Sharon Johal is the latest Neighbours star to report racism allegations, saying she was referred to as “the black one” on set.
Sharon Johal is the latest Neighbours star to report racism allegations, saying she was referred to as “the black one” on set.

Another star details Neighbours racism claims

Former Neighbours star Sharon Johal has revealed her own bombshell allegations of racism on set and called for a systematic overhaul of the show.

Johal, who recently moved from actor to director and writer, said she's heartbroken following the recent allegations made by Neighbours actors Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt.

Making her first comments since an explosive week of claims first brought to light by Clanton, Johal said the situation has been "traumatising and triggering" and it's clear the system has failed.

She revealed she has had to seek external counselling and was not supported by other cast members in distressing moments.

"Like my colleagues who have spoken out over the past week, I too have experienced direct, indirect and casual racism in this workplace," she wrote.

"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."

Sharon Johal has revealed her own bombshell allegations of racism. Picture: Channel 10
Sharon Johal has revealed her own bombshell allegations of racism. Picture: Channel 10

 

Johal said she brought up the incident with management but no further action was taken.

"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," she wrote.

"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.

"For example, it has been reported to me that a cast and crew member each called me a "c---" to another cast member after I confronted them over offensive comments. Having felt isolated, marginalised and not supported for speaking up on issues before by some cast members (with whom I spent the vast majority of my time at work, and who witnessed some of this behaviour), I did not have faith that I would be adequately supported should I have taken the action to instigate a formal investigation into the allegations. In addition to this, the culture has created an environment where the 'bystander' phenomenon is rife, resulting in 'he said/she said' situations where no real outcome is achievable. Also, I did not want to be perceived as the 'trouble-maker'."

She also detailed another incident.

"Another example of direct racism I endured which due to the above reasons I did not report, was from a former cast member (non-POC) is being compared to a bobble-head toy accompanied by the comment "oh it's like you guys" (referring to Indians).

 

Johal is directing and writing scripts for Neighbours. Picture: Mark Stewart
Johal is directing and writing scripts for Neighbours. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

"The same cast member repeatedly mimicked the Indian character Apu from the Simpsons with accompanying Indian accent and movement of head in my presence, despite me requesting they desist. I was not supported by other cast members in these distressing moments."

Johal said she believes this can be a transformative moment in the show's history to create a culture "where there is deep listening, where cultural awareness and education is at the forefront of our minds, where cast and crew are encouraged to speak up and stand up for others, where unity is cultivated over division, and where people of diverse backgrounds can work in an inclusive and safe environment."

She added: "The past week for me has been a traumatising, triggering and painful experience, with the resurfacing of compounded trauma I have tried to deny, bury and ultimately, survive.

"To these esteemed actors, I support and applaud you for your courage in coming forward in an industry - and a country - that is uncomfortable in being "called out" on racist attitudes, further evidenced by the backlash they have received.

"Having worked on Neighbours for the last four years and being one of the few people of colour to be employed as a series regular in it's 36 year history, I have been asked by many, and feel an obligation to, to share my experiences. I feel morally compelled to support the actors who have come forward with their experiences of racism, at a huge cost to themselves, just as this statement is to me."

She said there were also instances of culturally insensitive scripts and storylines.

"To add context, I believe a workplace operating at such a fast pace as Neighbours, has enabled a cultural 'bubble' where the highest priority is not to disrupt the production of the show and that we should just 'work things out'.

 

Shareena Clanton. Picture: Jay Town
Shareena Clanton. Picture: Jay Town

 

"I believe mishandling of these disputes has occurred, with management attempting to mediate situations they are not necessarily qualified to handle, due to the lack of training/non-practical application of resource/systems in place. This has also been my experience with management in relation to another non race related, extremely serious matter that only upon my insistence was elevated to the production company's HR department. I was left powerless, isolated and marginalised. I had to seek external counselling to deal with the trauma I experienced."

But she commended Fremantle for announcing an independent review.

"It is clear the system has failed. My view is that a systematic overhaul is required in order to make this workplace safe for all people of diverse backgrounds. Racism is part of a wider issue and conversation. It's both heartbreaking and telling of our industry that a show considered diverse on screen, still struggles with protecting people these behind the scenes."

She added: "I think (and hope) we are unified in standing against racism. I think (and hope) we are unified in wanting to feel safe at work. These statements should not be mutually exclusive."

Clanton alleged being subjected to "abhorrent levels of bullying" and "sexist and misogynistic commentary" during her time on the show.

In the most shocking claims, Clanton said she was exposed to the "n-word" twice, and saw a white actor openly calling another actor of colour a "lil monkey".

Clanton has since said she is taking a mental health break after disgusting online bullying.

The maker of Neighbours announced an independent review of its production.

Chris Oliver-Taylor, chief executive of Fremantle Asia Pacific, said the organisation was "committed to providing an environment where employees and others in the workplace are treated fairly and with respect, and are free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying". He said such behaviour was not tolerated in the company.

"We have asked Campfire X, creative leaders in Indigenous cultural protocols, to conduct an independent review of Neighbours and the production process," he said.

A Network 10 spokesman also said: "Network 10 does not tolerate discriminatory or racist behaviour in any form.

"We will work with Fremantle, and all cast and crew, to investigate and ensure Neighbours continues to foster a fully inclusive environment."

Originally published as Another star details Neighbours racism claims



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