On 20 August, the Rob Guest Endowment announced the 30 semi-finalists for this year’s scholarship. Due to the lack of racial diversity of the semi-finalists, we received criticism for not doing enough to attract black, Indigenous and people of colour applicants.
We heard this message and agreed that we should have done more to ensure there was a greater BIPOC representation. We unreservedly apologised and vowed to do better. Our initial response in August contained language that we should have known was offensive and we apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.
On 16 September, we announced a wide range of changes to ensure that in the future, the endowment would involve people of colour and of Indigenous and other diverse backgrounds in every area of the competition, and we introduced measures to ensure that semi-finalists in future competitions included a diverse array of entrants including Indigenous Australians and people of colour. Details can be found on our website.
The Rob Guest Endowment is run totally by volunteers passionate about the musical theatre industry. Our goal is to help promising young performers in the name of one of Australia’s greatest musical theatre performers Rob Guest, who guided, mentored and taught young artists and theatre workers, boosting their resilience and determination. For more than a decade, the endowment has been a unifying and positive force in the commercial musical theatre industry.
The endowment team is particularly concerned for the mental health and welfare of the 30 semi-finalists in this year’s competition. They have endured significant challenges which are likely to intensify should the competition enter its second and third rounds.
We are aware that some semi-finalists have been targeted and intimidated from a number of sources and as a result have experienced significant anxiety over recent weeks. Bullying and intimidation have no place in a competition that has only ever sought to bring joy and hope to talented young performers in the commercial musical theatre sector.
The semi-finalists in the Rob Guest Endowment competition are our first priority, and their wellbeing comes before the scholarship. To protect them, it is with great regret that the 2020 Rob Guest Endowment Competition will now be cancelled and this year’s scholarship grant is suspended until 2022.
To emerging young performers in the commercial musical theatre industry in Australia, we will endeavour to continue to support and encourage your talent. We look towards the future and to the next scholarship, which will usher in a new era of change for the endowment. Information about future dates and details will be announced on our website.
The Rob Guest Endowment leadership committee
For more information about the Rob Guest Endowment, visit: www.robguestendowment.com.au for details.