Similar to her podcast, the Incubate Foundation focuses on uplifting African Australians in the Melbourne community and helps to develop them both personally and professionally.
“It’s a not-for-profit organisation that empowers young African Australians to reach their fullest potential, so we do this through running our own programs that focus on mentoring and coaching, business enterprise, personal development and professional development,” she says.
“We partner with other community organisations to be able to be the bridge between the young people and give them access to resources that can help them have better choices in life.”
As both the president and chair, she sees plenty of areas that need improvement for the African Australian community. Her main goal for not only the foundation but also the podcast is one of empowerment.
“I hope that I can empower people to be comfortable enough to have those uncomfortable conversations so we essentially free ourselves from suffering because you really don’t need to,” she says.
“Sometimes a problem shared is a problem solved and it’s a less of a burden for you to have to struggle with the challenges you have. Because as much as we’re living in a western society, we also have our own cultural norms and traditions that we have to live with whilst in the western culture and sometimes it’s very difficult to navigate.”
She says it’s important for people to realise they are not alone in these issues, no matter how isolated they may feel.
“With people not talking or not sharing it’s difficult for you to realise some challenges you’re facing, someone else has experienced that as well, so it’s okay. You’re normal, in essence,” she says.
While having only started her podcast in March 2022, she already has big plans for more episodes. So far, the positive responses have left her overwhelmed and humbled, saying many people have told her how they resonate with the stories shared.
“I’m showcasing that within our own community people have different points of view, different experiences, different expertise,” she says.
“With all the people that we’ve interviewed, they’re also experts in their field, domain or profession, so you know you have this professional person, that makes you think ‘oh my gosh they have it together’ but then you hear their story, their experiences and you’re like ‘oh wow they’re experiencing something very similar to what I’m experiencing as well’.”
While hosting a podcast has been a daunting experience, Hunzwi has really embraced it.
“It has been challenging for me personally, because I’m being very vulnerable and usually, I’m a very reserved person and I don’t usually like to talk about myself in that way. But on the podcast, I’m actually vulnerable and open about my own personal experience, I’m sharing my own points of view even if they may disagree with or not align with common beliefs.”
Hunzwi gives many African Australians a voice they can resonate with, one they find relatable and one that answers many of the questions they think.
Story: Georgia Tacey is a third-year Bachelor of Media and Communications (Journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on twitter @georgiatacey
Photo: Provided by Charmaine Hunzwi