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'Moving past stereotypes': Fresh calls for more diversity in the Australian arts

Originally published on SBS Australia:

A recent review of Australia's professional arts scene shows it is less diverse than the rest of the Australian workforce.

There are calls for new initiatives to increase cultural diversity in the Australian arts.

Short film 'The Subtractor' tells the story of a Hollywood director who comes to Australia to cast an Asian actor as the lead in a superhero film.

Director and producer Maria Tran said the film was a tongue-in-cheek look at the lack of representation of diversity in film.

She told SBS World News: "Asians are always playing the stereotypes of gangstas, nerds, prostitutes - we want to move past those stereotypes and show people that we're not just an ethnicity."

The 2016 Census showed as many as 49 per cent of Australians were first or second-generation migrants.

But a review by the Australia Council for the Arts found that only eight per cent of professional artists in Australia were from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Diversity Arts Australia's Lena Nahlous said that figure was compared to 16 per cent across the total Australian workforce.

"If people don't see representations of themselves, or stories about them, then it isn't really relevant for them," she said.

"It isn't really building a really strong cohesive society."

Aruna Gandhi came to Australia on an exceptional talent visa, as a practitioner of a classical Indian dance.

"Bharatanatyam is a very beautiful dance style which is thousands of years old from India," she said.

"We use a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions and we communicate stories, thoughts and ideas."

She said she struggled to secure arts funding, or be given a platform to be seen by mainstream audiences.

"If bharatanatyam can be presented, for example at the Opera House as part of the mainstream arts festivals, then that would be a success for us."


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