Uninvited to the mainstage: the unfortunate consequence of approaching diversity without respect

New diversity initiatives shouldn’t disregard the history of older artists and arts workers fighting in this space.
Colourful paper cut silhouettes of faces on side profile layered on top of each other.

Recently we have seen an increase in the number of mainstream theatre companies and arts institutions rectifying their historical lack of engagement with non-Anglo artists, content and audiences. Some companies seek advice, training and guidance to do this. However, some companies, especially larger, better resourced companies, implement their own diversity initiatives. 

The realisation in the arts that there is a need to diversify, that it is no longer acceptable to produce only work by Anglo-Celtic Australians or to portray only a white Australian perspective, is long overdue. The recognition that leadership and management of arts companies can no longer be represented by a narrow and predominantly Anglo-Celtic demographic is something that we who live and work in “diverse” Australia are of course pleased about. As arts companies seek to diversify, however, it is important not to maintain racist and colonialist strategies that perpetuate white mythologies of superiority. 

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Dr Görkem Acaroğlu is a theatre director, writer and dramaturg, an interdisciplinary artist, educator and diversity consultant. She has over 25 years experience making all forms of theatre, privileging marginalised and lesser heard perspectives and artists. She has worked as Arts Participation Manager at City of Melbourne, Program Producer at Fed Square, Art and Performance Lecturer at Deakin University and Artistic Director and Programmer of The Mechanics Institute in Brunswick from 2013-2017 when her theatre company, Metanoia Theatre, won a tender to convert the then hall-for-hire into a contemporary arts space.