Candy puts women colour centre stage

We have to give students a diverse selection, not a monoculture story.

A former school captain at St Patrick’s College Campbelltown, Candy Bowers was taught she had potential as a great leader and storyteller.

Yet when she graduated from NIDA a few years later, she was told she would be unlikely to score any acting roles. The reason – she is a woman of colour.

Candy, who has a South African background, said Australia still has a traditional “white, straight male” image of itself, making it hard for people of diverse backgrounds to be represented in the media or on stage.

Undefeated, Candy has created performances for herself. She writes, acts, and directs her own works, which have toured overseas. She is currently writer in residence at Melbourne University, and she tours schools performing and inspiring young people.

For International Women’s Day she took part in a video conference for the IEU’s South Coast Women’s Forum, where she talked about her passion for providing an outlet for people from all backgrounds.

“I’m always making works that represent the people I want to see represented and tell the stories I want to see told,’’ Candy said.

“Music, storytelling and poetry can be instrumental in developing young people and providing them with a form of expression. I want to break down oppressive structures that don’t allow young people to shape themselves into who they want to be.”

Candy said when she performs in schools she is usually surrounded by young people who say they have never seen stories like hers before or a confident woman of colour taking centre stage.

During her video conference Candy talked about how teachers can use traditional texts like Shakespeare but approached them from a different perspective.

“We have to give students a diverse selection, not a monoculture story. We need to break down the shackles of gender identity, and hear from the multitude of talent out there.”

Candy said the recent controversy over two people of colour: Waleed Ali and Lee Lin Chin being nominated for a gold Logie, indicates that’s Australia’s view of itself still had a long way to go.

“Who we allow to prosper in Australia is clear when you turn on the television. A lot of actors of colour head overseas for work, and for students that’s influential.

“Kids of colour think ‘I can’t play who I am’. But if you exist, then you are part of Australia.”

For more on Candy see

Sue Osborne