‘Why are there no brown faces on TV?’ – Australia’s Cultural Identity Crisis

The above headline was taken from a comment posted on an article entitled ‘TV’s White Australia Policy’ on the media website The Vine. The article quite succinctly demonstrates the cultural underrepresentation we face in Australia today in our entertainment media, reacting to actors Firass Dirani and Jay Laga’aia’s criticisms of the industry early last year.

The question in the comment, quoted from a 3 year old from New Zealand after only arriving 2 months in Australia, highlights a critically damning characteristic of our current mediascape: a severe lack of ethnic roles and voices being broadcast across the nation which truly reflect our modern society.

The cast of the popular drama 'Packed to the Rafters'... and not a single 'brown face' in sight

The cast of the popular drama ‘Packed to the Rafters’… and not a single ‘brown face’ in sight

It has never been more important for those in society who wish to have a say to have their voice heard. In Australia’s case, Firani’s and Laga’aia’s cry for greater ethnic representation in Australia’s entertainment media marks a nation which is unparalleled in its disproportionate portrayal of accurate cross-sections of our culturally-diverse society.

Instead of dynamic, popular roles in Australian dramas, Muslim or Arab ‘cultures’ often become characterised simply by their association with asylum seekers, the ‘war on terror’ and public race riots (Dreher 2013, p3).

Another example is our Asian community, who have become largely relegated to issues similar to Muslim Australians, and have been offered no visible reference point to construct their identity in this complex nation (Paramanathan 2013).

It is clear that what needs to be done is an overhaul of government regulation, our entertainment media, and public attitudes towards these ethnic groups (amongst others) in order to allow them a solid cultural foundation within Australia and to find a voice.

Sociology professor Andrew Jakubowicz believes that ‘When race and entertainment come together we see… the reality of the multiple everydays in which people live’ (2010), and it is thus why we must put more ‘brown faces’ and every other Australian face on our screens in order to fix our ethnic identity crisis.


Dreher, T (forthcoming 2014) ‘White Bread Media’ in The Media and Communications in Australia, eds. S Cunningham and S Turnbull, Allen and Unwin.




Image Source: http://www.cheekymonkeycomedy.com/in-praise-of-aussie-tv-drama/

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