New research reveals mainstream media fails Indigenous political activism

Monday, 24 February 2020
Kerry O'Brien speaking at the launch of Does the media fail Aboriginal Political Aspirations?

A new book exposing the failures of mainstream media reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander political activism was launched today in Canberra by the renowned journalist and broadcaster, Kerry O’Brien.

The book Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, is published by Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP) at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

The research analyses the media treatment of 11 Indigenous initiatives seeking self-determination and justice, from the 1972 Larrakia petition seeking land rights and treaties, to the desire for recognition expressed in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Michael Ramalli, acting AIATSIS CEO says media reporting on Indigenous issues has come a long way since 1972, but more needs to change:

“This research shows that the deficit discourse – a point of view that Indigenous people start from a place of failure – is still with us. Australian media outlets still need to provide more training, employ a more diverse workforce, and have greater understanding into how their standpoint affects the way they report on Indigenous issues.”

The editors of the book, Amy Thomas, Andrew Jakubowicz and Heidi Norman, were asked to conduct the research by the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs as part of a strategy to improve the dynamics between Aboriginal people and governments.

The book can be used by media professionals to improve their practices, by Indigenous communities to test media accuracy and truth-telling and by anyone seeking to understand how Aboriginal desires and hopes have been represented, in recent Australian political history.

Editor and author, Heidi Norman, says: “A shift needs to be made by the media to create an accurate and unbiased narrative about Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal people. This book can help media professionals do that. There’s no reason why mainstream media should not accurately reflect the sophistication of Aboriginal political activism.”

Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments by Amy Thomas, Andrew Jakubowicz and Heidi Norman can be purchased at the AIATSIS shop.

(L-R) Amy Thomas (researcher/editor), Anne-Maree Payne (researcher), Michael Ramalli (AIATSIS CEO a/g), Heidi Norman (researcher/editor) and Alison Whittaker (researcher)

Media enquiries: Commsmedia@aiatsis.gov.au or P: 02 6261 4241

Last reviewed: 24 Feb 2020