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Gender Matters Fail: An Open Letter to the Board of Screen Australia

Global academics and advocates have responded to persistent gender bias in recent funding announcements with dismay. A collective letter with more than 200 signatures captures their frustrations.
Gender Matters Fail: An Open Letter to the Board of Screen Australia Don't Call Me Girlie, made in 1985, is a documentary about women in the Australian cinema from the very beginning, made by Andree Wright and Stewart Young.

ScreenHub

Friday 8 November, 2019

We talked to one of the signatories, Academic Deb Verhoeven, this week. She was among many who were deeply disappointed with the gender mix in recent funding decisions made by Screen Australia. She said:

'Gender equity is not a one-off program. It should be an assumed and enduring value of any public agency. Screen Australia obscured their data to declare victory in gender parity. It wasn’t gender parity then and it’s certainly not now. We’re simply asking Screen Australia to honour their own policy commitments.'

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In less than 48 hours a letter with 200 signatories was organised including some very important names. This is the letter:

1 November, 2019

We write as academics and advocates who research, analyse and support the cultivation of a thriving, inclusive and globally important Australian screen production sector. 

We are deeply concerned that Screen Australia is failing to meet its responsibilities to the Australian public. We call on you to ensure the organisation is held to account. 

We refer in particular to the most recent funding decisions made by Screen Australia released in September 2019. These decisions show a significant gender bias: 

  • One hundred percent of the five feature film projects funded by Screen Australia are written and directed by men. 
  • Forty percent of the feature film projects exclusively employ men in the key creative roles of producer, writer and director. 
  • The ratio of support for men to women in these key creative roles is 2:1 - across the creative teams for these films, 12 individual men are supported in 16 roles compared to just 7 women. 

Decisions released for the Documentary Producer program are only notionally better with all but two writer or director roles going to men across seven funded projects. Almost sixty percent of the documentary producer program projects funded by Screen Australia for 2019-20 have male-only creative teams. 

Across both feature film and documentary producer programs men exclusively occupy writer-director roles in all but one of the funded projects.

These decisions are in stark contrast to Screen Australia’s stated commitment to pursue gender equity for the industry. By any measure, they demonstrate Screen Australia’s signal failure to effectively implement organisational policies, programs and strategies to promote an equitable and inclusive screen production industry.

We believe these funding decisions, in particular the conspicuously large number of entirely male creative teams, do not meet the agency’s legal mandate under the Screen Australia Act to “ensure the development of a diverse range of Australian programs.” Indeed, even more worryingly, the recent funding decisions appear to directly contradict Screen Australia’s own policies.

Screen Australia’s  2019-2023 Corporate Plan, signed by the Board and the Minister, states explicitly that: 

“we need a vibrant, skilled and creative industry with an appetite for innovation. Screen Australia encourages quality, innovation and cultural value through programs that increase the ambitions, risk tolerance and diversity of Australian storytelling.” 

The Corporate Plan commits to a numerical target for gender equity. On page 6, it states that “between 2019/20 and 2022/23, at least 50% of the writing, producing and directing roles in projects that receive Screen Australia development and production funding will be filled by women.” The Corporate Plan further states that Screen Australia will, “through development and production investment, promote a diverse range of stories and storytellers.”

The latest funding decisions manifestly do not meet this target. Indeed, across all funding decisions, Screen Australia is not close to achieving a target of 50% of writing, producing and directing roles for women in production funding. The true figure based on the September announcements (feature film and documentary producer program) is a third of funded individuals with men occupying writer and director roles in all but one project.

Furthermore, Screen Australia has adopted a concerning lack of transparency in its dealings with the screen sector and the Australian public. The underlying data on which Screen Australia’s gender targets are based is not publicly available. Consequently, there is no independent assessment of Screen Australia’s progress towards meeting its gender parity commitments. 

It is in the Australian public’s interest that government statutory authorities such as Screen Australia are held to account by strong standards of governance that enable community oversight. At the very least, Screen Australia should seek to meet its own policies and corporate objectives. 

