The 30 Semi-Finalists of the 2020 Rob Guest Endowment Award Jointly Respond to Cancellation
Statement Via the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Last week the Rob Guest Endowment (RGE) committee announced it was cancelling the country’s premier scholarship event for musical theatre talent in 2020 which has been running for past 12 years. This announcement came after vocal public criticism of its continuing lack of cultural diversity in the committee’s selection which was overtly ‘all white’ despite Australia’s vibrant multi-cultural and Indigenous population of talented artists.
The RGE also recently announced they would be changing their future selection criteria to better reflect the diverse nature of Australia’s musical theatre talent by setting minimum targets for both their judging panel and chosen participants. Despite this reflective announcement, the RGE committee was still subject to much criticism of their ‘too late too little’ response to the entrenched subconscious ‘white’ bias demonstrated over the years.
The RGE committee cited concern for the 30 semi-finalists’ mental health due to ‘bullying and intimidation’ as the main reason for the cancellation of this year’s event. Read their full statement here: www.dancelife.com.au/statement-from-rob-guest-endowment-award
The 30 semi-finalists dispute this claim and have released a collective statement refuting they have been subject to bullying as a reason for cancellation. Their joint statement released via the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is:
The former Rob Guest Endowment Semi-Finalists have remained united whilst navigating these past few weeks. As a result, through MEAA, they have issued the following statement:
“We acknowledge the traditional land owners of the Country we live and work on today. We acknowledge Elders past, present and emerging. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal Land.
“We firstly want to make clear and recognise that First Nations and POC (People of Colour) artists have endured significant trauma as a direct result of the various actions and public statements made by the Rob Guest Endowment. We cannot begin to understand the depth at which this continues to trigger and hurt our First Nations and POC friends, colleagues, and the community at large. We can, however, offer our transparency as we move forward in solidarity.
“From the outset we decided to take action and sought advice and education from the Equity Diversity Committee (EDC). This was to ensure that the voices of the First Nations and POC artist community were centred and prioritised in this conversation. We have been generously invited into these discussions to listen and learn. Following said discussions, and through our own volition, we came to the unanimous decision to withdraw from the competition: to prevent our colleagues from further trauma, to de-centre ourselves and to amplify the First Nations and POC voices. The Endowment’s reactive cancellation prevented us from enacting this step in tandem with the EDC.
“We categorically refute any claim or insinuation made by the Endowment, or any others, that the competition had to be cancelled in order to protect us from bullying and/or intimidation from the EDC, or the POC and First Nations members of our industry. We have no interest in perpetuating this harmful antiquated narrative, which serves only to deplatform and erase First Nations and POC peoples and their voices.
“In response to the events leading up to yesterday’s statement, we fervently denounce the actions of the Endowment, including but not limited to; silencing POC and First Nations voices, misrepresenting us and our stance on the matter, and the lack of transparency that has occurred from within the Endowment.
“We believe it is imperative to thank, and damaging to ignore, the immense support provided by the EDC: to thank them for their voluntary, unpaid labour and education throughout this process. It is essential to acknowledge the EDC is composed of vital volunteers, who have spearheaded the necessary changes to create a more accessible and equitable industry, and have done so with patience and grace. We overwhelmingly support the EDC’s Log of Claims presented to the Endowment, and are eager to see conversations continue between them and the EDC. We 30, and as an industry at large, are indebted to their tireless and ongoing work.
“Moving forward, we will be redirecting our energy into celebrating and amplifying the many POC led initiatives that existed long before and those that have been born from this chain of events. All of which are pioneered by the boundless generosity of artists identifying as First Nations and People of Colour within our Arts community.
“In Solidarity, The former Rob Guest Endowment Semi-Finalists 2020″
Read the reply from the Equity Diversity Committee here: www.meaa.org/mediaroom/edc-statement
The Rob Guest Endowment committee has yet to reply.