DORCAS UTKOVIC: ” My message to the multicultural world is to never stop spreading love!”

Dorcas Utkovic is the founder of Oz AFRICAN TV. She was born in South Africa, migrated to Melbourne, Australia 10 years ago where she now lives with her two gorgeous children (8 & 4) and supportive husband in a South African – Croatian – Australian household. Her interest in Film/TV has seen her fulfill an array of roles including but not limited to Production Assistant, Production Researcher, Art Department personnel, Head of Department (Costume Dept.) and Actor. She also worked on the set of one of Australia’s biggest exports, channel 11’s Neighbours for 7 years in the costume and digital department(s). For her work as Founder/Producer and Presenter of OZ AFRICAN TV, Dorcas was recognized with a Media Award by Victorian Multicultural Commission at the 2017 Multicultural Awards Of Excellence. Alongside 3 SBS reporters, she was highly commended for “outstanding reporting on issues of importance to diverse communities and reporting which contributes to Victoria’s cross cultural understanding” (VMC).A dynamic doer in the community, Dorcas is Coordinator for the vibrant annual event One Beat – One Love, which forms part of VMC’s Cultural Diversity Week and current Coordinator for the Nelson Mandela Day Celebrations. 

1. Why did you become interested in the branch of  lifestyle show about Africans in Australia?

I am a firm believer that media is a powerful tool with the ability to empower or marginalize people within a society. When used responsibly to reflect the society in an inclusive narrative, it has the capability to:

Engage the community through culturally sensitive narratives

Create role models through others’ stories

Create a safe space where people can feel a sense of belonging

  • More accurately reflect our multicultural society

2. Could you tell us a bit about the history of the OZ African TV? Its mission?

First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge that we live in a beautiful country which happens to the second most multicultural country in the world. Thus, our mission as a media platform is to create and aggregate content that shows a new perspective about Australia’s multicultural society.

OZ AFRICAN TV began in 2015 with a pilot episode filmed at Multicultural Arts Victoria’s Emerge In The West festival. It has since grown from strength to strength every year where we signed a contract with C31 Melbourne in 2016. This was followed by an expansion to FOXTEL in 2017. We are currently in conversation with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for commissioning later this year (2018).

The consistent growth of OATV proves that there’s an urgent need for diversity in Australian media and ultimately it is our responsibility to begin where we are with what we have to reflect the society we live in.

3. What do you like most about the TV Producer role?

There’s a lot that I like about this role because in it, I find an opportunity to reconcile my creativity and organization skills. Having studied Fine Art, I am a creative at heart and everyone knows that creative would very much rather ‘create’ the body of work. When coupled with my analytical qualities, I find myself enjoying the ability to take time out from creating and do what some might call the ‘boring stuff’ like creating schedules, writing emails, making cold calls and so on. It is an overall satisfying role because when I watch an episode come together seamlessly on screen I know every area of a Producer is worth the effort.

4. What is the best thing about your job? And what is the hardest…?

The best thing about my job is the ability to create a part of our history not only in our own words but also one that matters. The hardest thing is the fact that it never stops. As a Producer, I find myself always switched on for any network opportunities for the show’s content and beyond. I say this is the hardest at the moment because as a growing platform we have to always be on the look out for fresh opportunities that will propel our growth. However, having said that it’s equally important to look after one’s health by resting or taking the time out and this is the biggest challenge at the moment.

5. What are the key features you look for in lifestyle shows for multicultural development?

As mentioned earlier, we live in a multicultural society where people of various cultures contribute socioeconomically. When traveling in public transport, dropping the kids off at school, in the work place, the supermarket and so on, we find ourselves among a colorful fabric that holds our multicultural society.

However when we turn our television sets on at home, little to none of that is reflected before us.

The key elements that we look for are first and foremost about people of African descent in Australia. Secondly we aim to highlight positive stories with a focus on socio economic contribution and the affirmative impact this has on the community. Once we have these, other qualities fall in place.