We call on the Board to address its legal responsibilities under the Screen Australia Act (2008) to guarantee that Screen Australia is acting to “ensure the development of a diverse range of Australian programs” and that the agency is acting to “promote the efficient, effective and ethical use of public resources.” 

We demand that: 

  • Screen Australia takes immediate steps to meet its own target that at least 50% of the writing, producing and directing roles in projects funded by Screen Australia are filled by women (in all their diversity). This includes an expectation that Screen Australia review its continuing practice of funding exclusively male creative teams.
  • Screen Australia release its data describing by gender the writing, directing, producing and protagonist roles in Screen Australia-funded projects. This data should be released in a granular, computable format and not as aggregated data visualizations or percentages. It should be broken down by funding program and include total amounts of project-based financing. Data transparency and accountability are urgently required to support the agency’s claims that “Screen Australia exceeded its long-term Gender Matters KPI”.

Deb Verhoeven
Canada 150 Chair in Gender and Cultural Informatics,
University of Alberta

Sharon McGowan
Associate Professor
Creative Writing and Film Production Programs
University of B.C.
Board of Directors and Co-Chair of Advocacy, Women in Film and Television Vancouver

Bronwyn Coate
Senior Lecturer, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing,
RMIT University

Astrid Ensslin
Director, Media Studies
University of Alberta

Susan Brinton
Treasurer, Board of Directors
Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI)
Co-Chair, Advocacy, WIFT Vancouver

Michelle Mantsio
Coordinator of Visual Arts,
LCI Melbourne

Radha O’Meara
Lecturer in Screenwriting, School of Culture and Communication,
University of Melbourne

Paul Moore
Associate Professor of Communication & Culture,
Ryerson University, Toronto

Wade Kelly
Senior Coordinator, Research Impact
La Trobe University, Melbourne

Stuart Richards
Lecturer in Screen Studies,
University of South Australia

Mark Nicholls
Head of Screen and Cultural Studies
University of Melbourne


Simone Mugavin
Geelong, Victoria

Dr Marian Evans
#directedbywomen #aotearoa
Wellington, New Zealand

Alexandra Hidalgo
Assistant Professor and Co-Director of The Documentary Laboratory for Creative Non-Fiction Film at Michigan State University and Editor-in-Chief of agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers
Michigan, USA

Maria Giese
Women’s Media Summit
Massachusetts, USA

Nat Hurley
Senior Director, Office of Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor, Dept of English and Film Studies
University of Alberta,
Edmonton, AB

Kirsten Stevens
Lecturer, Arts and Cultural Management, University of Melbourne
Deputy Director, Melbourne Women in Film Festival

Colleen Murrell
Associate Professor,
Swinburne University of Technology

Prof Dr Elizabeth Prommer
Director Institute for Media Research,
University of Rostock

Dr Davinia Thornley
Senior Lecturer, Media, Film and Communications Programme,
University of Otago, New Zealand
Vice-President (NZ), Screen Studies Association of Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand https://ssaaanz.org/

Beth Driscoll
Senior Lecturer in Publishing, Communication and Arts Management,
University of Melbourne

Robbie Fordyce
Lecturer in the School of Media, Film, and Journalism
Monash University
Katherine McRae
Director and teacher of Screen Acting and Directing, (at Victoria University, NZ Film Television School, Toi Whakaari and others)
Wellington, New Zealand

Victoria Duckett
Senior Lecturer, Screen and Design,
Deakin University, Melbourne

Sian Mitchell
Senior Lecturer, Film, SAE Creative Media Institute
Festival Director, Melbourne Women in Film Festival

Caron Dann
Lecturer, School of Media, Film and Journalism,
Monash University

Sandra Phillips
Associate Professor, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research,
UTS

Maura Edmond
Lecturer, School of Media, Film & Journalism,
Monash University

Whitney Monaghan
Assistant Lecturer, School of Media, Film & Journalism,
Monash University

