Neighbours has found itself at centre of race storm – here’s everything you need to know

Sinead Butler
Wednesday 14 April 2021 14:56
Showbiz

Shareena Clanton was the first actor to speak out about experiencing racism on the set of Neighbours.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for the ASTRA Awards))

Popular Australian TV soapNeighbours has found itself at the centre of a race storm after multiple former cast members came forward to describe experiences of racism on set.

The production company behind the soap are now investigating the claims.

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happened so far.

How did the allegations come about?

It began when two Aboriginal-Australian TV stars alleged they witnessed racist incidents while working on the show.

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In an Instagram post on April 5, Shareena Clanton said she was “navigating ongoing counselling from this highly problematic show.”

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

Clanton - who is best known for her role in Australian drama, Wentworth - was hired to play a character named Sheila in upcoming episodes of Neighbours.

Just a day later, former Neighbours actor Meyne Wyatt, who played Nate Kinski, said in a tweet he also had experienced racism on set during his time on the show.

Wyatt was a series regular on the show between 2014 to 2016 and was the first Indigenous actor to be on the main cast of the show in the show’s 30 year history.

What exact allegations were made?

Although she did not include specific names to avoid any lawsuit or defamation case, Clanton provided a detailed account in several bullet points about some of the racist incidents she witnessed.

These allegations included that “overt and covert levels of racism were rife” on set and cited several alleged examples of white actors using racist slurs, including two instances where she claimed the “n-word” was openly used.

When she confronted an actor who had used the slur, she alleges that she was told by staff to “go somewhere else” because she was making others “uncomfortable.”

“The retaliation for calling out this misconduct and racism often left me ostracised and further marginalised.”

“I will never work for this show again,” Clanton wrote.

Similarly, Wyatt recounts a specific instance of racism. In his thread, he said he walked in on someone using a racist insult, “called it out and it didn’t happen around me again”.

Has anyone else spoken out?

The latest actor to speak out is Sharon Johal, one of Neighbours’ longstanding cast members.

She claims she endured “direct, indirect and casual racism” on set, including racial slurs and mockery, saying the past four years starring in the show were “painful and problematic”.

Johal left the show last month after playing the main character of Dipi Rebecchi on the show since April 2017.

In the detailed 1,500 word statement published to her website on April 14, she alleges she was repeatedly referred to as one of “you people” by another cast member when they referenced people of Indian descent.

She also alleges a crew member alerted her and her husband to the fact one cast member was repeatedly referring to her on set as “the black one” behind her back.

Johal detailed another claim that a former cast member (non-POC) compared her to a bobble-head toy saying “oh it’s like you guys” (referring to Indians).

“The same cast member repeatedly mimicked the Indian character Apu from the Simpsons with accompanying Indian accent and movement of head in my presence, despite me requesting they desist.”

She added: “I was not supported by other cast members in these distressing moments.”

Another former Neighbours actor, Nicola Charles has claimed two of her cast mates once tried to get her deported back to the UK.

Charles, had two stints on the soap in the 1990s and 2010s as Sarah Beaumont, made the claim in her forthcoming memoir, ‘Soap Star’, which has been previewed in The Herald Sun.

She does not name the two cast members in question but alleges she was targeted for “taking a job from an Australian”.

How has Neighbours responded?

As a result of the claims, the production company behind the show has launched an independent review into the allegations of racism.

Fremantle Media, which produces the soap, said it does not tolerate discrimination.

“Fremantle is committed to providing an environment where employees and others in the workplace are treated fairly and with respect, and are free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying,” Fremantle said.

“We do not tolerate behaviour that does not align to our Anti-Discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), Harassment and Bullying Policy and take all complaints very seriously, investigating all allegations fairly and thoroughly.”

They added: “We have asked Campfire X, creative leaders in Indigenous Cultural Protocols, to conduct an independent review of Neighbours and the production process.”

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