Rachael Hocking is a Warlpiri woman and a journalist. Rachael was a Cadet with Kalinya, writing Media Releases and assisting with events before she was recruited to SBS News as a journalist and associate producer for NITV News and The Point.
What makes you proud to be an Aboriginal woman?
Every day I walk on land that has been walked on for more than 60,000 years. I have a direct tie to one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. It’s incredibly humbling and a constant source of pride to know that my Warlpiri language and culture is still practiced and passed on. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to be a recipient of my Elders’ traditional knowledge, and to be in a position where I can educate others about our histories and stories.
Growing up, did you see images in the media you could identify with?
I didn’t watch a lot of television growing up, but I did read. In magazines and newspapers I rarely saw a black face that reflected my own. Sometimes I read voices I could identify with, and if no description of their skin colour or background was given I could relate. But it was frustrating when these book characters were presented in movies as white.
Why did you choose a career in journalism?
Growing up I was a storyteller, so falling into journalism came naturally. At first I just wanted to tell anybody’s story – I love talking to people and listening to unique perspectives. But as I studied my people’s history, I realised the stories I wanted to tell were the ones that weren’t being heard. I wanted the rest of the world to know about the strength and resilience of Australia’s First Peoples, about our suffering and the injustices we’ve endured, and continue to endure. And I wanted these stories to be heard from a black perspective, from the words of the people themselves. As a black journalist I almost feel a duty in this way, to work for black Australia.
Why are diverse images of Aboriginality important?
To breakdown stereotypes: We are not one people, we are peoples. While many of our social outcomes and experiences post-1788 are similar, we come from all over this country and comprise more than 250 languages, the majority of which are extinct or endangered. We live in cities, in towns and in remote communities. We have different views about politics and the world. If the rest of Australia wants to understand and speak to Indigenous peoples, not ideas of us, then Australia needs to be exposed to our diversity. The same goes for positive representations. If wider Australia wants to respect Indigenous peoples then it needs to see us as people – not examples of social issues. Once the mainstream media begins to look beyond simplistic views of all of us, and showcase stories that are about the strength and achievement of First Peoples, alongside holistic representations of the issues that affect all of us, then maybe we can start to have valuable dialogue with Australia.
What has been your involvement with Kalinya?
I was privileged enough to be a cadet with Kalinya in 2014 – for me, that was a stepping-stone into Indigenous reporting. Through Kalinya’s hardworking Director, Jirra, I was introduced to some incredible people working in the Indigenous arts, and other areas, in Melbourne. I wrote about and facilitated events – alternating between journalism and PR often. I honed my writing and interviewing skills, but most importantly I met intelligent and talented Indigenous people. I cannot overstate the importance of these relationships for a young aspiring black reporter. To know there are Indigenous people working in your industry and others, doing amazing things all the time, helped to balance me amid a constant barrage of negative media. Kalinya has opened so many doors for me, and I continue to be incredibly grateful for the experience!
Why is it important to have Aboriginal run media initiatives?
Because when we make up a very small percentage of Indigenous reporters in the mainstream media, let alone editors, we need a space to control our image. We need independent media, public broadcasters and mainstream publications that are run by Indigenous Australians because it’s gives Indigenous clients and audiences representation and sources of information that can be trusted, because they are controlled by people who have had similar lived experience to them. And while acknowledging our diversity is important, there is no denying our common connection because of the effect colonisation has had on all Indigenous peoples. Having control of our image through PR organisations, the press and other media is one of the most empowering things we can do to counter those effects.
What are you doing now?
Right now I am a journalist and associate producer for NITV News and The Point on NITV. I produce, research and report stories on Indigenous Australia every day – I have the best job in the world!
Where will you be in 5 years?
Hopefully travelling across the world. I will always come back to Indigenous affairs reporting in my career, but in order to better myself as a journalist I know I need to see more than my own country. I want to hear from other minorities and colonised peoples and tell their stories, too.
Photo: Courtesy of NITV