Fremantle has engaged lawyers to investigate new claims around racism on the Neighbours set, in addition to a review being undertaken by Indigenous consultancy firm Campfire X.
Sharon Johal, who played Dipi Rebecchi on the series from 2017 – 2021, said she tried to “deny, bury and ultimately survive” racist taunts allegedly from some of her colleagues. But she also spoke out over resolutions from management and a lack of social media moderation.
A statement on her website says:
“On more than one occasion a current cast member (non-POC) directly referred to me as “you people” when speaking in derogatory terms about an altercation they were involved in with an Indian person. The same person repeatedly referred to me as ‘the black one’ and/or ‘blackie’ behind my back in the presence of other crew members. I have been told that the same cast member also repeatedly claims that the show only employs ‘Indian actors’ and diverse actors of colour to ‘fill their diversity quotas’ and “not because they are any good”. From what I understand and what has been communicated to me by other cast and crew, these incidents of racism and problematic behaviour, while directed at me, are not unique to me.
“I communicated these racist comments to management and while they were sympathetic and the actor being questioned on one occasion to my knowledge (causing me to be targeted again), no further action was taken. Management’s position was that I needed to speak to management directly at the time each of these incidents occurred. This practice does not take into consideration the reticence of a victim to come forward in a workplace culture where perpetrators are not seen to be held accountable (so why report?), and where the person reporting is afraid of being further targeted by the perpetrator and in fear of losing their job.”
Sharon Johal’s full statement with further complaints, is available here. She returns to the set next week in a guest appearance as Dipi Rebecchi.
Another cast member, Sachin Joab, who portrayed Ajay Kapoor from 2011 – 2013 also levelled complaints about contract and work condition inequities, between caucasian and non-caucasian actors under former producers and questioned the way the Kapoor family was written out of the show.
“I asked [the production company], ‘How can we go back to a country that we’re not from and haven’t been to? Both of our characters are born and raised right here in Australia’” he told Guardian Australia.
Their complaints follows recent statements made by actors Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt around racist and / or homophobic conduct towards First Australians on set.
Despite a shift in recent years towards more inclusive characters and storylines, producers are yet to comment on specific claims levelled against the 36 year old soap.
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees on the set of Neighbours and take very seriously any questions about racism or any other form of discrimination,” a spokesperson from Fremantle said.
“We are engaging an independent legal investigation to work concurrently with Campfire X’s cultural review and hope to work directly with the individuals that have raised concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps are appropriate.”