Neighbours star Sharon Johal says she experienced racism on set

Amy West
·3 min read

Neighbours star Sharon Johal has revealed that she experienced racism on the set of the long-running Australian soap.

Following on from Wentworth's Shareena Clanton and Nate Kinski actor Meyne Wyatt, who have both recently spoken out about their time on the show, Johal – who played Dipi Rebecchi from 2017 until earlier this year – took to her website to share how she'd tried to "deny, bury and ultimately survive" prejudiced remarks from a co-star.

"The past week for me has been a traumatising, triggering and painful experience, with the re-surfacing of compounded trauma," she began, before detailing the specifics of situations that left her feeling uncomfortable in the past.

Photo credit: Channel 5
Photo credit: Channel 5

Related: Neighbours actor was removed from the soap's set amid racism controversy

"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," Johal wrote. "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.

Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5
Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5

Related: Neighbours and Home and Away schedule plans confirmed by Channel 5 after cancelled episodes

"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."

Johal also talked about the show's lack of social media moderation, and how she is often targeted by online trolls that spout "unbearable" abuse. Her full piece can be read here.

In the light of the claims made by the former cast members, Fremantle – the production company behind Neighbours – has launched an independent review that will work alongside a cultural review by Indigenous Australian-led creative consultancy Campfire X, to point out the next steps needed to be taken to create a more inclusive environment.

Photo credit: Don Arnold - Getty Images
Photo credit: Don Arnold - Getty Images

"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 for the broadcaster told Digital Spy in response to Johal's post.

"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."

Meanwhile, Johal concluded: "I commend Fremantle for taking action and conducting an independent investigation, and humbly request that the scope of the investigation be widened to include all forms of discrimination, not limited to race, gender, sexual orientation and identity."

Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5.

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