Another actor has made accusations about racism on the set of Neighbours, saying the set of the long-running soap opera needs to be overhauled to make it a safe workplace for all cast and crew.
In a lengthy statement on her website, Sharon Johal, who played Dipi Rebecchi on the show, said she experienced “direct, indirect and casual racism” in her four years on the set.
She outlined several such instances, including a fellow cast member referring to “you people” when discussing people of Indian origin, and she said management failed to take her complaints seriously.
She is not the first Neighbours actor to go public with accusations of racism in recent days.
Last week, Indigenous actor Shareena Clanton said she twice heard the N-word used on set, one of “multiple racist traumas” she said she endured on “this highly problematic show”.
She was followed by Indigenous actor Meyne Wyatt.
“On more than one occasion a current cast member,” not a person of colour, “directly referred to me as ‘you people’ when speaking in derogatory terms about an altercation they were involved in with an Indian person,” Johal said in her statement, which was first reported by Guardian Australia.
Johal said she had been told that the same cast member has also claimed “the show only employs ‘Indian actors” and diverse actors of colour to “fill their diversity quotas” and “not because they are any good”.
When she raised these comments with management, she said, they were sympathetic and spoke to the cast member but “no action was taken”.
“Management’s position was that I needed to speak to management directly at the time each of these incidents occurred,” she said.
“This practice does not take into consideration the reticence of a victim to come forward in a workplace culture where perpetrators are not seen to be held accountable (so why report?), and where the person reporting is afraid of being further targeted by the perpetrator and in fear of losing their job.”
In another instance, a former cast member compared her to a bobble-head toy, saying, “Oh, it’s like you guys”, referring to Indians.
“The same cast member repeatedly mimicked the Indian character Apu from The Simpsons with accompanying Indian accent and movement of head in my presence, despite me requesting they desist.”
Fremantle, the production company behind Neighbours, said: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees on the set of Neighbours and take very seriously any questions about racism or any other form of discrimination.
“We are engaging an independent legal investigation to work concurrently with [Indigenous consultancy] Campfire X’s cultural review and hope to work directly with the individuals that have raised concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps are appropriate.”
Network Ten, which airs the show, provided the same statement in response to a request for comment.
Johal said the fast-paced nature of production on the set had created a culture in which issues were overlooked in favour of getting on with the job.
Management then mishandled disputes it was not qualified to address, she said, leaving her “powerless, isolated and marginalised”.
She commended Fremantle for initiating an investigation, but said it must be broad in scope, arguing it was clear management’s systems had failed.
“Racism is part of a wider issue and conversation.
“It’s both heartbreaking and telling of our industry that a show considered diverse on screen still struggles with protecting people these behind the scenes.”
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