Last night, esteemed actress and former Playschool entertainer Noni Hazlehurst, became the second woman to be inducted into the Logie's Hall of Fame in the 32 years that it has existed.
She used her ensuing acceptance speech make a scathing criticism of the glacial pace at which diversity – not just gender diversity but also cultural - is improving, as she addressed a range of issues in the Australian television industry.
“The fact that I'm only the second woman to be given this honour is merely a reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist,” Hazlehurst, 62, stated, “As is the odious suggestion in some quarters that the eligibility of our esteemed colleagues, Waleed Aly and Lee Lin Chin, to be considered for the gold is questionable."
“But things are clearly changing, here we are. But they are changing glacially slowly. The great thing about glaciers though is that if you’re not on them you go under. I've been riding that glacier for 40 years and I'm staying on top of it.”
Her politically charged words were met with a standing ovation by the live audience and an equally warm response on social media.
Hazlehurst, who follows the late Ruth Cracknell after she was inducted back in 2001, also made a passing remark on ageism, and after the lengthy applause that welcomed her on stage said, “Oh that was interminable, I was nearly too old to play myself.”
Ageism has long been an issue of heated discussion in Hollywood with a recent example being the uproar that ensued following the revelation that Olivia Wilde had been deemed “too old” to play Leonardo Di Caprio’s love interest in The Wolf of Wall Street despite being nine years his junior.
While diversity and feminism were clearly addressed, the overarching argument Hazlehurst favoured in her speech was her belief that the current television landscape is encouraging a growing lack of human empathy.
She argued that the overwhelming imbalance of “bad” versus “good” news in today’s society and its inescapable nature is promoting a culture devoid of empathy and human kindness that is breeding mental illness.
“I was disturbed this week that a misty eyed response to a particularly frightful human story in the news was deemed inappropriate and we were extorted not to feel, not to have empathy, not to love,” she began.
“Most of us find the bombardment [of negative news events] overwhelming. I suspect almost none of us here is immune from the growing incidents of depression, anxiety and suicide.
“We’re all living under a heavy and constant cloud of negativity. We’re divided against each other, we find it hard to trust, and we’re fearful of the future and I think it’s because we’re surrounded by bad news and examples of our basest human behaviour. I fear that our hearts are growing cold.”
Drawing on her experience as a children’s entertainer on Playschool she said, “For many decades Playschool has been an icon, an oasis and a safe haven for small children in an increasingly complex media landscape and world.
“I started to see the world through the preschooler’s eyes to see how free and unafraid they are to just be. They haven’t yet been conditioned. But also how easily frightened and overwhelmed they are, how easily abused, and particularly how empathetic they are. No child is born a bigot.”
Hazlehurst finished by proposing greater balance, saying, "I'd love a channel that features nothing but stories that inspire us and reassure us and our children that there are good things happening and good people in the world."
"I know it's a lot to ask for. But at the very least a show that tries to redress this overwhelming imbalance that counters bad news with good that encourages optimism not pessimism that restores our empathy and love for our fellow human beings and the earth that redefines reality that heals our hearts."