Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A solution to fit the problem

In any change, the solution is the same size as the problem. For example, as we become more aware of global warming and diminishing oil reserves, we may convince ourselves that changing light bulbs, recycling and driving smaller cars is enough to solve the problem. This puts us in a state called 'cognitive dissonance', where we are half awake, believing we have been given the answer, yet knowing it is not really a solution for the problem.

The rush to solve the problem of inequality of opportunity for women directors in the Australian theatre workplace has lead to a flurry of events and initiatives in the past five months: the 'Where are the Women' forum held at Belvoir Street in late 2009 might be seen as one of these knee-jerk solutions. Despite the fact that this event was hosted by Belvoir Street, there has been no real desire for systemic change within this company. A transparent process for the selection of the new Associate Director at Belvoir Street is one way that this example of 'cognitive dissonance' could have been addressed. However, Belvoir Street has chosen a new Associate Director without an open process that could have provided the opportunity for female directors to apply for this position. Like changing the light bulbs, or driving an electric car, hosting forums and announcing initiatives for women directors within a particular age bracket does not address the underlying systemic problem.

If the MPAB companies truly wish to find a solution that is the same size as the problem, then the federal Equal Opportunity legislation may be a good place to start. Accountability, transparency and a willingness to engage with change and to consider new structures are the ways in which the MPAB companies might build a bridge between their own practice and the small to medium sector. If there is courage and energy for change, then we could create an industry where inclusion, resilience and social relevance are the pillars that support an excellent national theatre.

Jane Woollard

Artistic Director

Here Theatre


  1. Jane Woollard, the wordsmith who doesn't pull her punches strikes again! Good to here from you Jane. We've all had a bit of a break, but you are quite right, it's time to bat up again and make sure that the outcome from all the mutterings about change is CHANGE. Real change.

    Lucy Freeman
    Artistic Director
    Straightjacket Productions

  2. I meant HEAR from you, not HERE from you. No pun intended. LF

  3. Thanks for the post. Its clarity is really enjoyable. I’m now wondering if the difference between various arguments and gestures by the MPAB companies and what we seek through AWDA is that of the difference between morals and ethics. Application of an ethical code such as the Federal Equal Opportunities legislation would have MPAB company boards asking, “Are our actions for the greater good?” In the instances where this code is NOT applied, MPAB company boards have recourse to a moral code of conduct that would have them asking, “Is this right for our company?” The ethical stance informs the extent they look beyond their own cultural turf, the moral has them protecting it.
    My feeling is we should seek demonstrated application of the Fed Equal opportunity Legislation by MPAB company boards and that way we can have reasoned discussion with them where they’re not confusing their rights as a company with what’s good for the future of the art form, its makers, and those who embrace it. In this way we can move beyond the smallness of a company’s moral high ground to propose far reaching solutions together based on the ethics of practice.
    La Force for Sydney! I look forward to the blog updates.
    Jude Anderson
    Artistic Director