Belinda Smaill
A/Prof, Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Claire Perkins
Senior Lecturer in Film & Screen Studies
Monash University

Cesar Albarran-Torres
Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication
Swinburne University of Technology

Tessa Dwyer
Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Caitlin Vincent
Lecturer in Creative Industries
University of Melbourne

Kim Barbour
Senior Lecturer in Media
University of Adelaide

Peter C. Pugsley
Associate Professor in Media
University of Adelaide
Vice-President (Aus), Screen Studies Association of Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand https://ssaaanz.org/

Renee Middlemost
Lecturer in Communication and Media
University of Wollongong

Adrian Danks
Associate Professor, School of Media & Communication, RMIT University
Co-curator of the Melbourne Cinematheque

Casey Zilbert
Writer/Producer/Director, Industry Mentor ( EAT, NZFC, NZWG, Massey University, Victoria University)
Wellington, New Zealand

Sal Humphreys
Senior Lecturer, Department of Media,
University of Adelaide

Melanie Ashe
Sessional Tutor, School of Media & Communication, RMIT
Education Coordinator, Melbourne Women in Film Festival

Kim Yen Howells-Ng
Sessional Tutor in Screen and Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne

Vejune Zemaityte
Research Officer, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing
RMIT University

William Head
Lecturer (Practice), Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Amanda Coles
Lecturer, Arts Management / Employment Relations
Deakin University


Dr Elvis Richardson
Artist and member of www.countess.report

Tara Lomax
Sessional Lecturer in Screen Culture and Aesthetics, Film and TV
VCA, University of Melbourne

Patricia Di Risio
Lecturer, Media Studies & Journalism
Monash College (Monash University)

Aaron Humphrey
Lecturer, Media and Digital Humanities
University of Adelaide

Constantine Verevis
Head, Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Rachel Wilson
Senior Lecturer, School of Media and Communication
RMIT University.

Miriam Ross
Senior Lecturer
Programme Director of Film
Victoria University of Wellington

Eloise Ross
Academic Tutor, Department of Film and Animation
Swinburne University of Technology
Co-curator of the Melbourne Cinematheque

Stayci Taylor
Lecturer
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University, Melbourne

Therese Davis
Associate Professor, Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Naomi McDougall Jones
Writer/Actress/Producer, Women in Film Activist/Speaker, Author of The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood
Atlanta, GA, USA

Dr Claire Henry
Lecturer in Digital Media Production
Massey University, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

Amanda K. Allen
Associate Professor, English Language and Literature
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

Dr So Mayer
Author, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema
London, UK

Dr. Vicki Mayer
Professor, Tulane University
New Orleans, USA

Dr Jordan Beth Vincent
Research Fellow, Deakin Motion.Lab
Deakin University, Australia

Dr Alex Bevan
Lecturer in Communication
University of Queensland, Australia

Peggy Thompson
Professor Emerita
University of British Columbia, Canada
Board and Advocacy Committee Member, Women in Film and Television Vancouver

Carolyn Combs
Executive Director
Women in Film and Television Vancouver

Belinda Glynn
PhD Candidate
School of Media, Film and Journalism
Monash University

Dr Fincina Hopgood
Lecturer in Screen Studies
University of New England, Australia

Dr Daniel Binns
Lecturer, Media
RMIT University, Australia

Laura La Rosa
Student (cultural/screen studies) and Writer

Marija Antic
PhD Candidate
School of Media, Film and Journalism
Monash University

Polly Stupples
Lecturer in Human Geography
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Dr Cherie Lacey
Lecturer, Media Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Diane Charleson
Senior Lecturer , Media and Film
Australian catholic University

Jackie Wolf (fka Farkas)
Director of Photography
Cinematography Tutor
AFTRS

Polly Stanton
Lecturer - Masters of Media program
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University, Melbourne

Mark Gibson
Associate Professor - Communications and Media Studies
School of Media, Film and Journalism
Monash University

