Home and Away, Neighbours, Married at First Sight and the news all have one thing in common, and it’s not that they are trending. All of the aforementioned productions exhibit a major issue that is consistent, almost uniformly, with Australian television. That issue is underrepresentation. Disparity between representation of cultures is substantial within Australia’s entertainment industry, particularly in television.
Despite being vastly multicultural, Aussie television fails to acknowledge and accurately portray the vibrant and interesting cultures that call this country home. Majority of series and reality shows greatly lack characters, actors and presenters that are not of Anglo-Celtic heritage. For instance, in a 2016 report from Screen Australia, it was found that only 12 percent of all television drama characters were of non-European heritage (Screen Australia, 2016). This disproportion is further manifested by comparing a culture’s percentage of the entire population, to the percentage represented in television; 17 percent of the population are from Middle Eastern, Asian or African backgrounds, yet only seven percent of all characters represent these cultures (Screen Australia, 2016). For Australia’s First Nations, shortfall in representation is widely discernible. Famed soap opera, Home and Away, has only featured one Aboriginal character in 31 years on air (Vatsikopoulos, 2015). This evidence provides a newfound perspective on representation, one that many viewers overlook as they sit back and enjoy the show.
Underrepresentation is everyone’s concern. For the unaware watcher, this issue may not seem significant. You put the television on and relax, not a second thought spent. This is where the issue lies, to most viewers, inclusion is not a concern. It should be. Television has the capacity to inspire and connect people. Acclaimed Sapphires actress, Miranda Tapsell, perfectly captures this in her 2015 Logie’s acceptance speech: “Put more beautiful people of colour on TV, and connect viewers in ways that transcend race and unite us,” (Tapsell, 2015). In addition to this, wider inclusivity of cultures in television, engenders an overarching feeling of relatability and familiarity; all of which can break down stereotyping and implicit bias. Connections made, through inclusivity in television, are crucial to create understanding and awareness of racial/cultural issues.
While watching television we witness ‘white-washing’ on every channel. Majority of television productions reflect major gaps in diversity. We see it, but we are blind. Blind to the lack of cultural diversity, blind to the impacts and blind to the benefit of change.