Thursday, November 19, 2009

MTC forced to comply with Equal Oppotunity Policy

Theatre company ends 'boys' club'

by Robin Usher | The Age | Thursday 19th November, 2009

AUSTRALIA'S oldest state theatre organisation, the Melbourne Theatre Company, has been forced to reverse its position over the limited number of women it employs in creative roles, especially directing, after criticism that it had created a boys' club environment.

The company's parent organisation, Melbourne University, intervened to insist that its practices complied with the university's equal opportunity policies and anti-discrimination legislation. An MTC board meeting tomorrow is expected to appoint both an equal opportunity officer and an EO committee to ensure the company's practices fit in with the university's staff equity policies.

This follows complaints about ''an overwhelming downturn'' in opportunities for women directors at the company in recent years by a convenor with the Australian women directors' alliance, Melanie Beddie.

She said the university's vice-chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis, had responded with written assurances that MTC practices would change, including the advertising of positions such as associate directors, which previously had been appointed unilaterally by the company's artistic director, Simon Phillips... [READ MORE]


  1. When state companies (ie.MTC) admit they recruit directors from second tier companies (ie. Malthouse, Griffin, Belvoir), but those companies have a glaringly disproportionate number of works directed and authored by women in their programming, it is obvious to me that this sector of our theatre industry is in need of a major shift in thinking if it is to celebrate and accommodate diversity.

    Women are often catergorised as 'young' or 'emerging' which is a convenient explaination as to why they have not traditionally had a voice on the mainstage. I find no evidence that a lack in experience or a need for training is of key concern to the women directors I speak to and associate with.

    The AWDA concerns regarding equal opportunity at MTC have been validated by a recent letter from the Vice Chancellor suggesting that the MTC will appoint an equal opportunity officer and committee, and will train existing staff in equity and diversity expectations. It is a great outcome that the MTC will also begin to advertise their associate director positions. I have mixed feelings about a third pledge that the MTC will apply for funding to mentor young and emerging women directors.

    Such schemes in the 1990s did not result in a rise in female director appointments. And the mentorships came and went as they were funding dependent. I suggest there is a need to consider more complex solutions that will see the ongoing appointments of female and culturally diverse practitioners as part of medium to large theatre companies ethos and core business. Regardless of any extra allocation of funds, is it not the function of theatre companies to adequately reflect the society in which they exist?

    I look forward to solutions and initiatives that aim to correct the gender imbalance, that exists in some sectors of the theatre industry, by offering professional pathway opportunities to women (of all ages, ethnicities and experience levels). And, that these initiatives are constructed with a commitment to providing concrete outcomes in the representation of female appointments on the main stages.

    It is fantastic that these conversations are happening, but I am not convinced that to address the visibility and professional development of women, the best use of public money is to put more into major organisations. Those directors who do not feel they require more training are seeking structural changes that will enhance work opportunities- not secondments, artistic director positions or mentoring. Those who are seeking mentorship and training may appreciate the freedom to make application for mentorship with a broad range of artists across the whole sector, and based on aligned artistic sensibility and practice models.


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