Fiona Cameron reflects on Gender Matters and a decade at Screen Australia

Fiona Cameron.

Fiona Cameron counts Gender Matters, the Enterprise scheme and the growth of online projects among the highlights of her 10 years as chief operating officer at Screen Australia.

Cameron, who has been succeeded by former Create NSW CEO Michael Brealey,  joins the Australian Communications and Media Authority as a full-time member on July 23.

Today she shared with IF the farewell speech she gave to Screen Australia staff. The ground-breaking Gender Matters initiative, which she championed, may well stand as her most enduring legacy.

On the issue of gender she told staff: “Nothing changes unless you do things differently, unsettle things, break down barriers. If you do it the same way you prejudice change and propagate the patriarchy, the hierarchy the way it has always be done. Call out bad behaviour – racist, sexist or just plain stupid.”

She pointed to Matchbox Pictures, Playmaker Media, Goalpost Pictures, Essential Media and Entertainment, CJZ and Blackfella Films as companies whose businesses were built on the back of the Enterprise slate and company support. Those programs, she said, were designed in-house and copied around the world.

On the online sphere, she spoke of going to MIPTV with the Bondi Hipsters and screening the Cavemen 69er clip from their ABC show Soul Mates. She enthused: “Online [funding was] well ahead of the curve and still is. Bloody great stories wherever they distribute – now it’s all online.”

Cameron also cited Screen Australia’s $20 million investment in online games over three years as very rewarding, hailing it as textbook policy development.

Paying tribute to the agency’s staff, she said: “The people are everything – you as an organism make up Screen Australia. What drives you makes up our culture – quality, innovation and unique story telling.  For me our collective values are respect, courage and honesty – try and breathe that into everything you do.”

She also expressed thanks to former executives Nick Coyle, Alex Sangston and Lucinda Summers, who helped her through tough times.

To CEO Graeme Mason and the leadership team, she said: “Thanks for giving me my head, for delegating and trusting me to get on with it. I am not exactly a wall flower and I know I can be a pain in the arse, a bull at the gate and bloody direct. You haven’t squashed me and I have been able to have my moment or two – you have been more generous than most.”

On a sombre note, she cited the untimely deaths of colleagues Mark Broomhead and Susan Wells as a case of the most Godawful times at the agency. She tells IF: “They were exceptionally talented people who gave so much to Screen Australia and their legacy lives on, Susan in her advocacy for her colleagues, for her fair mindedness, sharp wit and her careful shepherding of projects through to investment and Mark for his commercial nous, work ethic, bullshit detector and general good “bloke-ish-ness”. The effect of their deaths on our small team was devastating and they will always be remembered.”