Julie Rak
Henry Marshall Tory Chair
Department of English and Film Studies
University of Alberta

Sean Redmond
Professor of Screen and Design
School of Communication and Creative Arts
Deakin University

Djoymi Baker
Lecturer in Screen Studies
University of Melbourne
Jared Orth
Teaching Associate
School of Culture and Communication
University of Melbourne

Dr Smiljana Glisovic
Lecturer, Cinema and Media
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University

Anthea Taylor
Senior Lecturer
Department of Gender and Cultural Studies
University of Sydney

Barbara Ann O’Leary
Catalyst, #DirectedbyWomen

Dr Marilyn Tofler
Lecturer, Film and Television
Department of Film and Animation
Swinburne University of Technology

Dr. Bettina Frankham
Lecturer, Media Arts and Production,
School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Technology Sydney

Liz Baulch
Lecturer, Screen and Design
Deakin University

Nonie May
Research Associate and Screen Studies Tutor
The University of Melbourne

Olivia Khoo
Associate Professor, Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Dr Mike Jones
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of History
Australian National University

John Cumming
Senior Lecture, Screen & Design (Film, Television & Animation)
Deakin University

Selina Joe
Co-founder
Pan-Asian Screen Collective
New Zealand

Dr Mary Wiles
Senior Lecturer, Cinema Studies Programme
University of Canterbury, Christchurch NZ

Cerise Howard
Sessional Studio Leader, School of Media & Communication, RMIT University
Co-curator of the Melbourne Cinematheque

Alexander Gionfriddo
Librarian
AFI Research Collection, RMIT University

Olympia Barron
Librarian
AFI Research Collection, RMIT University

Sue Hutley
Library Manager
Bond University

Kim Toffoletti
Associate Professor of Sociology
Deakin University

Angela Ndalianis
Professor of Screen and Entertainment Media
Swinburne University of Technology

Michelle Smith
Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies
Monash University

Dr. Donna McRae
Filmmaker
Senior Lecturer in Film and Television
Deakin University

Dr Noel Maloney
Lecturer, Screen Studies,
Creative Arts and English
La Trobe University


Ben Eltham
Lecturer, Cultural and Creative Industries
School of Media and Film and Journalism
Monash University

Wendy Haslem
Senior Lecturer in Screen Studies,
Director of the Bachelor of Arts,
University of Melbourne.

Dr. Patrick Kelly
Lecturer
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University

Dr Tess Van Hemert
Lecturer in Media and Entertainment Industries
School of Communication
Queensland University of Technology

Dr. Jay Daniel Thompson
Lecturer, Media and Communications program,
University of Melbourne
Research supervisor, Victoria University

Dr. Lucian Chaffey
Freelance Intellectual
Adelaide

Rosemary Overell,
Lecturer, Media, Film & Communication
University of Otago

Alexia Kannas
Lecturer, Media & Cinema Studies,
RMIT University

Rebecca Young
Lecturer, Media & Communication,
RMIT University

Ika Willis,
Associate Professor, English Literatures,
University of Wollongong

Joyce Seitzinger
Learning Design Director,
RMIT Online, RMIT University
Diane Burgess
Lecturer, Arts Studies in Research and Writing
University of British Columbia

Jake Wilson
Film Reviewer, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald
Melbourne

Liam Burke
Cinema and Screen Studies Coordinator and Senior Lecturer
Swinburne University of Technology

Professor Craig Batty
School of Communication
University of Technology Sydney

Dr Kath Dooley
Discipline Lead & Senior Lecturer
Discipline of Theatre, Screen & Digital Media
Curtin University

Dr Angie Black
Filmmaker
Senior Lecturer, Film and Television
Victorian College of the Arts
The University of Melbourne

Caitlin Johnston
Student, Film and Screen Studies
Monash University

Katrina Irawati Graham
Filmmaker
Chair & Qld Board Member Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Australia

