These First Nations women's voices are being silenced on TikTok. What they can't figure out is why.

Just a few weeks after joining TikTok, Aunty Munya Andrews had attracted thousands of followers.

The Indigenous elder had been sharing insights into Aboriginal language and culture via her 'Ask Aunty' videos on the platform. Some have said her content is "the most wholesome thing on TikTok", and fellow TikTok creator and money expert Victoria Devine even said to Aunty Munya: "You are TikTok's Aunty now!" 

"We try to create a better understanding of First Nations people," Aunty Munya tells Mamamia.

"It's all about education and helping people learn how to be allies. The TikTok audience gave me such a warm reception and asked great questions. I was really enjoying connecting with everyone."

Watch Ask Aunty: Why don't all Aboriginal people agree on how to achieve Reconciliation? Post continues below.

Video via Evolve Communities

Aunty Munya is an Aboriginal elder, author and barrister. She is also co-Director of Evolve Communities, a trusted authority for Indigenous Cultural Awareness and Ally Training.

Recently acknowledged as a LinkedIn Top Voice thanks to the quality and popularity of her content, Aunty Munya loves to share content that is purely educational, non-judgemental, and comes from a desire to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people closer together.


With this in mind, she was particularly looking forward to National Reconciliation Week as an opportunity to further this pursuit. 

Then, two weeks ago, when Aunty Munya went to access her TikTok account, she found it had been permanently banned without warning. She immediately felt crushed, saying it was "triggering".

"The message said, 'Your account has been banned due to multiple violations of our community guidelines.'

"It then confirmed the account had been permanently banned. It was a real shock to me, as I know in my heart of hearts I was not breaching community standards," she tells Mamamia


"At Evolve we have a 'no shame, blame or guilt' approach to learning, I just cannot fathom why I have been banned."

There have been no emails or explanation received from TikTok — prior to the ban or since — despite Aunty Munya saying she has submitted several inquiries via TikTok's feedback portal.  

The timing of this ban provides an added sting.

Aunty Munya had been looking forward to sharing information about Reconciliation and How To Be A Voice, and the upcoming Referendum. 

But now it seems her voice has been silenced.

As she tells Mamamia: "To feel completely silenced in this week is telling and deeply hurtful.

"Now is the time more than ever to allow First Nations people to have a voice," she says. "My message to TikTok would be, give us a voice, allow us a voice, allow us to speak and tell our stories. Because we want to create a kinder, more inclusive Australia."

Sari-Ella Thaiday is a community worker, creator and a First Nations woman. She knows exactly what it feels like to be in Aunty Munya's shoes.


In February this year, her TikTok account was taken down – the second time this has occurred. As with Aunty Munya, Sari says her content was not against community guidelines.

"It didn't matter what I posted, it was taken down for literally any silly reason. I started getting strike warnings, and then I realised it was related to people online mass reporting my content to TikTok. These were the same online users who were bullying me and writing vile comments," she tells Mamamia.

In the end, Sari's account was banned, and despite her trying to get in touch with TikTok over the past few months, there has been no progress. She tells Mamamia she has a few friends who have experienced a similar situation.

"The irony is that I have worked with TikTok in the past to try to help them make their platform a safer space for First Nations creators. Myself and a bunch of others were heavily involved in that – going to their headquarters, discussing how to prevent bullying on the app and so forth.

"I thought it was pretty rich of them to invite me, ask for my opinion and my ideas, and then do very little."


This isn't the first time stories like Aunty Munya's and Sari-Ella's have emerged.

In 2020, TikTok was under pressure. Numerous Black creators said TikTok's algorithm fostered a 'consistent undertone of anti-Blackness.'

In Australia and New Zealand, there were several Indigenous creators who said their accounts had been blocked and "shadow-banned" for speaking out about issues relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and incarceration.

At the time, TikTok accepted full responsibility, saying they planned to "actively promote and protect" diversity on their platform.

Sari feels the pendulum is yet to swing in the right direction.

"In my eyes, TikTok is performative as f**k. NAIDOC Week will soon be around the corner. We might hear them talk about how supportive they are of the First Nations community, but for many First Nations creators, they are now silenced," she says.


"They've completely lost my support."

For Aunty Munya, her favourite part of the work she does is when she connects with people who haven't yet had much to do with First Nations people or issues and she "[sees] the penny drop in their eyes".

"When you see they understand where you're coming from — it's a special moment."

Despite her TikTok account remaining banned, Aunty Munya isn't letting it stop her. If anything, she says it will drive her to reach more people on Evolve Community's additional platforms.

But if Aunty Munya had access to her TikTok account, this is the message she would be sharing with her online community: We can all take positive steps to making a difference. 

"Statistically, in a room of 30 people, only one person will be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Us mob need your help, the 29 in 30, to amplify our voices but also take action," she says. 

"Letting us share our cultural knowledge – that's where we can begin to make a difference."

For more from Aunty Munya, you can follow Evolve Communities' website here, Instagram, and see their books here

For more from Sari-Ella Thaiday, you can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Kathleen Cox Photography/Instagram @sarithaiday.

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