After last night’s marathon ceremony, the Logies have once again come dangerously close to flirting with cultural relevance, if only for the fact that everyone today is talking about something that happened on free-to-air television last night. And in 2016, that’s no mean feat.
Beset by a litany of issues far too long to list here, Australian television has long been beleaguered in particular by the issue of representation (or a lack thereof) on our screens ever since they were first lit up with Bruce Gyngell’s welcoming words in 1956. Diversity in Australian media – not only diversity of race and ethnicity but gender and sexual orientation – has since moved at a pace that was best described by last night’s Hall of Fame inductee Noni Hazlehurst as “glacial”.
“The fact that I’m only the second woman to be given this honour is merely a reflection of the prevailing guard,” said Hazlehurst. “As the suggestion has been made in some quarters, the eligibility of esteemed colleagues Waleed Aly and Lee Lin Chin going for gold [Logies] is questionable. Things are changing. They’re changing slowly.”
The resounding beliefs heard in Hazlehurst’s politically-charged speech were also echoed in the acceptance speech of Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly, a Sunni Muslim with Egyptian parents, who also took home Best Presenter for his incisive, headline-grabbing work on The Project. To emphasise the importance of his unprecedented win, Aly told two moving stories, including a “shockingly” recent encounter he had with a man who was not only in the same room but was known to everyone by a different name.
“Someone who is in this room – and I’m not going to use the name they use in the industry – came up to me, introduced themselves and said to me,
“‘I really hope you win. My name is Mustafa. But I can’t use that name because I won’t get a job’. He’s here tonight. And it matters to people like that that I am here.
“If tonight means anything it’s that the Australian public – our audience – as far as they’re concerned, there is absolutely no reason why that can’t change.”
It’s a sentiment that is also shared by Chinese Australian actress Grace Huang, who next month will appear opposite fellow Australian Liam Hemsworth in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence. Speaking recently with GRAZIA, Huang, who was born in Taiwan to Cantonese parents and raised in Sydney, issued an impassioned plea not only for productions to step it up and reflect Australia’s diversity of talent, but for audiences to vote with their feet and fingers when time comes to make their voices heard.
Read her thoughts on the issue of why we still need to talk about diversity and representation in Australian film and television below.
“It’s a good time for me as an Asian face. I’m increasingly becoming an activist for brands like Kailis Jewellery and events like the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival and I just feel like it’s a good time to feel the inclusion of diversity and the acceptance of diversity.
“I’m really happy to be able to represent Australia as an Asian face. I still identity with being an Aussie, because I grew up here, but it’s just so good to be that combination. I have noticed an increase in the diversity of casts in certain Australian productions. This year’s Logies included the most diverse selection of casts nominated than ever before, and I was just really happy about that. I do have hope that we’re starting to head in the right direction. I’ve seen a lot more projects and award-winning shows coming out [with casts] that are showing this diversity and I think we just need to keep at it.
“Social media is so prevalent now and producers and investors really look to and respond to that, so we need to demand it.
“Demand to be heard and demand to see it. Because Australia is very diverse.”
“Sometimes it saddens me when I go overseas and people assume that it’s less diverse than it is. It saddens me to have to tell them, ‘No, no, no, we’re actually really culturally diverse. We aren’t all blond haired and blue-eyed.’ We’re not all Hemsworths, which is great! We have the Hemsworths and we have so many other amazing actors and crew members – people that represent every race across the board.
“There are laws in the States that actually enforce diversity in casting, whereas in Australia, there isn’t [any regulation]. Hopefully, it doesn’t have to come to that, but the bottom line is that does help.
As consumers, we need to give feedback and [support] these people, whether that be by leaving comments or continuously writing to producers, or taking to public forums. Make your voice heard.”