Welcome to the sixth gift of the week. In today’s newsletter we share a review of a new podcast series by UTS and Impact Studios – Black Stories Matter. The 5 part podcast series builds a conversation around the 2019 book ‘Does the Media Fail Aboriginal Political Aspirations 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments.’ by researchers Amy Thomas, Heidi Norman and Andrew Jakubowicz from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UTS. The book traces the inadequate Aboriginal representation in the media, that has consistently undermined, failed and denied Aboriginal aspirations for self-determination. (7 mins read)
There is a greater role for our media to play in holding the Government accountable for the promises they have made to First Nations People. Unfortunately, the still predominantly white media continues to fail First Nations People
The 5-part podcast series takes the listener on a journey that outlines:
The last 45 years of media reporting of Aboriginal political aspirations highlighting only the struggles, riots, and overall negative stereotypes, also referred to as the failures of Aboriginal people
The lack of representation of First Nations People identities, aspirations, and achievements because of the white, European and Anglo-centric Australian media leadership
The role of mainstream media as the most influential storyteller, who tells Aboriginal stories through a white, settler colonial lens, with little adherence to cultural protocols and trust building with First Nations People and their political needs
The great Australian silence of non-Indigenous listeners
In episode 1- “Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?” Professor Stan Grant Jnr, Wiradjuri man, Vice Chancellor’s Chair of Australian-Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and former ABC Global Affairs and Indigenous Affairs Analyst talks about the media, being driven solely by two pillars of reporting – conflict and crises – creating more division rather than illuminating issues that can advance Aboriginal political aspirations. He talks about the need to challenge the nature of power structures in media companies run by white Australian men and their lack of responsibility and inclination for having a wider BIPOC workforce – a diverse group of journalists who bring the mix of knowledge, understanding and lived experiences from different backgrounds to the forefront. He further reflects upon the lack of BIPOC representation in public and commercial broadcasters because of their unwillingness to promote and develop BIPOC careers rather than not receiving enough BIPOC applications, which is an argument that media organisations often fall back on.
The second episode – “A test we have always failed: A history of Aboriginal politics in the media”, revolves around the Redfern speech of 1992 by Paul Keating. The first time a Prime Minister had spoken about the dispossession, violence and prejudice carried out against First Nations people in Australia, marking history and putting reconciliation firmly on the political agenda. This episode discusses how 28 years later the promises made on the day to First Nations Australians have not been fulfilled.
Jason Ardler, whose cultural ties are to the Yuin people of the NSW South Coast and who is the former head of NSW Aboriginal Affairs, discusses the challenges he faced in politics, media’s inability to abandon negative stereotypes and the failure to recognise First Nations voices. He refers to the gaps – lack of cultural capabilities – in carrying forward Aboriginal political aspirations by non-Indigenous journalists and policy makers. He highlights the dominance of public discourse, attitudes and values that reveal ignorance, systemic stereotyping, paternalistic attitudes and misrepresentations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This includes a tendency to report that the negative impacts of systemic racism on Aboriginal communities are instead of their own fault.
In the same episode, Arrente and Luritja woman Catherine Liddle, the CEO of First Nations Media, shares a story of her Grandfather, one of the Stolen Generations children, who didn’t complain about anything until he was on his deathbed. She recalls how he told her, a few days before he passed – as she sat next to him:
“the bastard had blue eyes”. She asked him: “who had blue eyes, Ggan?”, to which he replied: “the man who took me had blue eyes… why did he have to take me away from my mummy, why did they do that?”
What she shares through this narration is the power of telling a story as your own, with an understanding of the background and the cultural protocols – a parameter often lacking in how Aboriginal stories get told by non-Indigenous white Australian journalists. Non-Aboriginal Australians have been kept far away from the truth, because the stories have never reached them as they should have. Non-Aboriginal Australians in Parliament and newsrooms will need to stir that change by letting Aboriginal People tell their own story.
Black Stories Matter is the beginning of a long overdue conversation. We need to break the narratives of failure through which First Nations stories are told in mainstream media. We need diverse media leadership to trickle down change in the newsrooms. We need to support independent, community media, where Indigenous voices can grow. It is time to start listening. And a good way is Black Stories Matter. Dive right in.