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Indigenous Peoples Representation In Mainstream Media Of Australia Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2412 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The media role in informing society about the surrounding world is imperative. Media has the influencing power of decisions both for what is news and what gets to be published, and the capacity to signify, events, places, people and situations in definite ways. Accordingly, media is considered as a dynamic stakeholder in giving significance to issues and events as they come up in the public sphere. Considerable levels of discussions are in progress about the effects of the media; a core assumption of media analysis is that the making of news has the prospects of influencing readers or audiences (Street, 2001).

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Indigenous people's representation in mainstream media of Australia is vital; as the media has the potential tools of describing indigenous people to non-indigenous Australians. The media present a baseline regarding what to think about Indigenous Australians, which has an impact on their mind-set afterwards. The media role of reporting race related issues was discussed in the report of The National Inquiry into Racial Violence 1991 (NIRV) stating that the perpetuation and encouragement of negative racial stereotypes, a propensity towards conflictual and sensationalist reporting and an inattentiveness towards, and often unawareness of, minority cultures can all add to build a social climate which is tolerant of racist violence (HEORC, 1991).

I found that Yolanda Walker's article "Aboriginal family issues" which effectively enlightened the problems of Aboriginal people in contemporary Australia. This essay inline with Yolanda's findings provides an analytical brief account of how mainstream Australian media portrays the Aboriginal family issues. This essay is focused on the removal of aboriginal children from their families, its effects on their development and

the reporting of these issues in the media.

2. Media - Positioning public opinion and perceptions

The role of the media in shaping public perceptions and opinions about significant political and social issues has long been the subject matter of much speculation and debate (Wilson & Wilson, 2001). Generally, it is acknowledged that our knowledge, thinking and beliefs about the happenings in the world, outside of our personal first-hand experience, is shaped, and some would say orchestrated, by how all these events are reported in print media and communicated through the electronic media.

Bernard Cohen stated "the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about" (Cohen, 1963, p.13).

Explanations of the media's influence describe, to some extent, what actually happens. The media can and often does decide what is reported, and these stories, in whole or in part, are assimilated and accommodated into the emotional fabric and cognitive

structures of individual readers and viewers.

3. Aboriginal: the concept of family

The expression "family" necessitates for brainstorming for finding its meaning for different cultural setups. The family is a social unit made up of father, mother, brothers and sisters. All these members play an important role while living together. The family has to fulfill some primary roles in respective cultures. Children in their early age of dependency are nourished and looked after by their families. A family passes on to their children the communication skills such as language providing a code of dealings with others enabling them to play an active role in the society.

And the family inculcates values and norms, the feeling of what is essential, what is worth protecting, defending and, if essential, fighting for. For Aboriginal people kinship and family are of particular importance. The concept of family is very strong among them in a sense that they give more importance to the members in their families such as more respect to their elders; respect their decisions, great love for their younger ones (Working with ATSI, n.d.).

Envisioning, the grief that develops when families consider themselves inadequate to fulfill their liabilities, or the child dies, or is taken away through state intervention, never to return. In public hearings of HREOC (1997) frequently, it was heard from Aboriginal presenters the assertion that "Our children are our future" and almost as often the lament "We have lost our parenting skills".

4. Aboriginal Children removal from family

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's national inquiry for separation of indigenous children from their families in its final report ('Bringing Them Home') has exposed the level to which Aboriginal families have been disrupted since the entrance of Europeans on these coasts (HREOC, 1997).

It is hard to regard the level of impact on the Aboriginal families as result of removing children from them but the report ('Bringing Them Home') has recognised the fact that in 1910 until between one in three and one in ten indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities. This forceful removal of children has affected most of the families for one or more generations (HREOC, 1997).

Since 1937, the removal of indigenous children from their families on such a large scale depicting it as national policy. Therefore, the Human Rights Commission said that official strategy and law for indigenous families and children were opposing to recognise lawful rule introduced into Australia as British common law and from late 1946, constituted an offense against civilization. It violated the accepted values and principles of the times and was the focus of dispute and confrontation. The officials and other contributors are to be held responsible for the imposition of such biased legislation which was harmful of vulnerable and needy children whose parents were incapable to inquire and know their children's situation and defend them from misuse and mistreatment (HREOC, 1997).

Genocide is the forcible transfer of children from one group of national, ethnic, racial or religious to another group and to destroy them in whole or in part. At the height of the strategy of disconnecting Aboriginal children from their families is `genocide' (HREOC, 1997, p.270.) The colonisers of this continent have thought that the best way to make black people act like white people was to get control of the children who had not so far learned aboriginal lifeways.

The removal policies have severely affected every concerned individual - where worst lives were lost. A little known but the most astonishing fact that 43 out of the 99 Aboriginal people had died in custody were separated in childhood from their natural families by the involvement of the State, Mission organizations or other institutions' was exposed by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC, 1991).

5. Child Removal: Effects

Aboriginal children removed from families often suffer from or demonstrate

Mostly isolation from others.

Low self-esteem and thoughts of worthlessness.

Mistrusting everyone including state functionaries who maintain to shape community relationship to them.

Loss of identity: A former Aboriginal footballer Sydney Jackson's exact age cannot be assured because the birth of Sydney Jackson can't be verified by reference. July 1, 1944 was simply understood to be his birthday. Thus, people like Sydney have problems applying for lawful credentials such as passports (The Stolen Generations, n.d.).

