A New Program To Help Support People With Disabilities In the Film Industry Has Been Announced

The program includes a new initiative to fund films, an annual film festival and a number of paid internships.

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A recent Screen Australia study found that, surprise surprise, Australian TV wasn’t doing a great job of representing people from diverse backgrounds. In particular, people with disabilities were significantly underrepresented. The study found that while people with disabilities make up 18 percent of the population, they only make up four percent of TV drama characters. 90 percent of TV shows had no main characters with a disability.

A new initiative announced today, called Screenability NSW, is trying to fix the problem of under-representation by creating new opportunities across the industry for people with disabilities. The program is a partnership between Screen NSW, Ai-Media, AFTRS, Carriageworks and Bus Stop Films. The goal is to increase the participation in Australia’s film and TV sector by people with disabilities.

The program includes a new initiative to fund films, an annual film festival at Carriageworks in Sydney, a long-term job placement scheme and a series of paid internships with high profile production companies and TV shows including Eurovision, Playschool, Animal Logic, Matchbox Pictures, Foxtel, Stan and ABC iView.

“This internship program has the potential to change attitudes in the workplace towards disability, and foster the growth of inclusive practices on a professional basis,” said Sofya Gollan, a deaf presenter on Play School and Screen NSW’s Development and Production Executive.

The initiative is a great response to Screen Australia’s study, showing just how out of touch Australian TV is with our diverse population. Hopefully it will be picked up by other states as part of a serious attempt to overhaul our media industry and make it more representative.

Feature image: Tim Ferguson, co-director and co-writer of Spin Out and performer with The Doug Anthony Allstars; Sofya Gollan, Screen NSW Development and Production Executive; and Paul Nunnari, performer and disability advocate.