Former actors from Australian hit drama, Neighbours have opened up about experiences of racism and homophobia.
Earlier this month, Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt made allegations of racism, homophobia and misogyny. They alleged that terms like “lil monkey” and “ni**er” were used. However, Herald Sun’s Rita Panahi claims that word was said by a person of colour quoting rap lyrics.
Wyatt has also accused cast of homophobia.
Sharon Johal, who had played Dipi Rebecchi, joined the chorus, claiming that she was a victim of “direct and indirect racism”.
In a lengthy statement given to Guardian Australia, Johal claimed she tried to “deny, bury and ultimately survive” racial abuse from unnamed colleagues.
She accused show’s production company, Fremantle of not taking real action to prevent further abuse.
Clanton claimed that when she called out yhe cast member for using the offensive word, another colleague would defend the accused. Allegedly, Clanton was also told to ‘take it somewhere else’ and that other cast members were getting ‘uncomfortable’.
The Guardian Australia reported that an unnamed cast member was removed after some racism incidents. The alleged offender was ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training.
Neighbours and diversity
When I first read about these accusations, I was shocked. In the past ten years (roughly), Neighbours has had a number of LGBTQ+ characters. And, unlike Home and Away, they didn’t have a gay character for one or two episodes.
Over the years, Neighbours has explored multiple issues facing LGBTQ and ethnic minority communities. In 2018, Neighbours featured the marriage of David Tenaka (Takaya Honda) and Aaron Brennan (Matt Wilson).
Neighbours has also had a number of people of colour. Episodes have explored issues like sexuality in Japanese culture, the Australia Day debate and Indian spirituality and meditation.
They have also fearured their first ever transgender character, Mackenzie Hargreaves. She’s been played by Georgie Stone. Stone became the youngest transgendender person in Australia to be granted the right to start puberty blockers.
Personally, as someone who watches Neighbours regularly, I find these allegations really disappointing. I mean, what’s the point? Have minorities just been used?
Enough virtue signalling. Time for proper action
If the allegations are true, I think there is something we can learn from the Neighbours controversy. It’s easy to fulfill a quota; have one or a few token people of colour, LGBTQ+ characters, employees, etc.
It’s another thing to combat discrimination. Every work place, including in the entertainment industry, should have zero tolerance for discrimination. Written policies should be in place stating what is and isn’t acceptable.
I also think that all allegations should be at least investigated before it becomes a major issue. No allegation of any form of abuse or discrimination should just be dismissed or downplayed. After an investigation, appropriate action should take place.
If your in Australia and this has brought up any issues for you, you can contact Lifeline: 13 11 14.
If you feel like you’ve been a victim of racism, you can contact the Australian Rights Commission.