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Woke Neighbours script writer says Ramsay Street was ‘too white and heteronormative for far too long’

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The long-running Australian soap opera took much too long to catch up with Australia’s shifting demographics, according to a former scriptwriter for Neighbours.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Marieke Hardy, a writer for the Channel 10 series from 1996 to 2003, as saying that during the most of its 37-year existence, the programme was “too white.”

For far too long, Hardy remarked, “Neighbours was a pretty white, heteronormative environment,” but subsequent seasons did address this problem.

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She continued, “But I appreciate that it has done some listening and learning, like so much of Australian culture.”

Hardy, 46, a seasoned screenwriter whose resume includes Packed to the Rafters, claimed Neighbours taught her to “have a heart” when developing plots.

To invest in the narrative and the stakes, “you have to truly care about a show and its people,” she said.

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“In the process of making fiction, the ugliest parts of ourselves needed to be shared.”

Hardy debuted as an actress on the programme in 1995 at the age of 19, portraying a villain from the “wrong side of the tracks.” She later went on to work as a writer for Neighbours.

She added that she was sad to see Neighbours end but was “happy it occurred” and that the drama provided her the chance to learn and develop.

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As Hardy notes, Neighbours has evolved to be more inclusive in recent years.

The drama series included Australia’s first-ever same-sex wedding scene in 2018, more than 30 years after its premiere, when gay couple David and Aaron, played by actors Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson, exchanged vows.

The programme debuted its first transgender character a year later.

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When she was 19 years old, Georgie Stone made her acting debut as transgender student Mackenzie.

Although prior attempts to depict contemporary Australia caused controversy, these narratives were well-liked by fans.

Indian-descent actor Sachin Joab, who was born in Melbourne, joined the programme in 2011 in an effort by the producers to address criticisms that the programme was overly white.

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Menik Gooneratne and Coco-Jacinta Cherian joined Joab in forming the Kapoor family.

Some viewers criticised the casting as being “un-Australian” online.

The final Neighbours episode, a 90-minute special, will run on Thursday, July 28.

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