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Breaking down barriers from the outset: AWG launches Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to address inequity in industry

13 July, 2018

Some of Australia’s most exciting and in-demand screen and stage writers have come together to form the newly appointed Australian Writers’ Guild Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC), with their program of events, partnerships and opportunities  already attracting the praise of some of the leading figures in the industry. 

The committee, comprised of Niki AkenKodie BedfordJaime BrowneMithila GuptaBenjamin Law and Que Minh Luu, brings a wealth of talent, experience and expertise, and an understanding of how programs and initiatives may be created to ensure that Australian stories are shaped to reflect the reality of Australian society from the creative outset.  

‘There’s no lack of richly talented and diverse storytellers in Australia, only a lack of equity in their opportunities,’ said the committee in a joint statement. ‘Programs like the Guild’s give us the chance to break down old structures that have stood in the way of so many of our brilliant storytellers, and to build new opportunities that level the playing field, inviting writers into the industry so that our screens and stages may finally reflect the amazing diversity of our people.’

Critically acclaimed writer, actor and director and winner of the 2018 Major AWGIE Award for The Drover’s Wife, Leah Purcell, has spoken about the need for the Committee and the program: ‘I am from sectors where Indigenous storytelling has been supported over the last decade through affirmative actions and this has seen amazing results. I personally tell a lot of my stories from an Indigenous woman's point of view, a much under-represented demographic. So I totally relate to what the AWG and the DIAC Committee's aims and objectives are and I fully support such an important initiative.’

 ‘An AWG program that fosters diversity is imperative because we underestimate how much we rely on art to learn from each other,’ said actor Miranda Tapsell. ‘Minority groups become interwoven into the mainstream identity, which is a much more honest reflection of Australian stories.’

‘From my experience, the people most invested in representing a true and diverse reflection of Australian society are writers from diverse backgrounds themselves because it’s not just a political cause, it’s a personal imperative. So, to genuinely change screen culture, we need to change our writers’ rooms,’ said showrunner and screenwriter Tony Ayres.  

The committee have hit the ground running in recent months, with a number of partnerships and opportunities currently in action, including: 

  • Equity Diversity Showcase: a six-day program consisting of workshops, discussions, and professional development opportunities for writers, directors and performers from diverse backgrounds, culminating in a performance showcasing the developed work to an audience industry professionals. 
  • CuriousWorks partnership: successful Behind Closed Doors participants have been offered AWG membership, a place on AWG’s Pathways Program and micro-mentorships, as well as a number of professional development opportunities run by full members.
  • AFTRS National Talent Camp: 16 Talent Campers have been offered AWG membership and a place on the Pathways Program, granting them access to exclusive Pathways industry events and opportunities. 
  • Focus on Ability Film Festival: AWG sponsored and is judging the Official Selection Best Australian Screenplay for Short Film, and will award the winning writer an AWG membership, a place on AWG’s Pathways Program, and a 12-month mentorship with an AWG full member.

Collaborations with I.C.E. (Information+Cultural Exchange), WIFT and Everymind are being planned.  

‘The AWG has a strong and proud history of supporting writers so that they can tell their unique Australian stories,’ Emma Rafferty, General Manager of the Australian Writers’ Guild, said. ‘Partnering with organisations such as CuriousWorks and I.C.E. and initiatives such as the Diversity Showcase and National Talent Camp gives the AWG the opportunity to extend and broaden that support to new and diverse voices, so that our screen stories will come closer to reflecting the true Australian experience, in all of its richness.’

Alongside Purcell, Tapsell and Ayres, other leading figures in the Australian screen industry have voiced their support for the program, highlighting the need for proactive change from the outset of the creative process.

'The lack of diversity in our national storytelling is one of the most pressing cultural issues for our society. The dissonance between the amazing diversity of our people and its lack on our screens, stages and media has the potential to alienate and splinter us as a country. Our national storytelling has to catch up with the diversity of our streets,' said Indigenous playwright Wesley Enoch

‘We need AWG's diversity and inclusion advisory committee so young minorities can hear stories that they relate to, and so that actors with a non-anglo, Indigenous, LGBTIQ background, and/or actors with disabilities, can finally be represented on our stages and screens, in LEAD roles instead of 'Bus Passenger 3' . . .' said Matt Okine

More information about AWG’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and program can be found here.

AWG members are encouraged to become involved in running the program, with a number of opportunities for competition judges and screenwriter mentors available over the coming months. If you are interested in being involved in any capacity, please contact emma@awg.com.au. 


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