Australia

Adut Akech says 'racist' photo mix-up should be a wake-up call for Australia

0:00

Adut Akech believes 'change needs to happen' after the WHO magazine incident.

South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech has labelled the WHO magazine photo mix-up as "racist" and said the error should start a broader conversation in Australia.

Last week, WHO published an article on internationally-renowned Akech which saw her image replaced with that of Ugandan-Australian model Flavia Lazarus.

International model Model Adut Akech is this year's Melbourne international 2019 Ambassador for Melbourne Fashion Week.
International model Model Adut Akech is this year's Melbourne international 2019 Ambassador for Melbourne Fashion Week.
AAP

"I don't think it was intentional but it is racist because it's telling me that every single black model looks the same. That's the kind of message I'm getting from it," the 19-year-old said on Tuesday.

"And that is racist because we don't all look the same."

The incorrect photo was supplied by the opr agency, who was contracted by Melbourne City Council for Melbourne Fashion Week.

WHO magazine, opr and Melbourne Fashion Week have all issued apologies.

Adut Akech said on Tuesday the mix-up was 'racist'.
Adut Akech said on Tuesday the mix-up was 'racist'.
ABC News

But Akech said incidents like this are common in Australia and not called out as often as in other countries.

"Australia has the most work to do, [at least] in the Australian fashion industry as that's what I'm exposed to."

"It's not the first time this has happened to me. I'll get called by the name of another model, and another model gets called my name."

She said that "change needs to happen," especially in Australia.

"I feel like [now] I have to speak up about this. It's bigger than me. There's a conversation that needs to happen about real change that needs to take place to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Ugandan-Australian model Flavia Lazarus, who was incorrectly pictured as Adut Akech.
Ugandan-Australian model Flavia Lazarus, who was incorrectly pictured as Adut Akech.
Instagram/flavialazarus_

Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp joined Akech on Tuesday to discuss the fallout.

"It's so important we stand with Adut and say things need to change," Ms Capp said.

"I think we've become better in Australia at calling out blatant discrimination and racism. But the fact is, in our communities this is happening every day."

"People may say it's a mistake or may say it's careless or be blasé about it [but] this is unacceptable."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch