Diversity Arts is pleased to welcome Ade Djajamihardja to our board.
Ade’s career began at ABC TV, working on many iconic Australian TV shows, including Countdown Revolution and The Big Gig. He was CEO of Ten on Ten Pictures and Enfiniti Productions, where co-produced what was then the biggest historical epic feature in Malaysia’s history, Puteri Gunung Ledang (A Legendary Love). Ade was a producer of Salam Café (SBS 2008), the first ever prime time Muslim entertainment program in in the Western world, and co-produced Kambing Jantan (The Male Goat), which topped the Indonesian box office.
In 2011, Ade joined the board of Disability Media Australia, just three days prior to a massive stroke. After this forced six-year hiatus, he completed a Master of Screen Arts & Business (AFTRS) and produced Amar (SBS 2019), a short film exploring discrimination. Ade is also a best-selling author. As an Indonesian-born Australian from a Muslim family, and as a stroke survivor living with disability, Ade contributes a rich and unique perspective on inclusive storytelling.
We asked him a couple of questions about his background and motivations for his involvement with DARTS.
Ade, what led you to join the Diversity Arts Australia Board?
“I have always proudly possessed a strong moral compass whose magnetic North has pointed me towards organisations that wave the flag of what I refer to as ‘nobly intentioned community-spirited volunteerism’. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was a passionate advocate for community television (which then became C31), helping with their annual test broadcasts while also working full–time as a young Floor Manager for the ABC TV News and current affairs departments in Melbourne.
“In 2011, just 3 days after joining the voluntary board of Disability Media Australia (DMA), I experienced a massive haemorrhagic stroke that required urgent life-saving brain surgery under an induced coma, from which many did not expect me to survive. I spent the subsequent 7 months learning to breathe independently and sit upright again. After extensive hospital rehabilitation I slowly re-learned how to take some steps again. I attended my first DMA board meeting in my wheelchair where the CEO joked that I was their most committed board member because I had actually acquired disability upon joining. ‘Go hard or go home’ I reckon! I just hope that I can translate that commitment into a meaningful contribution towards Diversity Arts Australia.
“My interest in being involved with Diversity Arts first grew when I attended the Fair Play Symposium at The Wheeler Centre in 2019. I was excited to attend an event that had such diversity in the audience. It was obvious that this organisation was sincere about inclusion. I’m passionate about meaningful inclusion of Disabled and Non-Disabled creatives. I believe that disabled people need to be in leadership positions and on boards. Diversity must include disability. Lived experience is valuable. ‘Diversity quotas’ in the Arts can remain as nothing more than theoretical aspirations without planning for access and meaningful inclusion. Having a board member with lived experience is a great step towards this goal of equity. I was inspired to increase the ‘diversity within the diversity’, as an Asian Australian from a Muslim family who lives with disability.
I believe that disabled people need to be in leadership positions and on boards. Diversity must include disability. Lived experience is valuable.
“The Fair Play Symposium triggered memories back to my own early childhood. Having immigrated to Australia from Indonesia as a seven–month–old infant in 1969, I had arrived at the tail end of what was then known as the White Australia Policy, and as such, I grew up going to school from the mid–1970s as more often than not, the only Asian in my classroom. I soon became hardened because I journeyed through my childhood as the recipient of sometimes hostile attention.
“It was only later in life that I grew more comfortable in my skin. Now, I have become more at peace with celebrating my multicultural background. This is as richly edifying, because I endured so many of my formative years as someone who desperately tried to fit in with the predominantly ‘Anglo Majority’, and as such felt little motivation to accept – let alone celebrate – my racial and cultural ethnicity. I rejected much of my family’s language and cultural heritage. I am now committed to righting this embarrassing wrong by applying the sum total of my collective learnings to champion, advocate and celebrate the extraordinary array of cultural and racial diversity that now proudly constitutes our society.”
It was only later in life that I grew more comfortable in my skin. Now, I have become more at peace with celebrating my multicultural background. This is as richly edifying, because I endured so many of my formative years as someone who desperately tried to fit in with the predominantly ‘Anglo Majority’.
What experience and skills do you bring?
“I have worked as a screen media professional (at both national and international level) since 1988. Much of the expertise I bring lies in my experience in playing a ‘bridge building’ conduit role that brings people together to share in a vision and facilitate the achievement of extraordinary things.
“With respect to the collective, I bring the wisdom of my own lived experience. I believe that I have a unique intersectional perspective, as an Asian Australian from a Muslim family who is also a stroke survivor and a wheelchair user with serious brain injury–related vision impairment.
“I also possess the core belief that a national Arts organisation’s most fundamental duty is to reflect the people that it seeks to represent. Even though we live in what many internationally would consider to be the gold standard of what a multicultural society can look like, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still strive for continual improvement in our attempts to closer reflect a society where a rich tapestry of quality diversity is actually our community’s greatest asset! My goal is to promote an Australia that embraces and amplifies the very idea that we all have value.”