Children’s TV shows like MaveriX, Crazy Fun Park, First Day and Hardball have all cleverly embedded diversity into their storylines and casting, but not every show should be expected to ‘tick every box’ according to Jenny Buckland, CEO of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.
“I think it’s been the probably been the biggest change in children’s content in 10 or 15 years. Diversity is absolutely expected now. If you look at like the cast in Crazy Fun Park and shows like Hardball they are shows that just absolutely do it.
“The reason I passionately believe you need heaps of children’s shows is that what you don’t want to do with diversity is have some kind of tick-the-box exercise where every single show has to tick every single box.”
In recent times even Bluey was criticised for a lack of diversity -but Buckland believes representation and visibility comes from quantity as much as quality.
“Bluey does what Bluey does really, really well and it should be for another show to represent remote Australia like Little J & Big Cuz did, or another show to be set in a Housing Commission in Fitzroy, as opposed to the beautiful suburbs of Brisbane.
“You need lots of shows to have all diversity and be able to represent disability and LBGTQi issues.”
One of ACTF’s successes has been First Day in which transgender actor Evie Macdonald portrayed 12 year old transgender student Hannah Bradford. The show won at the International Emmy Kids Awards, Rose d’Or Awards, Banff World Media Festival Rockie Awards, GLAAD Media Awards and MIPCOM Diversity Awards.
“But in another show, maybe the transgender child just should be there as part of the cast and one of the characters,” she suggests.
“You want to make sure you cover (Diversity) in all sorts of ways. I think Children’s Television is actually doing fairly well in those kinds of ways but you can always do better.”
Buckland also says Australian accents are expected in projects ACTF invests in.
“At ACTF we think that’s really important. I know that’s a contentious issue for children’s producers in the world of co-productions,” she continues.
“If we invest in something we do expect the voices to be Australian. Obviously, there’s any number of ways to be Australian now. It doesn’t have to be strine but we expect them to sound Australian.
“If it’s a really international co-production, they often won’t need our funding anyway, and distribution will be managed elsewhere.
“Our focus is on the Australian content for Australian audiences. Then if it goes well overseas, that’s a bonus.”
Buckland believes, parents and families are looking for Australian voices in Australian content in shows like Bluey, Little Lunch, Little J and Big Cuz .
“People who are across those shows what they love about them is their Australianness and their relatability. Increasingly, those shows will sell well overseas because the one great thing the streamers have done is encourage everybody to watch shows that are unique to their place,” she continues.
“I think the market has changed a bit from doing shows that were pulling together a bit from here and a bit from there and making it happen. It’s not about the business case so much anymore. It’s about story.”