Diversity and Inclusion - Building the Good Life in Australia
Issue No. 5 The New Platform Papers, Currency House June 14, 2023
Edited by Harriet Parsons
Queer(y)ing the Australian Way of Life
More Risk, More Play: Creating an Inclusive Culture
Media Contact: Martin Portus firstname.lastname@example.org
Review by Frank McKone
This essay will be published in Volume 3 of the New Platform Papers in December.
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To begin, readers need to understand the terminology currently in use in the world of diversity and inclusion:
“In this issue, we have avoided italics, bold and centred text as much as possible in order to make the text accessible for readers with vision impairment.
Deaf and d/Deaf:
Deaf is capitalised when referring to members of the Deaf community (typically Auslan users), and d/Deaf is used as a wider term that also encompasses people who may be deaf but do not consider themselves to be members of the Deaf community.
BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, people of colour.
CALD: Culturally and linguistically diverse.
Cisgender or cis: A person whose gender identity aligns with their identified sex at
“Ultimately,” explains editor Harriet Parsons, the daughter of the founders of Currency Press, Philip Parsons and Katharine Brisbane, “access and its associated values of diversity, equity and inclusion, are about ending discrimination by examining very closely the way we treat each other in all of our relationships.”
Jeremy Neideck introduces an intellectual framework for thinking about those relationships in this way:
“One way to think about the good life is that it is a combination of the moral, the intimate and the economic, underpinned by the principles of enduring reciprocity that hold people together in relationships as couples, families, political systems, institutions, markets and businesses.
“When conditions are such that these relationships begin to fracture and fail, cruel optimism seduces us into attaching ourselves to myths and fantasies that are harmful or even impossible to achieve.”
For an historical perspective, Neideck quotes “George Caiger, in 1953 (in "The Australian Way of Life"). He described Australia as a nation of people who were ‘engaged in remoulding an inherited tradition in a fresh environment’, a people yearning for a greatness but frustrated by an ‘insistence on equality and uniformity’, whose society was dependent on the ‘heavy domestic demands upon the womenfolk’ and who demonstrated ‘a kind of good-humoured casualness towards other peoples except where economic interests are affected’".
By the 2010s, in Queensland, “queer world-building became a cherished part of this
independent theatre boom that was described by Hannah Brown as the ‘new new wave’".
But still today, referencing Julianne Schultz in "The Idea of Australia: The Search for the Soul of the Nation": “For those who find themselves queer in Australia and at odds with the ‘unexamined and unlovely’ aspects of nationhood, no amount of speculative isolation and cauterisation will make their lives commensurable with an environment soaked in cis-straight fantasies”.
Neideck’s essay from here takes up many of his personal experiences as a performer and creator, saying
“I am sick of worried straight people. Sick of the blatantly queer-phobic delusion spouted by right-wing ideologues, that gays are grooming children by reading them stories in drag. Sick of the subtle handwringing of left-leaning Gen Xers who fret about how they could possibly talk to and about trans and gender non-conforming Zoomers. Sick of watching a screenplay about the bent nature of queer love and relationships die the death of a thousand straight cuts at the hands of executives who lack the imagination to invest in anything that contradicts the cis straight fantasy of the hero’s journey.”
Yet he takes up the positive possibilities of “Nationhood as Creative Practice”, with studies of three practitioners, Justin Talplacido Shoulder with a project of transformation; doyenne of Brisbane’s queer club performance scene, Sarah Stafford; and Wiradjuri dancer Joel Bray – writing in a highly original style and format, a demonstration in itself of being at odds, certainly with the conventional traditions of an academic paper.
Australia, he concludes, is a work in progress “steeped in mythologies. Some of these mythologies nourish the people living here and help them to sustain their communities, and some of them are frustrating, if not downright destructive: terra nullius, the Aussie battler, the migrant threat, the idea of progress itself… All of these myths ignore and deny the complexity, diversity and contingency of human experience. But I think that we might have a chance of breaking the shackles of cruel optimism that bind us to the cis-straight fantasy if we pay keen attention to those artists who are devoting their lives to the project of nationhood as creative practice. If art shapes the way we perceive reality, then it is artists who are shaping the world that we live in.”
Well worth a read.
Morwenna Collett adds some terminology: “Diversity and ADEI (Access, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) are used interchangeably throughout this paper. The collective term ADEI is explained in detail within the essay.”
“I write as a proud disabled woman and an experienced practitioner. I have worked in
the arts and for arts funding bodies all my adult life. That’s taken some doing and I
acknowledge my good fortune in being able to do it when the barriers for many others are too high.”
Collett’s essay is written in a more conventional form than Neideck’s, but in "The Case for ADEI" takes on the same kinds of issues, seeking to work for the better across all the variety.
“Across Australian society, we’ve got a lot of ‘isms’ relating to marginalisation, and sometimes it can feel like these are growing rather than shrinking. Forms of discrimination which are currently alive and well include racism, ableism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, intersex discrimination, social stigma and many others. Put simply, difference is not something everyone is comfortable with, and some may view diversity as ‘background noise’ rather than an issue that is genuinely important.”
“Ultimately, ADEI is about ending discrimination by finding its root causes in the way we treat each other,” and quotes “Kimberlé Crenshaw [who] coined the term ‘intersectionality’ to describe how the various aspects of a person’s identity may expose them to multiple forms of marginalisation.”
Collett’s concern is with the decision-makers, planners and organisers of others with less power. The task seems daunting but she sees information and determination will bring about change, and so her detailed sections are
Case Study: Spotlight on Disability
Why Bother: Reasons to be Inclusive
Who Cares: Who Does ADEI Affect? – Artists; Administration; Staff, Volunteers and other Stakeholders.
The Global Context: How Does Australia Stack Up?
Carrots and Sticks: Encouraging ADEI Success
Quotas and Targets
Why It’s Hard: Challenges and Failures
What Does It Actually Look Like? Doing the Work
“It’s 2033, a decade from now. Australia looks different. We have our First Aboriginal Prime Minister, and she’s a woman. Creative Australia is run by a person of colour. 30% of our National Performing Arts Partnership Organisations have a CEO, AD and/or Chair who is from an under-represented group, and a few are on Fair Notice for failing to meet their diversity and inclusion KPIs. The fourth iteration of the ‘Towards Equity’ report shows that we’ve at least doubled all statistics since 2020. Our small to medium sector is continuing to push boundaries and program ground-breaking diverse work—and it’s accessible. Most festivals have stopped presenting work in physically inaccessible sites and are regularly providing major commissions to diverse artists. Diverse artists, arts workers and leaders are supported across all parts of the arts ecology. Pathways to training and employment have opened up. It’s exciting, and the art is good. No, it’s better than that: it’s great.
“That’s what it could look like if we all got to work on building an inclusive future for
our Australian arts and culture sector right now.”
And, entirely in keeping with Jeremy Neideck “Queer(y)ing the Australian Way of Life”, Morwenna Collett concludes “The arts and culture have the power to change hearts and minds and drive societal change. To ensure that Australia’s future is an inclusive one, let’s lead with diverse (and great!) art”, with “More Risk, More Play: Creating an Inclusive Culture”.
Putting the two together in this New Platform Paper makes a powerful read to put into practice. Well worth it!