I’m delighted that a group of women from the Aotearoa New Zealand screen industry have set up SWAG, a #MeToo action group, supported by former Green MP Catherine Delahunty (who stepped down at the last election after being the party’s spokesperson on many issues including Women and Arts, Culture & Heritage). Warm thanks to all of them and every good wish for their work!
It's a timely announcement. We need this kind of action.
Over the last decade I've heard many stories about abuses of power over women in Aotearoa New Zealand's screen industries, though very few about sexual assault, the main theme of the #MeToo campaigns. But earlier this week, a group of actors and producers called for a boycott of former Shortland Street star and acting coach René Naufahu, after he was sentenced to a year’s home detention for indecently assaulting six students during his acting classes.
Kate Elliott, winner of Best Actress at the 2017 New Zealand Television Awards, posted this on Facebook.
And others did share their own posts, including actor Chelsie Preston Crayford and actor/screenwriter Sophie Henderson. It's great to see them speaking out.
So here's the announcement–
SWAG (Screen Women's Action Group) is committed to changing the culture that enables sexual harassment, discrimination and other abuses of power over women in the screen industry. We will collect ideas and advocate for changes that will promote respect, representation and professionalism in our workplaces.
SWAG is a single issue action group. We don't intend to be a permanent fixture in the industry – but we feel the need for some co-ordinated, specific and effective action on the #MeToo front in Aotearoa New Zealand. Specifically we will work towards an industry-wide sexual harassment policy and independent process for disclosures and complaints of sexual harassment. This may dove-tail with initiatives your organisation is already working on, hence this early contact.
It is our belief that effective change will only come about through engaging with women in all areas of our industry and involving them in finding solutions to the problems that are being voiced so eloquently worldwide.
We have put our hands up to take on this work in Aotearoa and look forward to having some conversations with you about ways in which your organisation can support us and/or be involved. The plan is to feed the results of our work back through the representative guilds and bodies to encourage an informed and co-ordinated response.
We'll be in touch in the next few weeks about a planned meeting for women in the local screen industry which will be stage 1 of this process.
We can find SWAG on Facebook!