Former Neighbours star Menik Gooneratne says she wasn't supported over racist comments from viewers

Hannah Lovejoy
·4 min read

Former Neighbours star Menik Gooneratne has opened up about her experience of dealing with racism on the show.

Menik was first seen on the show 10 years ago in 2011 when her character Priya was introduced alongside the other Kapoors as the first South Asian family to arrive on Ramsay Street.

For Menik, Sharon Johal's latest experience of racism on the soap is no surprise. To her, it only proved how little had changed on the show in the last decade since her own encounters with racism.

Speaking to 7.30, Menik explained what it was like playing the role of Priya. She also explained what she hoped would happen with the role and recalled the reaction from the Neighbours production team when she received racist comments online from viewers.

Photo credit: Channel 5
Photo credit: Channel 5

Related: Neighbours to face an independent review after reports of racism on set

Menik said: "It was exciting because being a working actor in Australia and trying to break through, I thought it was a great opportunity to help break stereotypes and promote diversity and be part of an iconic show in Australia."

Despite the progressive casting, Menik had to deal with online hate which was difficult to come to terms with. "It is still difficult to talk about because you have to move on and bury it," she explained.

"To receive that kind of reaction to our casting, it cut deep, and it cut deeper than I would have liked it to. I wish I was stronger, I wish I could have been incensed by the whole thing, but really I was just hurt."

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

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After telling the soap's team about the racist comments on the Neighbours social media platforms, Menik asked for them to be removed but her request was ignored.

Menik said: "Apart from the expression of, 'Oh, I'm sorry that that's happened,' and you know, 'Are you OK?', which they kind of checked in at the start, but because it was a continued thing it just wasn't spoken about. We didn't talk about it, we just moved on.

"I didn't feel supported at all," added the actress. "I felt like we were left to deal with all of that on our own, to process that and to handle our reactions and our hurt and our trauma on our own."

Digital Spy has reached out to the broadcaster and Neighbours' production company FremantleMedia for comment.

Photo credit: Channel 5
Photo credit: Channel 5

Related: Neighbours reveals a first look at Dipi and Shane's exit from Erinsborough

Sharon Johal – who played Dipi Rebecchi on the Australian soap – also recently spoke out about her experience with racism on the show:

"On more than one occasion a current cast member (non-POC) directly referred to me as 'you people' when speaking in derogatory terms about an altercation they were involved in with an Indian person," the actress wrote on her website.

"The same person repeatedly referred to me as 'the black one' and/or 'blackie' behind my back in the presence of other crew members."

She went on to explain that she spoke to the management and, while they were sympathetic, "no further action was taken" and her speaking out only caused her to be targeted more.

Photo credit: Channel 5
Photo credit: Channel 5

In response to Johal's post, a spokesperson for the broadcaster told Digital Spy: "We remain committed to ensuring a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees on the set of Neighbours and take very seriously any questions about racism or any other form of discrimination.

"We are engaging an independent legal investigation to work concurrently with the cultural review and hope to work directly with the individuals that have raised concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps are appropriate."

It comes after fellow Neighbours stars Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt spoke out about experiencing racism during their time on the show.

Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5.

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