For example, while 32% of Australians have a first or second-generation background other than Anglo-Celtic, only 18% of the characters in television dramas do.1 In addition, this report found that 36% of programs had casts made up entirely of Anglo-Celtic characters. The vast majority of programs contained no main characters who identified as First Nations people.2
It's also important to consider the types of roles we typically see First Nations people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities cast in. Do we often see them in roles that perpetuate certain stereotypes? Do we see meaningful diversity that is empowering and intersecting, representing diverse genders and sexualities, ages and people with disabilities?
The news media landscape is no different. Australia lags behind the United States and the UK in terms of cultural diversity in the news media.3 We know the importance of media diversity in ensuring that the interests of society are broadly represented, and yet, the Australian media landscape fails to reflect the diversity we see in our communities. A 2020 study of Australian newsrooms found that 75% of presenters, commentators and reporters had an Anglo-Celtic background, while the majority of people from a culturally or linguistically diverse communities were found to believe that their cultural background is a barrier to career progression.4 The study also found that 100% of free-to-air television national news directors in Australia were white men.5
For Australian screens to genuinely reflect the diversity of our communities, we need to see cultural diversity reflected both in front of and behind the camera. It’s not only important that we see a diversity of talent on screen, but also that First Nations people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities are engaged as writers, producers, directors, and in management roles within media organisations. We need to ensure that these communities have a share in telling the stories that we see in Australian film and television and that they are not simply being talked about.
As Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong'o explains, “Until I saw people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to, I wasn’t so sure it was a possibility”.6
By reflecting on the impact of racism, and taking a stand against it, we can build a fair and equal society – for all.
It stops with me.
1 Screen Australia, Seeing ourselves: Reflections on diversity in Australian TV drama (Report, 2016) 3 <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/157b05b4-255a-47b4-bd8b-9f715555fb44/TV-Drama-Diversity.pdf>.
2 Screen Australia, Seeing ourselves: Reflections on diversity in Australian TV drama (Report, 2016) 3 <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/157b05b4-255a-47b4-bd8b-9f715555fb44/TV-Drama-Diversity.pdf>.
3 Screen Australia, Seeing ourselves: Reflections on diversity in Australian TV drama (Report, 2016) 2 <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/157b05b4-255a-47b4-bd8b-9f715555fb44/TV-Drama-Diversity.pdf>.
4 Media Diversity Australia, Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories? (Report, 2020) 2 <https://www.mediadiversityaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Who-Gets-To-Tell-Australian-Stories_LAUNCH-VERSION.pdf>.
5 Media Diversity Australia, Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories? (Report, 2020) 2 <https://www.mediadiversityaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Who-Gets-To-Tell-Australian-Stories_LAUNCH-VERSION.pdf>.
6 Leslie Bennetts, 'The Breakthrough: Lupita Nyong’o’, Glamour (Web Page, 3 November 2014) <https://www.glamour.com/story/lupita-nyongo>.