Sally Riley, ABC TV’s Head of Drama, Comedy and Indigenous, has been invited to join the governing body of the Oscars.
The invitation to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science (AMPAS) arrived unexpectedly last week.
“I had no idea,” Riley said. “The email just popped into my inbox. I’m totally surprised, but also incredibly happy and proud.”
A woman of the Wiradjuri nation, Riley has been at the forefront of the Indigenous film and television industry throughout her career. An award-winning independent filmmaker and writer, she later spent 10 years at the Australian Film Commission (now Screen Australia), where she was head of the Indigenous department.
She became the inaugural head of ABC TV’s Indigenous department in 2010 before moving to her current role in 2016, delivering ground-breaking programming including Mystery Road, Total Control, Operation Buffalo, Stateless, Mabo, Redfern Now and Cleverman.
Riley welcomed the Academy’s move to better represent the diverse global film industry.
Comprising more than 8000 members, the Academy has been actively broadening its membership base in the wake of the infamous #OscarsSoWhite in 2016.
Of this week’s 819 new members, 45 per cent are women, 36 per cent from underrepresented ethnic groups and 49 per cent from outside the US.
“I’ve been working in the area for a very long time and it’s a long-hard, tiring road,” she said. “To finally see some change is happening is gratifying.”
To be considered for membership of the Academy each nominee must have two referees. Riley remains unaware who nominated her but is thrilled to be joining the ranks of Oscars voters. “Everyone is asking me if I get to go to the Oscars. Of course I’ll be going, whether I’m invited or not!”