Nasya Bahfen

Woman standing in a garden
Dr Nasya Bahfen
Image: Lahza Photography
Source: Museum VIctoria

Nasya was born in Jakarta and grew up in Victoria. She has worked as a journalist for 15 years across Australia, Singapore and New York and is now a senior lecturer in media and journalism.

Earlier in her career, Nasya learnt how to avoid being typecast as the “Muslim journalist” and has worked to break down stereotypes about Muslim women journalists and Islam in the media. Nasya encourages Muslim journalism students to not be typecast and actively seek to cover general news, not just stories about Muslims and Islam.

She has actively subverted gender and cultural stereotypes by succeeding as a female Muslim journalist in senior management, in a predominantly male, secular industry.

Video transcript

So my name is Dr Naysa Bahfen, I'm a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales in the Journalism and Media Research Centre. I've spent 10 or 15 years around different broadcast newsrooms in Australia, so my industry background is in radio. And I'm currently enjoying life as an academic.

So I'm a Melbourne girl, I spend most of my time in Melbourne. I was born in Jakarta, grew up in Victoria. So when I was a reporter, I tried really hard not to be saddled with the - quote, unquote - 'Muslim' stories. Inevitably, it happened. Whereas now when I'm seeing so many young Muslims actually considering journalism as a career path, my advice to them - and this is something a lot of them already know and already practise - is they need to be news junkies, but news junkies in general. They don't just have to follow... fact, they shouldn't just follow Muslim news. You know, they should be curious about the world, they should be able to report on all sorts of things and be what a close friend of mine who's a writer has described as that incidental Muslim. You're first and foremost fantastic at your job, but everything you do is of course underpinned by your faith.

In a really abstract way, I think my faith informs the way that I work as a journalist or as an academic. Just a really simple example - there are these clear moral lines that obviously I won't cross. So if you take a look at the gender balance in newsrooms and in journalism and media courses, overwhelmingly there's more women than men. However, when you get out into the industry, those women are sort of centred around middle management. There's very few women in top positions in newsrooms. So that in itself is quite... quite daunting, I guess, for a female in general. Now, if you throw the hijab into that, that creates a whole... you know, another dimension altogether because you're physically saying to the world, 'I'm Muslim' at a time when being a Muslim is questioned in a country like ours. So I think at this point in time, just being a female and visibly Muslim journalist actually subverts the stereotype of the submissive Muslim woman itself. But the really good thing is that's slowly changing and I've been really privileged to have taught some people who are now making waves in the media industry.

So I'm completely obsessed with sport, and, in a way, I guess you have to be, working in the industry that I did for so long. Out of all of the sports, I guess what I call 'football' and what Australia calls 'soccer' is... that's my favourite code. In addition to sort of following sport, for quite a while I've also played it. And it's always been a release for me. Work/life balance didn't use to be very important to me. I am married to a journalist, and we would both understand that our working hours were crazy - that if we were going to meet up for dinner and a huge story broke, one of us might have to leave. And, you know, our working hours were all over the place. But now, as we're getting a bit older, I would like to spend more time with my family and friends, and, you know, more time with my husband, so it's become a lot more important to me.

Hopefully, in ten years' time, I'd like to be a professor with, like, six books published and several Australian Research Council grants to my name. I've already got one. So...