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Loud and proud: rainbow stories on Australian screens

As LGBTQI+ representations become more commonplace, we look at the long road to mainstream acceptance in this two-part series.

Skip to Part One: Stories and Part Two: Creators.

From Don and Dudley on Number 96 to trans actor and advocate Georgie Stone joining the cast of Neighbours, Australia has a proud, if not always loud enough, history of LGBTQI+ representation on our screens.

In recognition of this creator-driven push for more queer voices on our screens both large and small, Screen Australia spoke to some of the leading lights driving this visibility. Tracing the occasionally bumpy path towards where we are now and getting a sense of where we need to be, in Part One we focus on the storylines and characters that mattered, and in Part Two the journey of the creators behind them.

Throughout the series we hear from some of Australia’s screen luminaries. Number 96 creator David Sale recalls a surprising lack of pushback when he pitched a queer character at the centre of his story about the colourful tenants of a Sydney apartment block. Head On director Ana Kokkinos reflects on her contribution to the New Queer Cinema explosion of the '90s and the need to hear from more diverse Australians.

"If you’re a white, straight male, the evidence suggests that structurally, you're given certain advantages, there's no question about that,” Kokkinos notes. “We still have structural barriers around gender, sexuality and cultural diversity, and disabilities too.”

Script executive, writer and editor Sarah Walker (Neighbours, Wentworth) and A Place Called Home creator Bevan Lee detail a push back against introducing a lesbian storyline in Home and Away, while prolific producer, writer and director Tony Ayres spoke about the need to see non-white Australians represented.

That theme was taken up by a new generation of creators in the likes of Corrie Chen (Mustangs FC, Wentworth), Adrian Russell Wills (Black Divaz) and Fadia Abboud (Club Arak), while Josh Thomas explored mental health in greater depth in Please Like Me.

Julie Kalceff speaks passionately about bypassing funding models and telling queer stories via web series like Starting From… Now. “One thing that the web does well is that people have access to more diversity that they’re not getting in mainstream media,” she says. Kalceff also cast trans actor and activist Evie Macdonald in celebrated short First Day, which will go to a full series on the ABC next year.

Trans man Oliver Ross, a recipient of Screen Australia’s Developing the Developer, and Holding the Man scribe Tommy Murphy both talk about the power of theatre to explore queer stories, and translating that energy the screen. Ross noted that successes hard-won can be wound back, agreeing with Kokkinos that vigilance is needed.

“I think that we've made a lot of progress in a really short period of time, but there is still a long way to go, and we need to make sure that people who score intern or consultant positions are moving through the ranks, and not just stuck there."

Read part one here  

NeighboursNeighbours

Header image: The Secret Life of Us courtesy of Endemol Shine. Starting from NowThe Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.