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Seeing Ourselves on-screen: Report reveals progress for diversity in Australian TV drama

14/04/2023

14 04 2023 - Media release Seeing Ourselves on-screen: Report reveals progress for diversity in Australian TV drama

A selection of images from Australian TV dramas included in Seeing Ourselves 2.

Screen Australia has released new research into diversity on Australian screens, titled Seeing Ourselves 2: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Australian TV Drama. A follow up to the landmark 2016 study, Seeing Ourselves 2 examines the diversity of main characters in 361 scripted Australian TV and online dramas broadcast between 2016 and 2021, how this compares to the Australian population, and what has changed since the previous Seeing Ourselves report.

The report shows that there have been increases in the levels of diversity since 2016 including higher representation for First Nations people (7.2% from 4.8%), disabled people (6.6% from 3.6%), LGBTIQ [1] people (7.4% from 4.5%), and non-European people (16% from 6.9%). However, a number of Australia's communities remain under-represented on-screen compared to population benchmarks and in particular disability representation remains critically low.

Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke said, Australian drama on screen is compelling and powerful. It's a cornerstone of how Australians see themselves, learn about each other and how the world comes to know us. It shouldn't be too much to ask that when you watch Australian screen, it looks like modern Australia.

Screen Australia's CEO, Graeme Mason said, It's vital that Australian screen stories authentically reflect the diversity of our nation, and we know that the screen industry is becoming more aware of the cultural and commercial value of creating diverse content. It's great to see improvements since 2016, however these results show that the overall pace of progress is slow and there is a long way to go to reach genuine representation of Australia's diverse communities on screen.

Authenticity and inclusivity are a core consideration in all of our work at Screen Australia, and are why we invested in this new Seeing Ourselves report. This research serves to shine a light on the current landscape, and we hope it will inform, educate and influence decision-making across the whole sector. We know more action is needed to bring about transformative change and collaboration will be essential. We look forward to working with the sector to achieve greater representation in the Australian screen industry.

The report provides the industry with key findings that show the gaps in representation on-screen and some of the challenges faced by practitioners in the sector.

-- METHOD In part 1 of the report, Screen Australia examined 3,072 main characters in 361 scripted Australian TV dramas, including children's dramas and comedies. The titles examined were commissioned and first released between 2016 and 2021 on free-to-air or subscription TV, streaming or online services available in Australia. These main characters were analysed by cultural background, disability, gender, sexual orientation, occupational status and two new variables: age and location, as well as how these different aspects of diversity intersect. Results were then compared to the previous Seeing Ourselves report and 2021 Census data on the population where possible.

To reflect changes in audience viewing behaviour over the past six years, the scope of the report has been expanded since the 2016 report to go beyond broadcast TV and also includes commissioned content on streaming and online services.

Part 2 of the report provides results from interviews with the industry, offering their insights into the opportunities, challenges and barriers experienced by those involved in bringing diverse stories and characters to the screen. It includes consultations with 35 participants across 23 industry and diversity, equity and inclusion organisations and in-depth interviews with 28 key stakeholders including diverse screen practitioners and people working on diverse stories.

RESULTS: FIRST NATIONS The study found that the level of First Nations representation on screen is strong, increasing from 4.8% of main characters in the previous study to 7.2%, compared to the population benchmark of 3.8%.

Screen Australia s Head of First Nations Angela Bates said, For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be able to see ourselves represented on screen in shows such as Mystery Road, Total Control and Black Comedy, is powerful. This result shows good progress and it's not by accident it represents years of advocacy and consistent hard work to ensure our practitioners feel supported and are afforded opportunities in an industry that hasn t always been accessible. It s proof of what's possible when we are empowered to tell stories from our perspective - it translates to screen and gives credibility to stories in a way that can t be replicated, slowly breaking down stereotypes and barriers, which is extremely validating. While more work needs to be done, the positive impact that seeing ourselves on screens has on entire communities cannot be underestimated, and all Australians benefit because it adds so much more cultural richness to our screens.

RESULTS: CULTURAL BACKGROUND (NON-FIRST NATIONS) Although 53% of the Australian population have Anglo-Celtic ancestry, they represented 71% of main characters in this study. This is down from 82% in 2016, suggesting the industry has made efforts to increase the cultural diversity in the main characters on our screens.

For the purpose of this report and to allow for comparison with the 2016 report, top-level findings for cultural background has been grouped into Anglo-Celtic', European' and non-European'[2], mirroring key waves of migration to Australia. The share of non-European main characters (for example, those with Indian, Chinese or Mi
LINK: https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2023/04-14-see...
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