Jay Laga’aia who plays Rev Elijah Johnson on Home and Away (until April) has hit out at Home and Away producers, and the Australian Television Industry’s, “White Australia Policy”, saying that the real reason his character was written out of Home and Away was because they already had their quota of ethnic characters.
Earlier today he tweeted (@jaylagaaia):
“Hats off to you Firass Dirani, for a call to stop commercial network producers casting only white actors. Only on Australian screens. Shame!”
“As someone who lost his job on H&A because they couldnt write two ethnics that weren’t together, I’d like a chance to ply my trade freely.”
“I think commercial TV should take a leaf out of children’s TV in this country. We are a rainbow nation in kids TV. No tokens here.”
Laga’aia’s tweets come after actor Firass Dirani (Underbelly: The Golden Mile) was promoting his new show The Straits and said that the appeal of this “ambitious show was seeing points of difference, different flavours, different cultures”.
He went on to tell Adelaide Now, “There has to be a call for the networks to put on shows with these cultural differences because this is who we are in 2012… dramas such as Channel 7’s Rafters and Winners & Losers did not reflect the real racial mix of the nation. Those people on Winners & Losers in their floral colours and their pastels … I don’t even know people like this. We need to watch ourselves, warts and all; flaws and all. Hopefully the networks start writing shows that cater for different actors and different cultural backgrounds.”
Home and Away producers are not happy with Laga’aia’s claims. According to news.com.au, Producers have said “We have great regard for Jay and his work on Home and Away during the last two years. It is insulting to suggest that Home and Away is racist. His character’s storyline reached a natural conclusion.”
Good on Dirani and Laga’aia for starting this much needed conversation! Australian television is not reflective of the people who make up that great country. Instead of being defensive, it’s time for the Australian television industry to take a good look at itself and start casting more diversely! It would be great if Australian television could become a real representation of Australia’s multicultural society.