Erin Chew is a dreamer. She has shined in the spotlight at her high school plays, always clinching the role as the tree or the pot plant. No matter how much she tried out for the roles of the heroine in Romeo and Juliet, Desdemona in Othello, and vie for the role of Anna in The King and I, she just never made the cut. Seventeen years later, this same girl though much more matured, has used this disappointment to give back to the community. In 2013, Erin co – founded the Asian Australian Alliance (AAA), a grassroots advocacy network with the aim to empower the entire Asian Australian community and raise concerns and projects over common issues. Over the years, AAA has grown to have a women’s forum, young leaders program, and a LGBTIQ network. In 2016, AAA launched a new academics alliance with the purpose of linking academia with social activism. Erin has run many national campaigns which have attracted mainstream media attention. She is also a free-lance writer, focusing on racism, diversity and social activism. Here, Erin reflects on the history of Asian Australian media and the importance of the breakthrough show, The Family Law, which is being hailed as the start of a revolution against stereotyped Australian media.
The cast of the revolutionary new Australian TV show ‘The Family Law’
In Australia, it is common to see Asian Australians on television, so really what are we complaining about? Just switch on the TV on any given night and you will find unsuspecting Asians being caught at airport customs for bringing in fresh, unpackaged food from Asia on Border Security, being breath tested on Highway Patrol, or being arrested for a huge drug bust and/or being caught as illegal migrant workers on AFP (Australian Federal Police). And to turn up the notch just a little bit more and highlight our positive roles, we are always in the final ten of every MasterChef Australia series. Of course, we are also portrayed as nasty, gossiping women in My Restaurant Rules, and as backward, traditional people on soapies such as Neighbours, where an Indian Australian brother and sister from the Kapoor family were sent to India after the character Priya Kapoor was portrayed as a conniving seductress and husband stealer. And this is just TV shows. In the area of journalism, unless you watch the government funded ABC and SBS, you will never see Asian Australians as news anchors or weather report readers, and you seldom see any as reporters on the ground.
But these are just the disaster stories, which interestingly enough take up most of the Asian Australian television airtime. Like anything else, it is not all doom and gloom, and there have been small strides in the fight for better diversity in Australia’s media industry. Among the growing number of Asian Australian cooking shows, singing and performing reality television shows, and playing the role of an immigrant, there really has not been a show until now which talks about the lives of Asian Australians, not as a documentary, but in a digestible and light-hearted way. Read more...