6. How do you find people to interview and have on your show?

We find our stories in various ways including, networking, being switched on to current stories within the Australian community at large. We also get stories through our expression of interest form on our website.

7. What are the most common mistakes made by TV Producers ?

This is my first Production which is close to my heart as a passion project. I must say it’s natural for Producers to be guarded about their pride and joy. But I would also say there need to be a balance between being open minded and ready to share ideas because you never know who’s listening as well as knowing when to not share too much because again you never know who’s listening. Therefore one of the biggest mistakes is the inability to achieve that balance.

8.What are your aspirations for the future of the OZ African TV?

Over the next few years, OATV will work towards expanding as a Network & Aggregator for stories about people of African descent in Victoria, Australia and globally.

The OATV Network will focus on (but not limit itself to) the following areas:

o Family

o Early Childhood

o Youth

o Arts & Culture

o Current Affairs, Business & Politics

o Entertainment

o Health & Beauty 

We also look forward to expanding our reach through on demand platform (OATV App) which is currently being developed as well as establishing a stand alone channel.

9. Can you tell us a little about your particular interests, and your path to becoming the main figure in Multicultural society?

I wouldn’t say I’m the main figure in the Multicultural society because I know a lot of people who champion diversity in our society. I’m one of the lucky people who came to Australia by choice. This means I’m rooted well in my South African identity. I know who I am and no amount of skew writing I will always know who I am.

When I got children in Australia my view shifted. I began to see people who look like me and my children excluded in places where we form an integral part. For example I worked on Australia’s biggest export, Neighbours TV drama. Though fictional, the idea is to reflect our society firstly to local audiences and abroad.

It is here that I noticed lack of diversity in the otherwise great stories being told. I had a choice to either sit and complain quietly to others or stand up and become the change I want to see. So I chose the latter and joined a legion of multicultural champions.

10. What have you learned from working with diverse populations?

I have learned that every story matters and has its place within a society. I have learned that everyone wants and in fact needs to be heard. And the beauty of this is, it can all be created through each others’ stories, through shared experiences as seen on our screen. Most importantly, I’m continuously learning the power of self reflection.

11. How has diversity played a role in shaping your social style?

While ‘diversity’ has become a buzz word which (at times) may be used to benefit the elite, I do believe in it as a concept that reminds us all to acknowledge and celebrate our uniqueness. My social lifestyle is surrounded by people of diverse cultures, sexuality, beliefs, genders and so on and I love it because it’s a beautiful and colorful world I live in.

13. As everybody knows, multiculturalism has failed in a number of countries around the world, Azerbaijan Republic has declared it as a state policy. This policy is successfully implemented in our country and the achievements in this field are also recognized on the global level. In addition, some states intend to learn and use the Azerbaijani experience in multiculturalism. Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev declared 2016 a « Year of multiculturalism » in Azerbaijan to maintain, further develop and popularize the traditions of multiculturalism. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has declared 2017 the Year of Islamic Solidarity in the country .Islamic solidarity is a natural extension of the multicultural environment in Azerbaijan. Do you have further views and suggestions about this issue?

I believe that the ideology that is multiculturalism is a subjective one and a topic which most approach with passion. It’s a continuous work in progress where we are all attempting to shape the concept to best satisfy our current and future landscape. While I may not be fully aware of the circumstances of Azerbaijani, I do recognize and commend Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on the incredible effort of highlighting the issue of multiculturalism at a national level.

14. If you could give one message to the Multicultural World, what would it be?

I look forward to a time when ‘multiculturalism’ is no longer a concept that needs to be singularly identified and dealt with but rather a normal way of life in the global village that we all reside. My message to the Multicultural World is to never stop spreading love.

Interviewers: Dr. Khayala Mammadova

Founder, International Multicultural Network

And

Darin Jan c. Tindowen, Mare

IMN Country Representative in Philippines