JUST five per cent of lead characters on Australian television identify as LGBTI despite the group being estimated to make up 11 per cent of the population, a Screen Australia study has revealed.
The study marked the most significant look at diversity on Australian screens since television began in the fifties, and analysed 199 dramas that aired between 2011 and 2015.
“The 1,961 main and recurring characters across all 199 dramas in the five year period were analysed by identifiable cultural background, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” she said.
The study period included shows where a character’s sexual or gender identity were central to the plot like Please Like Me and Carlotta.
However, it was also common for dramas to include characters whose diverse orientation was incidental like Offspring, House Husbands, and Neighbours.
Although the signs of authentic representation were welcomed, the volume of characters found in the study was underwhelming.
Screen Australia chief executive Graeme Mason believes it’s important that diversity on Australian television is genuine across the board.
“With 94 per cent of Australians watching TV regularly, the need for greater diversity is essential,” he said.
“We don’t want tokenism, but we don’t want inaction either.
“Now we have the numbers, we need to work out a path towards diversity on screens together that is genuine, lasting, and both creatively and commercially fulfilling.”
The study also found that 18 per cent of main characters in the period were from non-Anglo Celtic backgrounds, compared to 32 per cent of the population.
The study, Seeing Ourselves: Reflections on Diversity in Australian TV Drama, is available to read at Screen Australia.