For over a decade the Rob Guest Endowment (RGE) has provided vital support and encouragement to young emerging performers, musicians and technicians, awarding over $400,000 in scholarships to assist them in their pursuit of excellence in their chosen discipline within the commercial musical theatre genre.
The competition seeks out the best emerging performers and works to broaden their experience, contacts and knowledge of the industry so they are equipped to further engage confidently into the world of commercial musicals. The RGE has successfully navigated its charter since its inception and will continue to operate within this charter for years to come.
Managed by volunteer industry professionals who donate their time to the management of the endowment, there are three principal groups that make the endowment work – the leadership committee, the industry panellists and of course the contestants in each cycle of the competition.
Whilst the endowment is open to any emerging performer who is an Australian citizen between the age of 18 and 25, the 2020 endowment failed to attract many entries from Indigenous Australians, people of colour and other performers from diverse racial backgrounds.
We accept unreservedly that the leadership committee should have done more to ensure that contestants in the competition were drawn from a much more diverse cross section of emerging musical theatre performers across Australia. We apologise for our omissions and failures in the 2020 competition. The RGE is determined to do better in the future.
We have sought and will continue to seek the guidance of industry leaders and organisations on the actions that we can take to ensure that the endowment is inclusive, safe and welcoming for all who seek to apply including Indigenous Australians, people of colour and all ethnicities.
We appreciate that while working within our charter, the RGE can be an important influencer to encourage equity and diversity in the commercial musical theatre sector.
With this objective in mind, we announce the following changes to the way the RGE is conducted, which will apply to future years:
- The leadership committee will include a minimum 20 per cent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and diverse participation drawn from leadership roles in the commercial musical theatre business in Australia. We have commenced discussions with a number of people who have offered themselves for these positions;
- The judging panel will increase from 12 to 15 members and will include a minimum 20 per cent BIPOC and diverse representation with a background as a director, musical director or choreographer with experience in auditioning and casting for first class commercial musicals in Australia. Some have already been appointed;
- Subject to availability, judging panels for each stage of the competition will have a minimum 20 per cent BIPOC and diverse representation;
- The first round of the endowment will include a quota that ensures a minimum of 20 per cent of the semi-finalists are drawn from a diverse array of entrants including Indigenous Australians and people of colour;
- The RGE will reach out to a wider community to ensure that Indigenous Australians, people of colour and other ethnicities are made aware of the competition and how to enter, and foster a message of inclusiveness and safety for these musical theatre performers;
- We will continue to engage with industry leaders, Indigenous leaders and industry organisations to improve our understanding of how the endowment can reach the diverse range of emerging performers from around Australia seeking a career in the musical theatre;
- We will work with governments and agencies to find a pathway for permanent residents to be able to enter the competition, in order to broaden its appeal and reach for entrants from more diverse ethnic backgrounds;
- The application process for the endowment will be altered to ensure that people can identify their diverse backgrounds;
- These changes will be implemented by the leadership committee over the next six months, however we note that changes to expand the judging panel have already been made.
While we considered possible changes to this year’s endowment, it became clear that given the progress so far, the best path forward would be to continue to work with and support the current semi-finalists, while working to bring significant and exciting change to future years.
The semi-finalists have gone through the qualifying process and were judged the best of this year’s many excellent applicants. We thank the semi-finalists and offer them our full support and best wishes for progress through the 2020 Rob Guest Endowment.
We look forward to playing our part in this quest to broaden our industry and to make Australia a richer nation through the participation of emerging musical theatre performers from diverse backgrounds.
The Rob Guest Endowment leadership committee
For more information about the Rob Guest Endowment, visit: www.robguestendowment.com.au for details.