Rob Guest Endowment semi-finalists “categorically refute” claims made by RGE committee

In response to the cancellation of this year’s Rob Guest Endowment, all 30 semi-finalists have today issued the following statement through the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance:

“The former Rob Guest Endowment Semi-Finalists have remained united whilst navigating these past few weeks. As a result, through MEAA, they have issued the following statement:

“We acknowledge the traditional land owners of the Country we live and work on today. We acknowledge Elders past, present and emerging. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal Land.

“We firstly want to make clear and recognise that First Nations and POC (People of Colour) artists have endured significant trauma as a direct result of the various actions and public statements made by the Rob Guest Endowment. We cannot begin to understand the depth at which this continues to trigger and hurt our First Nations and POC friends, colleagues, and the community at large. We can, however, offer our transparency as we move forward in solidarity.

“From the outset we decided to take action and sought advice and education from the Equity Diversity Committee (EDC). This was to ensure that the voices of the First Nations and POC artist community were centred and prioritised in this conversation. We have been generously invited into these discussions to listen and learn. Following said discussions, and through our own volition, we came to the unanimous decision to withdraw from the competition: to prevent our colleagues from further trauma, to de-centre ourselves and to amplify the First Nations and POC voices. The Endowment’s reactive cancellation prevented us from enacting this step in tandem with the EDC.

“We categorically refute any claim or insinuation made by the Endowment, or any others, that the competition had to be cancelled in order to protect us from bullying and/or intimidation from the EDC, or the POC and First Nations members of our industry. We have no interest in perpetuating this harmful antiquated narrative, which serves only to deplatform and erase First Nations and POC peoples and their voices.

“In response to the events leading up to yesterday’s statement, we fervently denounce the actions of the Endowment, including but not limited to; silencing POC and First Nations voices, misrepresenting us and our stance on the matter, and the lack of transparency that has occurred from within the Endowment.

“We believe it is imperative to thank, and damaging to ignore, the immense support provided by the EDC: to thank them for their voluntary, unpaid labour and education throughout this process. It is essential to acknowledge the EDC is composed of vital volunteers, who have spearheaded the necessary changes to create a more accessible and equitable industry, and have done so with patience and grace. We overwhelmingly support the EDC’s Log of Claims presented to the Endowment, and are eager to see conversations continue between them and the EDC. We 30, and as an industry at large, are indebted to their tireless and ongoing work.

“Moving forward, we will be redirecting our energy into celebrating and amplifying the many POC led initiatives that existed long before and those that have been born from this chain of events. All of which are pioneered by the boundless generosity of artists identifying as First Nations and People of Colour within our Arts community.

“In Solidarity, The former Rob Guest Endowment Semi-Finalists 2020”

7 thoughts on “Rob Guest Endowment semi-finalists “categorically refute” claims made by RGE committee

  • Despite opinions, these performers didn’t vote themselves into the competition and I know many have been terribly bullied and threatened online in horrific displays of behaviour just for being a semi finalist. It’s truly horrendous.

  • It’s like reading a forced signed confession from a political prisoner.

  • To counter the cynicism of the previous commenters, I’ll share that I am impressed and moved by this show of grace and class from the former semi-finalists. The ruckus that arose must have been shocking and difficult for a group of young, hard working artists. If they were able to work through that difficulty of what should have been a celebratory moment for them, to consider and listen to and learn from BIPOC voices, and cede some of their privilege to make rooms for others-wow. It honestly gives me a tiny fraction of hope. Too bad the Endowment were unable to handle themselves with the same sort of class and self-awareness.

  • This is what happens when identity politics seeps into all facets of life. If 100 people apply to a role and there are 10 spots, then the 10 applicants with the most merit should get the position, irrespective of their personal backgrounds. All of this talk about ‘triggering’, ‘deplatforming’ and the like harks to the sulphurous stench of new-age PC culture. Yes, theatre should encompass everyone. Yes, arts organisations must categorically invest in providing more people the opportunities to gain the skills to succeed. However, when 30 people, who are presumably the best candidates in the process, are chosen, then whether they are white or not should be irrelevant in and of itself. The problem will not go away overnigjt by simply picking possibly less skilled ‘BIPOC’ instead of possibly more skilled non-BIPOC, this is a problem which goes right to the core of class division, and requires years of investment.

    • So what you’re stating is that if there were 100 people who applied for this award there wasn’t 1 person of colour who was qualified enough to get through to the semi finals. That’s absolutely absurd. Being a performer in this industry who works consistently I can count the number of qualified performers from different backgrounds that apply and don’t get through. A data report needs to be published before you can insinuate that people of colour don’t have the same qualifications as white faces.

  • It is RARE that music theater actors unify and come together like this, we are starved of opportunity and petrified of offending. This display of community and strength of character is astonishing.
    Racism is rife in our industry. The stories I have heard from fellow actors are sickening. This is a step toward change. Brave.

  • Anyone who doesn’t think racism, whether passive or active, is a driving force in Australian entertainment need only turn on 7, 9, 10, or walk into any major musical. As someone who actually works in the theatre industry, when there was one at least, I have seen talented people repeatedly turned away because of their “look” (Asian). I think the regressive, 1970s arguments seen in some of the comments above absolutely prove how far we have to go as a country.


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