Australia

Aboriginal actors detail experiences of racism on Neighbours set, describing it as a ‘culturally unsafe place’

Left: Actor Shareena Clanton at a NAIDOC week march. Right: Actor Meyne Wyatt. The two Aboriginal actors have alleged racism on the Neighbours set. Source: AAP

Actors Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt have alleged multiple instances of racial slurs being used on set, as well as sexist and homophobic comments.

Aboriginal actors Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt have alleged they experienced racism while working on the long-running Australian television soap Neighbours.

Wongatha, Yamatji, Noongar and Gitja woman Clanton, who played a guest role as Sheila Canning on Neighbours this year, first posted the allegations to social media on Tuesday, detailing the use of slurs and racism “disguised as ‘jokes’” on set. 

She claimed that “overt and covert levels of racism were rife” behind the scenes, which left her traumatised.

Without naming anyone, Clanton said she heard “n-----” being used twice in the green room, while another actor laughed. She also alleged that an actor openly called another actor of colour a “lil’ monkey”.

When calling out the behaviour she alleged she was told to “go somewhere else” because she was making other people uncomfortable. 

“The retaliation for calling out this misconduct and racism often left me ostracised and further marginalised,” the actor, who is best known for her role as Doreen Anderson on Wentworth, wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s been lonely, triggering and traumatising to work in such a culturally unsafe space.”

She also detailed an alleged incident where a senior staff member openly laughed at the phrase “c-- s--t” when it was used by another actor and another incident when a senior staff member used the term “slave driver” to describe working hard.

In a follow-up post, Clanton said she had documentation and evidence of reporting the incidents to Fremantle Media, the production company behind the soap, who she accused of failing to adequately address the allegations. 

After Clanton’s post, Wongutha-Yamatji actor Wyatt alleged he also experienced racism on set while working as a series regular between 2014 and 2016.

He said the incident involved the use of the “c---” slur, which he called out.

“It didn’t happen around me again. Though I did walk in on this incident? So I have no doubt things were being said behind my back,” he said on Twitter.

“It is disappointing but not at all surprising to hear that five years later racism continues to be present in that workplace. But what can you say, we are in Australia.”

Wyatt, who was the first Indigenous Australian to win an Archibald Prize last year, also alleged “rampant” homophobia on set, which he said “made for a very unsafe environment for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community”.

“To the production companies, to the networks: do better, be better. You can always do better. The work is not finished. Even when you think you have, just know you haven’t. Because you haven’t,” he said.

In a statement to NITV, a spokesperson said Neighbours aimed to be a "platform for diversity and inclusion".

“Neighbours strives to be a platform for diversity and inclusion on-screen and off-screen. Our quest is always to continue to grow and develop in this area and we acknowledge that this is an evolving process," the statement said.

"Shareena’s involvement in the creative process and on set was invaluable and hugely educational and will benefit the series moving forward.

"There have been significant and lengthy discussions with Shareena during her time on Neighbours and we will continue to work with all cast and crew to ensure Neighbours continues to be a fully inclusive environment.”

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