• Contestants on Australia's premiere of The Bachelorette will compete for the attention of Sam Frost. (Photo/Endemol Shine Australia) (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Comment | This is exactly one of the reasons why we need television stations such as NITV.
By
Andrea Booth

10 Sep 2015 - 9:21 AM  UPDATED 23 Sep 2015 - 3:35 PM

Race is not a criteria for selecting contestants on The Bachelorette, the reality dating television show's producer told NITV. 

The result? Pictures like the one above, a blindingly white line-up of male contestants. 

"Race is not a contributing factor to our selection criteria, all eligible bachelors are considered regardless of their background," a spokesperson from producer Endemol Shine Australia told NITV via Ten Network.

But the impact of these types of images and the perceptions of "beauty, and who and what is valuable" that they engender, can be profound.

For a senior programmer at NITV, this is what prompted her to seek work in television in the first place. 

Anusha Duray, who was born on Bunjalung Nation in northern NSW, said she joined the channel because she did not see her or her family and friends' experiences reflected on Australian television screens.

"I grew up never seeing anyone who looked like me on TV or film," said Ms Duray. "It had a huge impact on my concept of beauty, and who and what is valuable"

"I chose to work in the film and television industry as I grew up never seeing anyone who looked like me on TV or film," said Ms Duray. "It had a huge impact on my concept of beauty, and who and what is valuable, I wanted it to be different for the other generations."

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The program, which will be broadcast nationwide in September, has been criticised in an op-ed published by Guardian Australia for its homogenous casting in a country with an ethnically diverse Indigenous and migrant background.

The majority of Australia’s overseas-born population comes from United Kingdom (5.2 percent), New Zealand at (2.6 percent), China (1.9 percent), India (1.7 percent) and Italy (1 percent), the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows. Australians born in Vietnam, Italy, South Africa, Malaysia and Germany make up about 4 percent of the population.

The majority of Australians' ancestries belong to the UK (36 percent), however, 4 percent comes from China and 2 percent from India. The main language spoken at home is English (81 percent) but 1.7 percent spoke Mandarin, 1.5 percent Italian and 1.4 percent Arabic, 2011 ABS data says.

There are more than 300 cultural groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who make up 3 percent of Australia’s current 23 million population. The number of Indigenous identified is expected to grow in the coming years with the average age for the Indigenous population considerably younger (21.8) than the non-Indigenous population (37.6 years), as of 2011.

An Endemol and Ten Network spokesperson did not answer NITV when asked if bachelorette Samantha Frost or the production company selected the male suitors.

Ms Frost vied for the heart of Blake Garvey, whose father is African American, in the 2014 series of The Bachelor.

The upcoming broadcast of the dating reality show comes after proud Larrakia and Tiwi actress Miranda Tapsell made a passionate call for more racial diversity in Australia’s media landscape during her acceptance speech for "Most Popular New Talent" earlier in 2015.

The public and industry alike responded through social media with applaud.

Does race and culture determine romantic compatibility?

When asked if differences in race and culture could prevent romantic compatibility, sociologist Dr Helen Pringle from the UNSW School of Social Sciences said she disagreed.

From a historical perspective, while Australia has perpetuated racist agendas, such as the government's assimilation policies of the 1960s, they did not prevent intermarriage, Ms Pringle told NITV, noting that many Aboriginal people had married with those from the country's neighbours such as China.

The trend of intermarriage continues, she added.

"People are enchanted by cultural differences" 

"Australia has very high rates of intermarriage between both white men and white women with non-white men and non-white men," she said. "So I think [the producers are] being a little bit disingenuous here."

2006 census figures shows in some groups such as those with Greek, Chinese or Lebanese ancestry, first generation inter-partnering rates were at about 10 per cent with more than 30 per cent in the second generation and jumping up to 60 percent in the third generation.

Fifty-two percent of Aboriginal men and 55 percent of Aboriginal women had non-Aboriginal partners, according to 2006 census data.

"One of the things that breaks down racism is love across the racial barrier," she said.

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In fact, cultural differences could be a point of attraction.

"People are enchanted by cultural differences," she said. "A lot of women I know will sort of say they want people who are different from them because they don't want somebody who they are.

"They want somebody who they can learn something from, and by learning, you find out new things about the world, new ways of living in the world."

Ms Pringle pointed out that relationships were conducive to difference because of the fluid nature of people. "Identity isn't fixed," she said. "People do change and modify their beliefs. When they get into the relationship it brings out different things in them."

Follow Andrea on Twitter @andreasbooth