About

Cultural Representation Pledge

4 November 2020
 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF COUNTRY

Sydney Theatre Company acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the traditional custodians of Australia. STC acknowledges the Gadigal and Bidjigal Peoples of the Eora Nation as the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, and we pay our respects to their Elders past and present. We are honoured to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, who continue an over sixty thousand year old storytelling tradition and carry forward the oldest living culture in the world.

CONTEXT: THE PEOPLE OF SYDNEY

When articulating the vision for Sydney Theatre Company, founding Artistic Director Richard Wherrett said “Sydney Theatre Company exists to provide first-class theatrical entertainment for the people of Sydney – theatre that is grand, vulgar, intelligent, challenging and fun. That entertainment should reflect the society in which we live, providing a point of focus, a frame of reference by which we come to understand our place in the world as individuals, as a community and as a nation.” In this statement Wherrett laid out a bold, ambitious and inspiring blueprint for STC, one that would allow us to contribute to a millennia old tradition of live storytelling through which new ideas are raised, explored, debated, and normalised, contributing to positive social change and much needed social cohesion.

In the four decades since Wherrett first set STC on its path much has changed. While STC’s commitment to “the people of Sydney” has never wavered, the company has grown to recognise it can do more to represent the lives and stories of First Nations Australians and our culturally and linguistically diverse communities. In 2020 more than one in four Sydneysiders come from non-European/non-Anglo Celtic backgrounds, one in ten of us are from a Chinese background, 38.2% of us speak a language other than English at home, and Sydney is proud to have the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of any city in Australia – about 10% of Australia’s total First Nations population.1 Our extraordinary cultural diversity is one of the best things about our city, and our company should reflect it.

As STC moves into its fifth decade of existence, we want STC to be a truly equitable and inclusive place. We know the stories we share, and the storytellers we offer a platform to, can help to shift our culture in a positive direction, and we want our stages to be a place that represents the many beautiful cultures of our city and beyond. Indeed, we believe it is vital that STC reflects our city not only on our stages but also backstage, in our rehearsal rooms, auditoria, foyers, board rooms, and offices. Outlined below are the commitments we are making as a company to work towards this.

ANTI-RACISM COMMITMENT

Sydney Theatre Company stands against racism in all its forms. We recognise that many groups in our society have faced and continue to face racial discrimination, and we commit to playing our part in combating this. We intend to do so by identifying the systemic barriers that exist within our industry and by working to remove them. STC acknowledges in particular the systemic racism faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in our society and industry. STC has established an Equity and Inclusion Action Committee to spearhead and address this commitment across all levels of the company. This cross-departmental committee will drive the application of an anti-racism lens on all strategic and operational decision making, evolving and building upon the work enacted by STC’s Community Commitment Plan since its establishment in 2014.

EDUCATION, TRAINING & POLICIES

STC believes in the importance of providing ongoing training and education to our people to better equip them to create effective anti-racist change. We welcome the launch of Diversity Arts Australia and the British Council’s Creative Equity Toolkit and look forward to taking action in accordance with its principles to create an anti-racist workplace for all employees. With this in mind, we commit to annual cultural competency training across our organisation. This training will be led and/or endorsed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other appropriate organisations. We commit to undertaking a review of our policies, training materials and codes of conduct in consultation with key bodies representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and diverse cultural perspectives/views to ensure our workplace operates in a culturally safe, supportive and respectful manner for all. Further, we commit to our anti-racist values being incorporated in induction training for freelancers. We have already reassessed our free Employee Assistance Program and have changed to a provider that offers access to First Nations counsellors.

PATHWAYS, DEVELOPMENT, EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY & LEADERSHIP

We acknowledge the need for better representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people in the leadership and management of our company and we commit to promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD employees into future leadership positions.

STC recognises the value of cultural competency and diversity of viewpoints and experience at all levels of our organisation, including its board. The STC Board has reviewed its membership in this context and is committed to improving cultural diversity with upcoming appointments. We commit to establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group for STC. The group will advise the company on how to build on its current Community Commitment Plan, ensuring that STC is doing all it can to promote and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and people working with us. We commit to increasing the cultural diversity of our staff, including committing to training opportunities in our production department for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and CALD people. We commit to the continuation of our relationship with CareerTrackers, a program we have partnered with since 2015 that offers work placement and experience for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. We will actively strive to follow EEO (equal employment opportunities) principles when making all recruitment decisions, including where roles can be filled from within the organisation, and to ensure that we publicly encourage people from First Nations and CALD backgrounds to apply for roles at STC. We believe there is more the industry can do in terms of creating career pathways for First Nations and CALD people and we commit to investigating further ways we can play our part in leading collaborations between employers, training institutions and industry bodies in order to achieve this.

