Matty Mills on life as a Presenter and Host across TV, radio and podcast
“It’s always been a challenge to be myself.” Matty Mills explains, “You are always a curated version of yourself when you’re on TV.”
Matty Mills has had a six-year lustrous career working within the media industry as an actor and a presenter for television and radio, as well as experience in writing when he first made a start for himself in 2014 when he wrote an article for the first-ever NAIDOC edition of The Star Observer.
Since then, he has worked for NITV and Channel 9 and has even worked as a host for the ARIA Awards, The Dreamtime Awards, Pride in Sports Awards, and many more exclusive events. He has also recently started a podcast with Brooke Blurton called Not So PG, which discusses how mainstream culture relates to queer and Indigenous communities. Medianet sat down with Matty to discuss his career in media so far, and how he first got here.
You have experience working as a presenter for television, radio, and podcasts, what is it like working in these roles and what are the biggest challenges?
I’m really excited to be a podcast host now because I find over the last six years working in media there’s been a very specific version of myself on TV as a presenter that’s, you know, quite serious.
It’s still a lot of fun to be able to do and personally, I love presenting, but you can sometimes feel a little bit stuck because a lot of the time you are just reading off an audio cue, or you’re reading a script so you’re not really able to work on your own accord, but what I love about podcasts is that you can have a personal conversation one-on-one with the listener.
When you are broadcasting on TV to the country you can’t have that intimate relationship with your audience that podcasts give you, so for me, it’s a really exciting time in my life and my career where I’m able to do deeper dives into who I am and reintroduce myself to the people who are listening. I can be as unfiltered, raw, and funny that all my friends and family know me as.
What I love about working in TV though is that I’m able to amplify First Nations voices and I’m able to connect with communities, especially with NITV and SBS, and hear incredible stories of success and beautiful stories from other Blak entertainers from around the country. But some of the challenges are, really, just being myself. I have been lucky enough to land a gig where I am able to do that, especially on Getaway on Channel 9, and I’ve kind of shifted from being an entertainment reporter on SBS and NITV to now doing more lifestyle reporting which has been a big challenge for me, but I love it and I love that I’m now more able to feel comfortable in my own skin and show the country who I am.
Working as a podcaster, do you feel like you have a different relationship and way of engaging with audiences than you did on television and radio?
It does! I’m new to this platform and I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve been in the TV world for so long and I have noticed the differences even in how I present myself and how I talk on TV versus how I talk in the podcast and it feels way more intimate and personal, which I love.
The connection I have with Brooke is the same kind of connection that I have with our listeners, and while we may not know them it still feels like they are in the same room as us. There’s nothing that’s scripted, and everything is just off the cuff, it’s just a conversation with two friends with a third friend in terms of the listener being involved as well.
I’m able to be the version of myself that my partner and my family see, it’s who I am when I’m at home in the lounge room so I love that I get to bring that to the forefront of this platform.
I’m sure that all your listeners are happy you bring your true self to your podcast! Now, what's a commonly held belief about your job that you disagree with?
Well… I have realised that with my position in the media and working in so many different roles as a TV presenter and a host, and I’m an actor as well, I think that the misconception is that things happen easily, and things are just given to me. Everything I have achieved in my life I’ve had to work extremely hard for, and you do have to play the game and you have to understand that you are part of institutions and networks that if you were to share the truth it’s almost contradictory on why you’re in the position.
But I think, especially as a First Nations person, I have always tried to break down the door to the mainstream and to seek out these opportunities, and not many opportunities have just landed on my doorstep. I have instead gone out and knocked on other people’s doors with ideas that I would like to share.
And, you know, a large part of my job is to sell the dream and all the pretty parts of being in the media and entertainment industry, but all the hard work that goes into it day after day isn’t really talked about. I am my own business and I work hard every single day to hustle to the next level and next opportunity.
I think the biggest misconception comes from social media, and what we present on social media are just the shiny parts of our lives. We don’t air out all of our struggles because a lot of the time that’s not what people are interested in, they want us to keep selling the dream, and a realisation that I’ve had is that people think that things have been easy for me, and they haven’t.
Did you always want to have a career in media?
Ever since I was a little kid I was tenacious and had this energy of always wanting to achieve something, and I wanted to be an actor first. I loved being able to do productions in high school and lean into the performance side of things, it was a place I felt very comfortable.
One evening at the end of high school in the middle of the night I woke up and I was like, “I am going to go to acting school.” I think it was literally like, two a.m., and I had this idea and just thought, “wow, that is the answer!” So I ended up applying for all these acting schools and I ended up going to WAAPA and I moved to Western Australia. Then after that, I came back to Sydney and landed a job at Channel 9, but I didn’t work as an actor.
I sort of worked as a programming assistant, so I went from wanting to be an actor to starting off as a shitkicker in the programming department. Looking back it really was a foot in the door, and I was able to meet all the big-wigs at the network with who I currently work with now, so I was able to see how it ran, what it was like to have ratings win or a rating loss, and to see the conversations between the directors, writers, producers, and have really crucial insight into the business.
