Arts

‘We feel unsafe’: HMAS Supply dancers condemn media coverage

Source: Twitter

Dancers that performed at the commissioning of the HMAS Supply warship say they now “feel unsafe” after the ABC broadcast footage that the group says misrepresented their performance.

The 101 Doll Squadron has issued a statement to The Feed claiming its members feel “unsafe” and have been “under personal attack on all media platforms” since performing at the commissioning of the HMAS Supply over the weekend.

The group said it was disappointed with what they claim is the ABC’s “deceptive editing of their video piece which cut to guests and dignitaries who were not in attendance.” 

“We found this very creepy,” the group said. It described the ABC’s coverage as “their need to sexualise these women.”

“These are the images appearing in the media and the ABC have a lot to answer for in making us feel threatened and exploited.”

The group, consisting of seven women of colour, performed a Jamaican-style dance routine that was criticised by some as inappropriate.

In the wake of the performance, Liberal backbencher and Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson called the ADF “too woke”, and argued it had lurched “too far to the left.”

The Australian Defence Force told The Feed yesterday that the "HMAS Supply engaged with the local community of Woolloomooloo – one of her home ports – to build positive relationships.”

It also backed up the group’s claim that “the dance was performed prior to the commencement of the Commissioning formalities and prior to the arrival of His Excellency the Governor-General, Chief of Navy and Commander Australian Fleet.”

The ABC has issued a statement acknowledging that an early version of the story included cutaways of footage of the Governor-General alongside shots of the performance. 

“This was incorrect. While the Chief of Defence was present, the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy in fact arrived after the performance,” the network said.

“Our reporting team initially believed they were present both because they were shown in footage of the event and because a Government MP had said that they were present." 

The ABC said the video should not have been edited in that way and apologised to the “Governor-General and the Chief of Navy, and to viewers, for this error.”

The ABC confirmed that after the Defence Department confirmed the Governor-General and Chief of Navy had arrived at the event after the performance, the reporting was amended. 

“The report that went to air on the 7pm News bulletin on Wednesday night did not include the footage. The online story has also been updated to make this clear,” the spokesperson said.

“The ABC’s footage of the dance performance was shot in a standard manner,  from the same position as other parts of the ceremony.”

The Feed has been advised by someone with direct knowledge of the situation that the group was asked to perform a traditional dance, as far as they knew.

“With indigenous and multi-racial members from a community based dance group, the dance itself was made up of choreographic and musical elements that included referencing blessings, the waves of the ocean and our geographical location of where the fresh water meets the sea, to name a few,” the group’s statement read.

“It was meant to bring an informal sense of celebration; a gift from one of our community groups to open a modern ship, with a modern dance form. A short piece taken out of context in what was a very long day performed before the official ceremony and before the arrival of dignitaries and not part of it.”

“It was in no way meant to be disrespectful and we are hurt and disappointed it has been misconstrued to appear that way.”

The group emphasised that it performs regularly at festivals, cultural, and community events including The Woolloomoolivin’ Festival and NAIDOC locally.

The members added that they have never previously been the target of abuse or complaints. 

“This performance was one small part of a longer term partnering with the Navy and our community for pathway opportunities and ongoing programs, including a recent community BBQ and basketball tournament between Supply crew and local youth,” the group said.

“This was very successful with community members looking forward to, and eagerly awaiting the next one. Members on the ship and their Captain are lovely genuine people whom we also believe have been unfairly targeted.” 

“We feel for them as they were trying to reach out to the community and had nothing but good intentions. A community which is part of their base.”

The group advised it would make no further statement and asked the media to respect its privacy as it has been made “fearful” by an influx of media attention, “harassment and ongoing abuse.”