PLAYWRITING & DRAMATURGY

We recognise that, historically, the Western Canon has been the dominant and often sole influence on our process of developing new work, and that moving forward it should be just one of many influences on our dramaturgy. We have begun to undertake research to critically assess, revise and expand our processes in the development of new work, with the aim to ensure all writers’ creative processes are served by STC. We will share the information we gather in this area freely with other companies and freelance artists. We will actively work to promote new Australian plays by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and CALD writers to other companies, both nationally and internationally, to cement their place in the Australian Canon. We commit to deepening both our own and our audience’s knowledge of international works written by non-Anglo-Celtic and non-European writers. We will draw on the work done by members of our industry to develop a canonical list of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, other First Nations Peoples and CALD authors and ensure that the company library is stocked with these works. We commit to expand our efforts to employ and upskill dramaturgs from CALD backgrounds, with an aim to offer similar support and development to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander dramaturgs.

PLAY PROGRAMMING COMMITMENTS

STC is committed to sharing stories that reflect the full cultural diversity of Australia and we recognise the hunger and enthusiasm amongst audiences for these narratives. We reassert our commitment to programming work written and created by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and CALD writers. Since 2018, 17.9% of STC’s program has been written by either Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander or CALD writers. We commit to increasing this figure to 25% from 2021 onwards. This quota will be assessed on a three year average. We aim to increase this quota in line with population figures from 2024 onwards. Further, we acknowledge our particular responsibility as an Australian theatre company to create space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories to be told on our stages by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and we commit to including at least one play written by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander writer annually. As a company that often programs work from the Western Canon, we acknowledge our particular responsibility to critique and redress any offensive representation of any cultural group in these texts.

ARTIST EMPLOYMENT & DEVELOPMENT

We will introduce quotas to ensure the makeup of artists working at STC, both on and off the stage, is reflective and representative of Sydney and Australia. We commit to 30% of our directors being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples or CALD from 2022. We commit to 30% of our actors being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples or CALD from 2021. We note that in 2018 and 2019 we exceeded this quota. We believe that significant work needs to be done to develop and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD designers. With this aim in mind, we are developing the Design Associate Program, an annual Resident Artists program for a group of designers. The program will be open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD set, costume, lighting and sound designers and composers, as well as people from other creative fields interested in transitioning into theatre work. Candidates will undertake paid 12 month residencies that include assistant positions on main stage productions, mentoring from industry professionals, masterclasses and more. The aim is for these designers to become integrated members of the company’s artistic cohort. In tandem with this program, we commit to 20% of designers working at STC being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD from 2023, and 30% by 2025. We look forward to announcing details of the DAP in due course. Further, we commit to 50% of our Assistant Director positions being taken up by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and CALD directors. We commit to these quotas being our minimum commitment. All quotas will be publicly reported on and assessed on a calendar year basis.

We recommit to proactive inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and CALD artists in all Resident Artist positions at STC, and we look to build on the success of our ongoing partnership with Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (CAAP). We will ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD artists are empowered within the company and the creative processes they engage in at STC. We will ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and CALD artists are supported to make the work that they want to make without the pressure of representation.

AUDIENCE

We recognise our responsibility to make STC a safe and welcoming place for all people, and we continue our commitment to reviewing and exploring further ways we can achieve this. This commitment includes community outreach initiatives and a continued commitment to our spaces and events visually and verbally acknowledging Country. We are committed to holding community performances of our work that is directed and/or written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists with the aim to do our part in building a theatre-going community that centres and elevates the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. STC has a commitment to audiences in Greater Sydney, as reflected in our partnerships with Riverside Theatres and our recent partnership with National Theatre of Parramatta. We are committed to furthering these and other relationships to ensure our work can be experienced by as many people in Sydney as possible. We are also excited by the access opportunities that our COVID lockdown initiative, Sydney Theatre Company Virtual, has brought to the fore. We look forward to continuing to make our work more accessible to new audiences through online streaming and other virtual content.

EDUCATION

Sydney Theatre Company’s Education and Communities Department operates across a number of platforms and programs, all of which are committed to promoting equity and inclusion. We are committed to continuing, expanding, and evolving these programs, which are: School Drama, Connected, Student Learning and Schools Days.

We reassert our commitment to delivering Education & Communities programs to and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and CALD people. STC commits to continuing to prioritise and subsidise the delivery of School Drama to schools with high proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and English as an Additional Language and/or Dialect (EAL/D) students, including juvenile justice centres. STC commits to continuing to provide targeted professional development for our Teaching Artists, including cultural competency in the classroom and inclusive teaching practices. STC will continue to proactively encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD Teaching Artists. STC commits to continuing to deliver our Connected program, reaching CALD people, including those from refugee backgrounds, across Sydney. We will continue to actively encourage and prioritise applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and CALD students for student learning programs. We commit to continuing to provide access to our productions through subsidised tickets through our Schools Days program to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander peoples and CALD students can attend live theatre of vision and scale.

REPORTING AND FUTURE

We will be reporting on our progress with these commitments in our annual reports and publishing this information on our website. We will also share this information with other companies in our industry. The conversation around equity and inclusion is an evolving one, and we remain open to change as we move forward. With the work we are doing to create a Sydney Theatre Company that represents the cultural diversity of our city, we also express our intent to investigate further steps we can take to create a more equitable company for people living with disability, the LGBTQI+ community, and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as well as actions we can take to build on our existing gender equity strategy.

 

1 These figures were drawn from the 2016 Australian Census, available here:
https://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/