Dr Phoebe Macrossan
Sessional Academic - Film, Screen and New Media
School of Creative Practice
Queensland University of Technology

Dr Freya Wright-Brough
Sessional Academic - Film, Screen and New Media
School of Creative Practice
Queensland University of Technology

Dr Stephen Gaunson
School of Media & Communication
RMIT University
CJ Welsh
Producer
Production Coordinator - Screen
Victorian College of the Arts
The University of Melbourne

Robert Stephenson
Lecturer in Animation
VCA Film and Television
Faculty of Fine Arts and Music
The University of Melbourne

Jodi Brooks
Senior Lecturer, Film Studies
School of the Arts & Media
University of New South Wales

Dr. Lisa Dethridge
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University, Melbourne

Natalie Warren
Film lover & Feminist
Carlton
Melbourne

Mia Lindgren
Professor and Dean Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
Swinburne University of Technology

Lisa Given
Professor and Dean, Research and Development
Faculty of Health, Arts and Design
Swinburne University of Technology

Sheersha Perera
Filmmaker
Sessional Lecturer
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication,
Nanyang Technological University.
and
School of Communication and Creative Arts,
Deakin University.

Mez Breeze
Independent Artist and Scholar
mezbreezedesign.com

Philippa Burne
Screenwriting Lecturer
VCA School of Film and Television,
University of Melbourne

Dr Doris Ruth Eikhof
CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies
University of Leicester, UK

Dr Brian Morris
Senior Lecturer in Media
RMIT University

Michael Koller,
Executive Programmer,
The Melbourne Cinémathèque

Dr James Meese
Senior Lecturer
School of Communication
University of Technology Sydney

Helene Granqvist
President
Women in Film & Television International

James Verdon
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Film and Animation
Swinburne University of Technology

Jenna Price
Senior lecturer
School of Communication
University of Technology Sydney

Associate Professor Susan Kerrigan
School of Creative Industries
University of Newcastle, Australia

Claire Bridge
Masters of Contemporary Art, VCA-MCM
University of Melbourne
Founder and Editor of Art World Women
Artworldwomen.com

Jack Newsinger
Assistant Professor in Cultural Industries and Media
University of Nottingham, UK
Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Australia
Advocates for women in Australian screen industry
The Board (10 members)

Dr Greg Bowtell
Lecturer in Games and XR
School of Information Technology
Deakin University, Australia

Andrea Buck
Producer,
Teacher of Business in the Creative Industries, Compton School
Board member WIFT-Victoria
Board member WIFT Australia

Belinde Ruth Stieve
Actress & Expert
Berlin / Germany
http://neropa.stieve.com/en/

Velinda Wardell ACS
Cinematographer

Felicity Blake
Documentarian & Impact Producer

Dr Bridget Conor
Senior Lecturer, Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries
King’s College London

Dr Tully Barnett
Senior Lecturer
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Flinders University

Linda Knight
Associate Professor, Early Childhood, Creative Practice and Digital Media
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Australia

Marsha Berry
Associate Professor, Mobile Media and Creative Practice
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Alexander Hipwell
Festival Director, Melbourne WebFest
Lecturer, School of Media & Communication
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Philip Erbacher
Stills Photographer

Mark Deuze
Professor of Media Studies
Department of Media Studies
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Dr Steinar Ellingsen
Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Communication and Media
University of Wollongong

Max Robins
AV Manager, Melbourne WebFest
Post Production Officer, ASSC College
La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Briony Kidd
FIlmmaker
Director Stranger With My Face International Film Festival
Secretary and Tasmanian Board Member Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Australia

Maureen Engel
Associate Professor, Digital Humanities
University of Alberta
Honorary Research Senior Fellow, University of Queensland

Julia Erhart
Associate Professor, Screen Critical Studies
Flinders University

Kristen Settinelli
Engagement Manager, Melbourne WebFest

Jennifer O’Meara,
Assistant Professor in Film Studies
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Erika Addis
Head of Cinematography
Senior Lecturer
Griffith Film School, Brisbane, Australia

