‘A long way to go’ for genuine representation on TV: Screen Australia

The representation of non-European main characters more than doubled in Australian TV dramas between 2016 and 2021. However, its percentage on-screen was still under the population benchmark, according to Screen Australia.

First Nations and Anglo-Celtic communities were the only two groups that outpaced their population benchmark percentages on-screen, while main characters of European, disabled and LGBTQ+ background remain under-represented.

[click to enlarge]

The findings are published in Screen Australia’s latest on-screen diversity report, Seeing Ourselves 2: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Australian TV Drama. It examined 3,072 main characters in 361 scripted Australian TV dramas.

Compared to figures from the 2016 survey, the percentages of Anglo-Celtic and European main characters on-screen were the only ones that decreased.

[click to enlarge]

A further breakdown of European and non-European main character presentations showed that some groups are critically overlooked on-screen.

For example, while North-West Europeans accounted for 7.3% of the national population, only 0.6% of the main characters were from the same background.

[click to enlarge]

Moreover, the report found that children’s programs have a higher level of cultural diversity than general drama, and this has increased since 2016 in terms of First Nations representation (9.1%) and characters from non-European backgrounds (22%).

However, levels of disability (3.8%) and LGBTIQ+ representation (3.1%) are much lower among children’s titles compared to general TV drama titles.

Screen Australia’s CEO, Graeme Mason, applauded the progress that the screen industry made in the past few years.

“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,” he said.

“We know more action is needed to bring about transformative change and collaboration will be essential.”

Co-owners of Bunya Productions, David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, director of Mystery Road Origin Dylan River and the star of the series Mark Coles Smith. The show features the story of an Aboriginal Australian detective Jay Swan

From consultation with the industry, the report found that there was a general push towards “centring lived experience and genuine collaboration in telling authentic stories”.

At the same time, diverse representation is sought after throughout the screen industry and at all career stages, as well as an improvement of cultural safety and accessibility.

Mason added that while Australia compared favourably with some international markets on metrics like First Nations and women’s on-screen representation, “other jurisdictions are ahead of the game in terms of taking action and implementing whole of sector strategies”.

“The wheels of change are in motion but there is a lot more work to do to achieve diversity on our screens that is both authentic and creatively and commercially fulfilling.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.