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Chris Mead

Platform Paper 17

Have we Failed Our Ethnic Writers?

Chris Mead

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Has our theatre failed our newest writers? Those first- and secondgeneration immigrants who speak another language at home? Their diversity makes Australia a rich land with a wealth of stories, but how much reaches our stages? Chris Mead traces the growth through the 1980s that saw the overthrow of inherited traditions and a flowering of immigrant writing and Indigenous performers. But where are the plays today? Getting a play on stage is hard for any writer. For writers of diverse backgrounds it is almost impossible. But others have done it. The United Kingdom has transformed its cultural attitudes. In New Zealand, Pacific Islanders make theatre on their own terms. Aboriginal performance has come a long way since the 1970s; but for others the divide is too great. It is time to discard the old methods and begin again, writes Mead, PlayWriting Australia has embarked on an ambitious community program to place creativity at the centre of daily life. Mainstream theatre is urged to join the outreach. It is a delicate task needing money and persistence—a job for the whole of society, because it is about who we are. Platform Papers No.18: October 2008 Chris Puplick: Getting Heard: Achieving an Effective Arts Advocacy


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About the Author

Dr Chris Mead is founding artistic director of PlayWriting Australia, the national playwriting advocacy body, which fosters new writing from first draft to full production.

Yet Australia has a turbulent present with a fragmented, hybrid population that continually renegotiates theorists’ attempts to analyse them via class or post-colonialism.8 Xenophobia, distance, charity, religious freedom, migration, a rich land and a diverse people—all these combine to make Australia an extraordinary culture. But how much of that turbulence or difference reaches our stages? How has theatre responded to our diversity? If waiting for writers to present themselves doesn’t work, then what