Liz Grandmaison
Student, Women’s and Gender Studies
Flinders University


Dr Kate Hall
Sessional lecturer - Writing and Literature
Deakin University
Geelong, Australia

Dr Ting Chang
Assistant professor of Art History
Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies
University of Nottingham, UK

Laurence D. Dubuc
School of Industrial Relations
University of Montreal

Professor Sue Turnbull
Discipline Leader: Creative Industries
School of the Arts, English and Media
University of Wollongong

Skadi Loist
Professor for Production Cultures in Audiovisual Media Industries,
Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF

Dr Masato Takasaka
Sessional Lecturer, Master of Contemporary Art
Victorian College of the Arts
Faculty of Fine Arts & Music
University of Melbourne

Rina Fraticelli
Founding Director
Women In View
Director
The Socrates Project
McMaster University

Charles Tepperman
Associate Professor and Head, Department of Communication, Media and Film
University of Calgary

Melissa Silverstein
Founder and Publisher
Women and Hollywood

Joanne Jacobs
Co-CEO, Disruptors Co
Industry Fellow, University of Technology Sydney

Mark Gallagher
Associate Professor of Film and Television Studies
Dept. of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies
University of Nottingham

Jane Smith AM
former Chief Executive of the NSW Film and Television Office
Amber-Sekowan Daniels
General Manager, Women in View
Co-Author, Women in View On Screen 2019

Megan Riakos
Filmmaker
Founder & NSW Board Member Women in Film & Television (WIFT) Australia

Karen Wong
Filmmaker
Board Director, Women in Film & Television Vancouver
Canada

Dr Gemma Blackwood
Lecturer in Media
School of Creative Arts and Media
University of Tasmania

Ming-Zhu Hii
Filmmaker and Actor
2019 Director in Residence, Malthouse Theatre

Susan McEvoy
Executive Board Member
Women in Film and Television International

Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki
Visual Arts Trainer
Geelong, Australia

Ljudan Michaelis-Thorpe
Sessional Academic Griffith Film School
Producer/Writer Indidi-TELL Pty Ltd
WIFT Australia board director

Dr Jessica Ford
Lecturer in Film, Media and Cultural Studies
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The University of Newcastle


Dr Claire Konkes
Lecturer in Media
School of Creative Arts and Media
University of Tasmania

Tammy Honey
Festival Director,
Geelong International Film Festival
Dr Alison Bennett
Lecturer in Photography
Chair, Diversity & Inclusion Working Party
School of Art
RMIT University

Joyce Morgan
Former Arts Editor
The Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney

Sophie Mathisen
Executive Director
For Film’s Sake
Sydney

Dr Shaun Wilson
Head, International Sales and Distribution
Bakers Road Entertainment
Melbourne

Maureen Bradley
Chair, Department of Writing
University of Victoria
BC, Canada

Ava Karvonen
President
Women in Film and Television Alberta (Canada)

Diana Sandars
Lecturer in Screen Studies, School of Culture and Communication,
University of Melbourne

Christine Willes
Director, Chair of Women's Committee
UBCP/ACTRA
British Columbia Canada


Connie Brown
Director of Finance
Union of BC Performers
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Dame Changer Board (8 members)
Heather Oxenham, Chair
Australia

Dr Phoebe Hart
Senior Lecturer, Film & Screen
QUT Creative Industries

Dr Sheree Gregory
Lecturer, School of Business
Member, Institute for Culture & Society
Western Sydney University

Leanna Bonamici
Founder & President, Palm Springs Women in Film & Television
Board Member, Women in Film & Television International

Esther Anatolitis
Executive Director
National Association for the Visual Arts

Dr Susan Cake
Lecturer, Film & Screen
QUT Creative Industries

Dr Marion McCutcheon
Research Associate
Digital Media Research Centre, QUT

Dr Kylie Andrews, Media Historian, University of Technology Sydney

About the author

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