Part two of a two part series examining the lack of diversity in Australian media. Part one can be found here.
It wouldn’t be fair to state that there are no recurring, positive portrayals of Asians in Australian mainstream media today. Reality cooking competition television program Masterchef Australia often features a diverse cast (albeit most of them are of Anglo-Saxon descent), incorporating contestants of Asian background in many of its seasons. Chinese-Australian Poh Ling Yeow appeared in almost all episodes of the first season and finished runner-up. She was also extremely outspoken about her hybrid methods of Asian cooking on the program, defying the stereotype that individuals of Asian descent are timid and submissive. Similarly, Adam Liaw was a prominent Chinese-Australian contestant on the program and won the second season.
Half-Japanese Australian Yumi Stynes is one of the very few of Asian background who has emphatically made their mark across several Australian mainstream media outlets. Stynes has notably been a VJ for Channel V Australia, co-hosted a national breakfast television program and presented a number of national radio shows. Hence, there are definitely Asian media personalities amidst the sea of Caucasian faces in Australian mainstream media.
However, the sheer presence of Asians in Australian media does not necessarily encourage Anglo-Saxon and non-Asian audiences to understand and appreciate Asian cultures and values so as to learn to get along with them. As per Masterchef Australia and the McDonalds Australia Day campaign, many Asians are often depicted briefly and cast alongside a large number of Caucasians on Australian television programs, radio shows or advertisements. In a sense, this perpetuates the notion that Australia is a “diverse white nation with white ideologies”. That is, the representation of Asians in the media is strategically constructed and seemingly functions as a deliberate means to briefly, just briefly, showcase Australia’s multicultural side.
The importance of Asian faces in Australian media
The representation of intimate, individual Asian-Australian perspectives that are every part of Australian society is considerably lacking in the media. “Asian” is a broad term. An “Asian person” can be someone who is of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Hmong etc. descent. Each “Asian ethnicity” is different and this is something that Australian mainstream media does not seem to recognise enough.
It is important to have Asian faces in Australian media for a number of reasons. Firstly, the presence of confident, eloquent Asian-Australian personalities or characters in the media can function as role models for many young Asian-Australians growing up in Australia – this group will then have individuals of their own race to look up to and attain the sense that Asians rightfully belong in Australian society. Secondly, it allows Asian perspectives and voices to be articulated to the wider public, stimulating in-depth discussion about multiculturalism and encouraging one another to understand different cultures within Australia. Also, Asian faces in the media will indeed provide a clearer and more accurate depiction of Australia as a diverse nation.
The Conversation has mentioned that the process of overcoming the lack of diversity and equality in terms of representation in Australian media needs to be “driven by both broadcaster and artist/producer”. That is, both broadcasters and the Asian community – or any ethnic group for that matter – need to actively take the initiative and perhaps collaborate together to enhance diversity within the media. However, respect for one another and all parties regardless of race naturally needs to be fostered first before anyone can work together.
But given that there are ostensibly racist sentiments towards Asians in Australia, when this will happen along with more Asian faces in the media here remains to be seen.