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Reflecting contemporary Australia

The ABC works to produce content that explores and connects with diverse communities. Throughout the 2019-20 reporting period, the ABC attempted to establish a more inclusive workforce, and to encourage the production of stories that better reflected diverse Australian lives.

The 'We Are Australian' campaign supported this reflection, bringing together Australians from across the country in a nation-wide choir - singing with each other though many were isolated at home. 34% of participants were culturally and linguistically diverse, and both a kids' and an AUSLAN version were created.

Modern Indigenous stories

Multi award-winning filmmaker and Arrernte/Kalkadoon woman Rachel Perkins’ The End of Silence Boyer lectures examined how the Uluru Statement from the Heart provides a path to ending the “great Australian silence” on the rightful place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this nation.

Gulkula is a traditional ceremonial meeting ground of the Yolngu people of the North East Arnhem Land and was the site of Australia’s largest Indigenous-led, Indigenous-programmed cultural exchange, the Garma Festival, in August 2019. The ABC was proud as the official media partner of Garma to again broadcast live from the festival ensuring conversations and celebrations travelled beyond the sacred Yolngu site. Live coverage including a broadcast of The Drum featuring a panel of high profile Indigenous leaders and change-makers, plus on-the-ground reports throughout the four-day gathering from local news teams and specialist digital reporters.

In 2020 Play School welcomed Kiya to the program’s ‘family’. Kiya is the first Indigenous toy to belong to a specific area – in Kiya’s case, Noongar Country in south-west Western Australia. Play School presenters Luke and Rachael also discussed racism on iview program ‘Hand in Hand’ – its causes, effects and what we can do to be a part of positive change – as an age-appropriate response to the Black Lives Matter protests around the globe.

City communities

Australians living in outer metropolitan areas of the capital cities – which are the most diverse places in the country – are less likely to use ABC services than those in inner cities or rural areas.1

In response to the clear need for more reporting relevant to those communities, ABC News set its strategic course for the coming three years at a staff summit in Bankstown, New South Wales in September 2019. The key focus was to become a part of, and more substantially reflect, more of these communities. Progress was and continues to be made around ABC stories giving greater voice to the lives of Australians living in these areas. For more on this, see Stories from the outer city

In drama, The Heights Series 1 was awarded the Screen Producers Australia SDIN Award 2019 for excellence in and impact on diversity and inclusion. The program explores the relationships between the residents of inner‐city neighbourhood Arcadia Heights and the rapidly gentrifying community that surrounds it, and the first two series were recently acquired by the BBC for broadcast in the UK. The final season of ABC ME children’s program Mustangs FC continued to reflect the rich cultural heritage of Melbourne, with characters representing communities from Sudan, Vietnam, Serbia, Lebanon, Dutch, Indian, Ghanaian and Indigenous Australia, all exploring their hopes and dreams as young Australians set against the backdrop of their shared religion – football.

Takeover Melbourne, an ABC initiative in partnership with Victorian state government agencies, local government authorities and the Centre for Multicultural Youth, was created to provide a platform to share the stories of Melbourne’s young people aged 12 to 18. Takeover builds on the success of Heywire, which has been providing opportunities for young people in rural and regional Australia to tell their stories and develop ideas for change for more than 20 years. Storytelling entries to the project closed in June 2020. ABC producers will work with winners in 2020-21 to professionally produce their story for broadcast on ABC radio, television or online.

50:50

News stories greatly increased representation of women, with the 18-month old 50:50 project driving inclusion of women’s voices and a commitment to content that is relevant to women. Approximately 45% of the talent chosen to appear in stories over the period were women, with the ultimate goal of 50% not far from achievement.

Podcast Ladies We Need To Talk continued to provide a distinctive health, sex and relationships podcast made by and for women, which discussed topics that have been traditionally taboo.

There’s good reason the ABC podcast Ladies, We Need to Talk is now in its fourth series. Everything is on the table for discussion…” Bri Lee, SMH

On radio, triple j debuted its first female Breakfast duo with Sally & Erica, Lucy Smith started on Mornings and Avani Dias took over from longtime host Tom Tilley on Hack.

Young and old

Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds was one of the ABC’s most important and engaging programs of 2019-20. The show followed a unique social experiment that set out to see if the health and wellbeing of very young and older Australians would be improved through the simple idea of spending quality time together in an aged care facility. The voices of the participants took centre stage, generating crucial conversations about the way in which we treat elderly Australians.

The complementary Ageless Friendships digital series had almost 12 million views across ABC social media. Via a partnership with Playgroup Australia’s ‘Ageless Play’, almost 5000 enquiries were received from individuals, families, aged care facilities, retirement villages and early learning centres interested in either joining or starting a new intergenerational playgroup. The number of such groups more than doubled since the program aired, from 40 to almost 100 new groups.2

 Endemol Shine
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, Episode 1. Image: Endemol Shine

Voices of unique communities

Four-part documentary series Love on the Spectrum followed young adults on the autism spectrum as they explored the unpredictable world of love, dating and relationships. Audiences loved this show, with overnight ratings climbing higher for each of the four episodes, achieving a complete audience of just over 1 million.3 Positive sentiment across social media networks appreciated and supported the show’s participants, and Netflix eventually acquired the series, taking the program to a whole new audience.

“Few shows keep me smiling for its entire duration; can’t recommend #LOTSAU enough”

“Love on the Spectrum is just wonderful. Exceptional TV. Bravo to the people on screen and those behind the scenes #lotsau”

 Northern Pictures
Love on the Spectrum’s Sharnae and Jimmy. Image: Northern Pictures
First Day, the ground-breaking film about a transgender teen's first year of high school, returned with a four-part series following Hannah's story of courage and challenge to live as her authentic self. Award-winning transgender actor Evie Macdonald continued in the lead role.

In News, for the first time a reporter with lived experience of disability, Nas Campanella, was tasked with specifically reporting issues around disability, which impacts an estimated four million Australians.

The ABC’s original format, award-winning question-and-answer program You Can’t Ask That won the AACTA inaugural award for Factual Entertainment in 2019. In accepting the award on behalf of the ABC, participant Vickie Roach – Yuin woman, of the stolen generations, and a domestic violence survivor – noted that people with lived experience like her deserved the right to be seen on Australian screens, but most importantly they deserve to be heard. She thanked the ABC for the opportunity to have a public voice.

Footnotes

  1. Nielsen CMV S02 & S05 National, Ppl 14+.
  2. Playgroup Australia.
  3. OzTam First Run Complete Audience 2019.