The lack of diversity in Australia's modelling industry has been a topic of debate for many years and now a new magazine is hoping to change the way women from diverse backgrounds are represented in the media.
By
Santilla Chingaipe

3 Oct 2014 - 7:54 PM  UPDATED 3 Oct 2014 - 9:01 PM

Former model Sasha Sarago - who identifies herself as Indigenous and African American - started modelling as a child.

But she quit the industry a few years ago because she says there were a lack of opportunities for models from diverse backgrounds.
 
"When you look at the Australian fashion industry, there's a breakdown of 1100 models. With that breakdown, there's 16 Chinese models and 7 Indigenous (models)," she told SBS.

"Now that's very minimal to say the least."

Ms Sarago has now gone on to create a new magazine aimed at representing women from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Ascension Magazine is being touted as Australia's first-ever magazine for Indigenous, migrant and refugee women.

Founder Sasha Sarago says many women don't feel represented by the industry.
 
"At the moment a lot of women feel invisible because they don't have that representation back. It's about feeling connected and having an identity that they can flourish in," she says.

"When you don't have the representation, you're forced to look at certain imagery and identify, with things that don't represent you."

"It's really about bringing the power back to the woman and speaking the truth and embracing who they are as a person as well as their cultural identity."

South Sudanese-Australian Ajak Deng is a successful international model, walking the catwalks of Paris and appearing in the pages of high-end international magazines.

But while she said she's highly sought after overseas, she struggles to find work back in Australia.
 
"To be honest, it's kind of heartbreaking," she says. 'When I come home and I don't even have two pages of an editorial [magazine shoot], and I don't even have a catalogue to shoot - nothing."

"It's like I don't exist here whatsoever."

Faro Musodza, a Zimbabwean Australian model, agrees and said there's an issue of colourism in the Australian fashion industry, where some casting agents have an set idea of what kind of model they want - based on skin colour or race.
 
"The issue of colourism, where if you are fairer skinned you're most likely to get the job because you fit the description of being light in complexion. And then when it comes to being dark, you have to be really dark - as in Sudanese dark. And so I'm a mix of Sudanese and a fairer-skinned girl."
 
Jirra Lulla Harvey is one of the contributors to Ascension Magazine and says it’s important for Aboriginal women to have a safe space to have meaningful conversation.
 
“It's incredibly important for our young women in terms of safe esteem, positive role modelling," she says.

"So much discussion about Aboriginality is kind of based on rhetoric of disadvantage and while we do need to talk about the inequalities in this country, it's equally as important that our young ones have media content that inspires them and it's important for wider Australia to start being exposed to the complexities of our contemporary identity as Aboriginal women and to be welcomed into that discussion through a magazine that's engaging and visually exciting."
 
It's not just women that feel left out. Jake Gordon is one of a few Indigenous male models in the country.
 
Although he concedes that Australia has a way to go in its representation of diversity, he says there is progress being made.
 
"We need to really understand that Australia is quite a small place. The average girl going to the store is going to buy Cleo, she's going to buy Vogue, because that's the magazine she knows," he says. "That's the magazine she's grown up with."
 
Sasha Sarago agrees.
 
"It makes me feel really proud that Australian society is moving forward, about going we are rich and diverse and we're very unique as a nation and we need to start celebrating that."
 
Ascension Magazine is expected to hit digital newsstands later this month.