Difficulties to find their religious beliefs: Since they were brought to many different missions or homes where they were taught different kinds of religions.

Inner guilt: Because Aboriginal children often blame their families for not caring and loving for them, based on incorrect information communicated by caregivers. However, later they often find out that their powerless families were frequently trying to bring them back to home.

Psychological problems.

Inspite of living parents most children (particularly boys) were told that their parents were dead, caused many to suffer severe Psychological problems... some just wanted to end their lives. -Bill Simon, taken away aged 10 (The Stolen Generations, n.d.).

Difficult to administer associations: Because they have never had a role representation to be taught from. Many interactions are vicious and abusive which left affecting and bodily scars so deep they would have a permanent impact on victim life and all his future relationships.-Bill Simon, taken aged ten (The Stolen Generations, n.d.).

Loss of cultural affiliation and language: Since they were deprived of traditional knowledge, therefore, Aboriginal children cannot take a part in the educational and religious life of their own communities. "I don't know nothing about my culture. I don't know nothing about the land and the language," says Cynthia Sariago whose mother has died. "It's hard going back to your native traditional setup because you're not really accepted by your mother's traditional people"

(The Stolen Generations, n.d.).

6. Negative Exposure: A Snapshot of Aboriginal Family issues in Australia's

Mainstream Media

Since the white settlement in Australia, Meadows (2001) outlined the growth of media and journalistic practices in Australia. According to him, earlier the media coverage of Indigenous people mostly composed of conventional reflections that have been obviously racist (Meadows, 2001). His idea includes instances a subtitle from news publication The Bulletin in May 1908 that state publicly below its masthead: Australia for the Whiteman, a subtitle that practiced till 1960 when the magazine changed ownership (Meadow, 2001, p.41). The Moreton Bay Courier, an early newspaper of Queensland, incorporated a regular section titled The Blacks, which transmitted to its readers the most recent news of disagreement between settlers and Indigenous Australians. Even recently, exposure of Aboriginal proceedings and issues has sustained to place Indigenous people in a specific way, but has carried out this through a continuing structure of mind-sets and inferential racism, relatively than the previously overtly racist coverage. Meadows concluded that "... overall, Indigenous people remain largely excluded from mainstream media processes, their interests ignored, and their voices seldom, if ever, heard" (Meadow, 2001, p.163).

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Elliott Johnston QC in his reports to the Royal Commission recognised that usually the Aboriginal people complain that they have had an extremely bad deal from the media, experiencing discrimination in access and presentation. We all accept that and know the pain and suffering that has been caused by the lies and distortions, negative stereotypes that the media often uses when reporting on Aboriginal issues (RCIADIC, 1991).

Sweet (2009) quoted Stanley (incharge of The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research) that "the more that the dominant culture reports negative stories about Aboriginal people, the more that Aboriginal children feel bad about being Aboriginal". She says that the positive stories have better impacts at many levels. Academic articles published for years about the benefits of swimming pools for Aboriginal children's health, with comparatively little impact. But in the media just one positive front-page story "resulted in swimming pools being put in all over the place." Says Stanley: "I have these fantasy conversations with Rupert Murdoch and say, 'you could Actually turn around Aboriginal people if you could change the way you report, even if you just made just 50 per cent of your articles positive, you could reduce suicide rates'" (Sweet, 2009).

Some Positive Stories: However, on the other hand media has some positive stories as well on its credit like Elliott Johnston QC in his reports to the Royal Commission recognised the positive role of the media.

The media played a significant role…in the establishment of this Royal Commission. By its coverage of the issues, from the death of John Pat to that of Lloyd Boney, by placing them in their broader social and moral context, and by its presentation of the campaign of the Committee to Defend Black Rights, the media has acted as one of the protagonists in the process of achieving greater justice for Aboriginal people that is the goal of this Commission (RCIADIC, 1991).

Therefore, in recommendation 208, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody states:

That, in view of the complaints of Aboriginal people about portraying them prejudicially by the media, the media industry stakeholders should develop and promote formal and informal contacts with Aboriginal people through Aboriginal welfare and media organisations. The objectivity of such contacts should be the creation of more improved understanding on all sides, of issues relating to the media management behaviours of Aboriginal affairs (RCIADIC, 1991).

The media, though - for all its faults - is merely a mirror of Australian society. Certainly their production is based on the wishes of their consumers. Thus, one can argue that Australians allow their media to be languid and imprecise. It is also recognizable that rarely media as a whole attained the high moral standards that it imposes on other segments of the society. This unfair attitude is criticized by people and organization and deems it as oafish, bureaucratic, egotistical and occasionally utter dishonesty (Graham, 2005).

7. Conclusion

Media outlets make decisions about what to report, and what not to report. Similarly, they make decisions regarding what makes front page, and what does not. It is evident from the demographic information that Aboriginal family issues did not feature prominently in mainstream media. Only stories that involved controversy made it to the front page. This suggests that journalists and editors believed that newspaper readers had only marginal interests in the political and social affairs of Indigenous people. Given this, it is possible to argue, as stated by Molnar (2001) 'that bad news is good news, and good news is no news' (p.320).


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