ABC MD Michelle Guthrie, SDIN chair and AFTRS CEO Neil Peplow and Curiousworks creator Miranda Aguilar.
Key organisations from across the screen industry have made a united and formal commitment to work towards building a more inclusive sector.
The Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), Foxtel, ABC, SBS, Network Ten, Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG), Screen Producers’ Australia (SPA), FreeTV Australia, ASTRA, the Australian Screen Industry Group, MediaRING, Screen Australia and each of the state screen agencies this week joined together to form the Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network (SDIN).
To join the SDIN, all of the organisations have had to officially commit to a charter that enshrines equal opportunities, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, disability or geographic location.
The charter obligates each organisation, inter alia, to reflect the diversity of Australian society in both who they hire and stories they create, to establish benchmarks around diversity, and to commit to seeking out and supporting diverse emerging talent.
Each of the charter’s commitments need to be driven by the board and CEO within each organisation, and be demonstrated in policies and practices for recruitment, retention, career progression, workplace flexibility, training, talent development and commissioning.
The network is in part the result of several studies released last year which identified issues around diversity in the screen sector, such AFTRS’ Inclusive Pathways Framework, Screen Australia’s Seeing Ourselves, as well as PwC’s 2016-2020 Entertainment and Media Outlook.
Launching the network yesterday evening, inaugural SDIN chair and AFTRS CEO Neil Peplow said the network’s role would be to champion Australian culture and creativity in its entirety.
Peplow said the industry was now at a ‘tipping point’ where talk on diversity would turn into action, in the form of partnerships, commitments, and collaboration with grassroots organisations. He said the SDIN would hold itself to account via a measurement system, and all members would share both their successes and mistakes along the way.
“Screen culture is powerful; it can shape our sense of ourselves and each other. All of us here have recognised that our industry needs to be reflective of and relevant to the rich diversity of today’s Australia. And all of us understand that to access this richness and culture and point of view, we need to draw on the broadest possible pool of talent in our storytelling,” Peplow told the event.
Peplow stressed that this was particularly important for children, so that could “see themselves and consider their cultural heritage as a plus, as opposed to something that needs to be toned down or adjusted or assimilated in order to have a voice.”
All SDIN members are said to be already working together on a range of initiatives, such as professional development for new practitioners from underrepresented groups across Australia, internships, placements and attachments.
At the launch, Screen Australia announced it will invest $90,000 in three partner programs with community arts organisations in order to nurture entry level talent from diverse backgrounds. The funding will be split evenly between I.C.E’s screen cultures program, Equity Foundation’s diversity showcase and Curiousworks’ break through program.
Screen Australia COO Fiona Cameron said discussion around the need for greater representation had already resulted in some change so far, highlighted through recent titles such as The Family Law, Cleverman, Here Come The Habibs, Deep Water, Pulse, The Other Guy and Sunshine. However, she said its “undeniable that drama producers have been slow on the uptake” when it came to authentic or incidental diversity.
“You only need to see the work of the reality television and advertising sectors – with a couple of notable exceptions – to see how we far behind we are in drama production. We know if we fail to deliver audiences will go elsewhere. It is no accident that YouTube creators like Superwog, Racka Racka, MyChonny, Axis of Awesome, Starting From Now, Horizons, and Natalie Tran are so popular.”
Create NSW also announced that its Emerging Producer Placement program – which offers two emerging producers a paid six-months of work with a NSW-based production company and Create NSW’s investment team – will this year be targeted at producers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.