Why Waleed Aly’s Gold Logie win is Significant

A week ago, history was made when Waleed Aly, co-host of The Project, became one of the first people from a non Anglo-Saxon background to win the Gold Logie. Aly was also the recipient of the Silver Logie for ‘Best Presenter’.

“Do not adjust your sets. There’s nothing wrong with the picture. If you’re in the room, I’m sure there’s an Instagram filter you can use to return things to normal, it’ll be fine. This is happening.” Aly said, as he began his speech.

Aly’s speech was one of the most powerful of the night, second to Noni Hazelhurst’s speech which she gave as she was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hazelhurst remarked how things are clearly changing but glacially changing slowly, and that no child is born a bigot. In a similar manner, indigenous actress Miranda Tapsell gave a speech last year when she won ‘Most Popular New Talent’ for her role in ‘Love Child’ where she drew attention to the lack of racial diversity. She said, “Put more beautiful people of colour on TV, and connect viewers in ways that transcend race, and unite us. That’s the real Team Australia.”

However, not everyone received his win positively. Many media outlets published articles which scorned his win, one being The Daily Telegraph which published an article listing six reasons why he shouldn’t win. Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt wrote an article for the Herald Sun claiming that Aly’s complaints about racism, alongside Hazelhurst’s comments about sexism in the industry, “erases the true trailblazers.” The Herald Sun also ended its 20-year streak of displaying Gold Logie winners on its front page, displaying just a general Logies front page feature which featured Aly’s co-host and last year’s Gold Logie winner, Carrie Bickmore.

And who’s to say that Waleed Aly isn’t a true trailblazer? Aly is currently a lecturer in politics at the University of Melbourne. He is also a musician. Aly has been part of The Project for the better part of a year and a half and has made a positive influence on people. More notably, and recently, his ‘ISIL is Weak’ segment which went viral around the world had people talking. Aly is also great at what he does, intelligently articulating things that many wish they could.

The Today Show’s Karl Stefanovic also made a slight jab, joking that Lisa Wilkinson didn’t receive a Gold Logie nomination due to being ‘too white’. The reality is, however, people of colour are actively denied roles, and when they are represented, they are fitted into a box of stereotypes. Not to mention, Australia’s media industry is nothing but a sea of white faces. Non-white, including indigenous, actors have been on television as long as white people have, only that they’ve had limited roles. So, to see someone of a non-Anglo background gain that recognition is inspiring, proving that it is time to embrace the diversity that our society contains and recognise their achievements.

“There have been a lot of people in the past week or two who have made it really clear to me that me being here right now really matters to them and it matters to them for a particular reason.”

He continued as he told the story of someone in the room by the name of ‘Mustafa’ who came up to him and said “I really hope you win. My name is Mustafa but I can’t use that name because I can’t get a job.” A powerful anecdote, which brought Noni Hazelhurst to tears. The mysterious Mustafa was later outed to be Lebanese-Australian actor and ‘Here Come the Habibs’ star Tyler De Nawi.

“The truth is you deserve more numerous and more worthy avatars than that.”

As a person from an Arab and Muslim background, Waleed’s win feels like a personal achievement for me as well, and it is indeed an achievement for the wider community, too. This is just the beginning. All it takes is one person to pave that path.