From then, I began work in shiny floor shows like The Voice and was so inspired by the level of entertainment that the show provided. That was really where the idea of becoming a presenter came from because I felt like it wasn’t too much of a stretch from who I was or what my dream was, yes I wanted to become an actor but being a presenter would still give me the opportunity to be myself.
I then moved to SBS and NITV and I had another foot in the door working in production and then found a way into becoming an entertainer and presenter, connecting with other First Nations artists across the country and fell in love with the idea of connecting with the community by hearing their stories and sharing them across the country.
I then started working on red carpets and other forms of entertainment, I even did sport though I have no idea why, but I gave it all a shot! I was watching Channel 9 one night and I was watching Getaway, and I realised that the person who made Getaway was my boss from when I was a shitkicker and I reached out and gave them the opportunity to have their first-ever Indigenous host on the show, and then went through an audition process and ended up getting the job.
It’s funny, because sometimes in the media you feel this need to tell a story about how things came about, but in reality, nothing was ever handed to me and Channel 9 never called me up begging for me, I went to the network itself for an opportunity.
I think the only time that a major news company ever calls up on someone new for a big job opportunity is in the movies.
I agree, it’s all manufactured by Hollywood to keep us selling the dream!
What’s one thing about working in the media industry you didn’t expect when you first started?
When I first started I was always obliged to a certain network, in the beginning, it was Channel 9, then it was SBS, then NITV, and then COVID allowed me to take a step back and become my own business and start work as a freelancer that has given me a lot of creative freedom and more power in my position since I’m able to work on what I want to work on.
What I have realised is that it’s so much better for me to take control of my own life and what I do rather than to be reliant on a certain network. Realising that I can work on my own and for a variety of different networks has given power back to me, and this is something that could never have been possible in the past.
I’m even thinking about going on other networks, and I love that I’m able to dip my toes into so many different programs. When I first started out it was all so insular, and I was never able to be a presenter for multiple networks. We are put in our lanes and made to feel like we couldn’t work outside of those lanes, even for programs that were part of the same network. I’m very happy I’m able to work across multiple networks now.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out in your career, or even your younger self?
I think if I were to look back on my life I had quite a tough upbringing. I went through the foster care system, I had parents struggle with addiction, and when I was a kid I always had big dreams but I never knew if they were possible because they always seemed like they were so far away. But what I’ve realised is that nothing is that far away if you are determined and put everything into those dreams or goals.
For me, my advice would be that if you have a goal or a dream to get into the media industry you need to stick it out and make sure that you don’t just think about it but you actually do it. Don’t think your dreams in your head are too far away, you can get there in five or ten years and I’m living proof of that.
But if you want to work in media you need to have your own back. It’s a very interesting place to work and, yes, you will amplify all the shiny parts to the rest of the community but behind the scenes, it is a really tough place a lot of the time and a lot of hard work needs to be done just to make a small amount of progress.
What has been the most interesting thing you have discussed during your work in the last few months?
Well our podcast, Not So PG, sounds like a really raunchy podcast filled with an unfiltered and filthy version of myself, which…in some parts is true, but I think a lot of people will tune in because of its title and expect one thing but will instead get a much deeper understanding of who we are as people.
We do have conversations and deep dives into our personal lives, and there are so many conversations that I’d never have with the broader community because I am a private person. Most people don’t know much about my private life, and I do like it that way, but I also am excited about opening up and sharing funny stories. This week there’s so much stuff about sex and, you know, I don’t really talk about that stuff so that’s probably one of the more interesting things I’ve talked about recently!
Other than that though, being on Getaway and showcasing First Nations tourism through an incredible company called Welcome to Country, which is a marketplace for Indigenous tourism, meaning that I’m able to share these experiences on Getaway. I have been loving being able to do that because I get greater insights into culture through this tourism and then share these stories with the rest of Australia.
And what has been the most memorable experience of your career, so far?
I went to the Logie Awards this year, and I know that sounds pretty stupid.
Are you kidding? I’d love to go to the Logies!
It was one of those moments that when I was invited I sort of thought, “Oh okay, my work is starting to pay off,” because I’m getting invited to this creme-de-la-creme environment in the Australian TV industry.
Being in that room surrounded by all the people that I’ve admired for the last few years was a surreal moment for me and having conversations with the Gold Logie nominees and TV veterans who have been working for twenty to thirty years was super inspiring for me.
I left that night feeling super inspired and was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments because I was rubbing shoulders with people that I’ve seen on my screen forever, and seeing other First Nations people and so many other Blackfellas in that room all on different networks and doing different things and to me, that was so heartwarming and it made me go “wow! We’re here and we are working our asses off and we have made it to this level where we are finally getting spoken about,” which was really special.
Lastly, what are your pitching preferences?
I don’t really have, although maybe I should, any sort of preference! Social media is a good way to reach out, but I’ll always pass on the details to my manager.
I have an email tab on my social media pages, and I do like social media because it’s a lot more personal and I can physically see who it is, so I don’t mind people reaching out to me via social media channels, it’s a nice way to put a face to a name.
My manager is better at talking logistics and planning and stuff like that because I hate talking business. I hate those kinds of conversations because they can get awkward. Social media is normally my preference, and if you are going to reach out make sure to say hello, have a quick chat, and then I can move them onto my manager so they can talk shop based on the enquiry.