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1950s vibe, 21st century audience: Australia’s dearth of on-screen diversity

Volume 25, Issue 1 & 2

July, 2019

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Bahfen, N. (2019). 1950s vibe, 21st century audience: Australia’s dearth of on-screen diversity. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 25(1&2), 29-38.
Author(s): Nasya Bahfen
Publication date: 
July, 2019

The difference between how multicultural Australia is ‘in real life’ and ‘in broadcasting’ can be seen through data from the Census, and from Screen Australia’s most recent research into on screen diversity. In 2016, these sources of data coincided with the Census, which takes place every five years. Conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, this presents a ‘snapshot’ of Australian life. From the newest Census figures in 2016, it appears that nearly half of the population in Australia (49 percent) had either been born overseas (identifying as first generation Australian) or had one or both parents born overseas (identifying as second generation Australian). Nearly a third, or 32 percent, of Australians identified as having come from non-Anglo Celtic backgrounds, and 2.8 percent of Australians identify as Indigenous (Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander). Nearly a fifth, or 18 percent, of Australians identify as having a disability. Screen Australia is the government agency that oversees film and TV funding and research. Conducted in 2016, Screen Australia’s study looked at 199 television dramas (fiction, excluding animation) that aired between 2011 and 2015. The comparison between these two sources of data reveals that with one exception, there is a marked disparity between diversity as depicted in the lived experiences of Australians and recorded by the Census, and diversity as depicted on screen and recorded by the Screen Australia survey.