Posted 7 Jan 17

Our aim is to improve the representation of our people. We are currently working on a four-stage project to better the communication between Aboriginal community organisations and Victorian based journalists, with the aim of improving the reporting of family violence experienced by Aboriginal people.

News reports that rely on racial stereotypes and paint a picture of dysfunctional communities have harmful effect. These reports project a false image of Aboriginal people that hinder positive cross-cultural race relations. They contribute to a sense of hopelessness for our people by painting a bleak picture of Aboriginal life that discourages both victims and perpetrators from seeking help.

News reports must go beyond the statistics and ask the question “why?” Why are Aboriginal women hospitalised at a much greater rate than non-Aboriginal women? Why do we use terms like “Aboriginal family violence” when the Aboriginality of the victim is recorded but not the perpetrator? Why are Aboriginal women less likely to seek help from police?

Behind the violence are complex factors stemming from the intergenerational trauma of colonisation. Behind the statistics are systematic issues and failures. When news stories ignore these factors they promote a falsity that violence is a part of Aboriginal culture and a way of life for our people.

When the high rate of violence committed against Aboriginal women is not considered newsworthy, it sends a message that our safety is not important.

It is impossible for journalists to cover the complexities of these issues without having access to knowledgeable and diverse Aboriginal spokespeople. The project we are working on, commissioned by the Department of Premier and Cabinet aims to increase communication between journalists and community members through four pieces of work:

  1. A research document by Lilly Brown to understand current reporting trends by Victorian based print newspapers.
  2. Conversations with Victorian based journalists to discuss the challenges of cross-cultural engagement. Conversations with Aboriginal spokespeople to discuss the challenges of engaging with the media.
  3. A panel conversation that brings together key spokespeople and journalists for an open conversation about ways to improve communication between the sectors.
  4. A Tool Kit aimed at tertiary level journalism students to provide guidance when reporting on Aboriginal experiences of family violence.