'Strife' Star Olivia Junkeer On Representation & The Treatment Of Women Of Colour In Media

The new TV show is inspired by the story of Mamamia founder Mia Freedman.

Strife star Olivia Junkeer

Over the past decade, Mamamia has been a mainstay of the Australian media industry with many young aspiring journalists starting their careers in internships at this juggernaut. Now Binge has released a new TV show called Strife, based on Freedman’s 2017 book of the same name. As the former magazine editor says herself, the show is somewhat inspired by the early days of Mamamia in 2012 – though the show has been dramatised for entertainment value.

Upon watching the first episode in advance, viewers will immediately be drawn to Olivia Junkeer who portrays Jeet on the show. Of South Asian heritage, she portrays an ambitious journalist full of curiosity and drive, eager to learn and make her mark in the cutthroat media world.

The media industry has made progress since the time portrayed in the show, but there's still a way to go in better representing Australia's multicultural population. In just the first 10 minutes of the first episode, Strife touches on some of the microaggressions women of colour face in the workplace – situations not necessarily confined to the media industry, but certainly ones that could happen in a newsroom.

These include Asher Keddie's lead character, Evelyn mispronouncing Jeet as Jean, and the entire editorial team turning to Jeet for her thoughts when a discussion about cultural dress pops up during a meeting.

"Oh me, because I'm Sri Lankan?" Jeet asks. "This is the fun you were talking about," she then adds, looking at one of her colleagues.

Speaking to Draw Your Box at the Strife premiere in Sydney, Junkeer said it was vital to her that these instances were shown on screen, especially to show the progress that's been made in a decade.

"It was really important. It was based in 2012 so it was even more pushed under the rug, yet more obvious back then," said Junkeer. "So we really wanted to showcase that era and how different it is now and how far we have come and will continue to go and hopefully grow and grow."

While the show may have been based more than 10 years ago, we still arguably see some of these microaggressions occur in and out of the workplace, but perhaps not as often.

Opal (BeBe Bettencourt), Christine (Maria Angelico), Jeeet (Olivia Junkeer), Penny (Bryony Skillington) and Evelyn (Asher Keddie) in STRIFE

Image Source: Supplied by Binge/Photo by Kane Skennar

Junkeer, whose father is Sri Lankan and mother is of European descent, also spoke about the significance of cultural representation on TV.

"I have little cousins who are not mixed-race, but fully Sri Lankan, and it's really important that they see these faces on the screen," she said. "As much as a lot of people don't think it affects people, it does from a really young age. I think it's really special to be able to show young kids that they're looking at themselves... it is really important."

Junkeer has previously played Yashvi Rebecchi on Neighbours and Mia on Why Are You Like This. She's joined by a stellar cast in Strife including Asher Keddie, Matt Day, Jonathan LaPaglia, Tina Bursill, Emma Lung, Alex Dimitriades, Maria Angelico, Rhys Mitchell, Olivia Junkeer, BeBe Bettencourt, Bryony Skillington, Lucy Ansell, Darcy Tadich, Lincoln Younes and Willow Speers.

I myself interned at Mamamia and of my favourite aspects of my internship was definitely working with then-Editor In Chief Jamila Rizvi. To see another brown woman in a leadership position, sitting just a few desks away and always making the time to ask how my weekend was, made a world of difference to a naive daughter of immigrants who just wanted to be an editor one day.

Strife is now streaming on Binge