Indigenous Representation in Australian Media

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In this essay I will argue that the media representation of Indigenous Australian’s is stereotypical and distorted. Far from a true reflection of Aboriginal life and practice, the media manipulates the interpretation of what white Australia view as the life of an Indigenous Australian. I aim to show that cultural stereotyping, and cultural sensationalist reporting exists within the media, and therefore the general public. I will provide a basis for this argument starting with the views and cultures prevalent in the origins of Australian media. In conjunction with my argument, I will draw on examples taken from specific stories published by media provider ‘The Australian,” to use them as an example of Indigenous portrayal in mainstream media. The analysis of these stories will display evidence of stereotypical representation of Indigenous Australians. My argument will also incorporate scholarly views on the Aboriginal communities own view on their representation, and show an example of what steps they have taken within their communities to counteract such treatment.

Meadows (2001, p. 1) refers to colonial literature perpetrating racial stereotyping and racist treatment of native Australians. This is a concept also approached by Hall (cited in Ewart, 1997, p. 109) showing how media is part of the formation of race and cultural identity in the Australian landscape. This shows that the very fabric of indigenous representation in the creation of Australian media has been influencing the country’s views from day one. If this is the case, and has been since the creation of Australian media, how does the average Australian recognise stereotyping when reading a story or watching the news?, they won’t. People generally place their faith in the media, and believe what they are viewing to be free of prejudice. This belief works in unison with the view that in the modern politically correct world, racism no longer has an influence on the media, and racial stereotyping is a thing of the past. This belief does have merit with the extinction of blatant racism, but the undertones are still influencing the media. Jakubowicz (cited in Bullimore, 1999, p. 73) refers to the point that overt racism may not be as prevalent as it previously was, but covert racism in stereotypical representation of the Indigenous still exists. These covertly racist influences were exposed in 1991 in a National Inquiry into racism, and the Human Rights Commission (cited in Bullimore, 1999, p. 73) found that the Australian media has a tendency for the fuelling and promotion of racial stereotyping, not to mention sensationalism reporting on the issues of race. A perfect example of this stereotyping is a recent article by The Australian in March 2010 titled, ‘Parents stopping kids going to school.’ This article offers a 26 photo picture gallery with text below. The story is based around Indigenous kids not wanting to attend school; apparently some parents say this is due to schoolyard violence. The story offers no insight or analysis into the violence or even any explanation of the children’s issues; it simply stereotypes Indigenous families and communities via the visual and written content. Initial pictures show barefoot children playing in a park with text making it very clear that it is 11:10am on a school day, and the children are not at school. The next set show children at 11:20am on a school day sitting around on dirty mattresses in squalor. The text continually drives in here that the children are at home, and the pictures show family members sitting around in a circle not seeming to care. The story then moves on to children on a school bus, and eventually sitting on the floor in class. So are they at school or not? Is it the children that don’t want to go or is it the parents not wanting them to. Here is my point regarding this story. There are no facts, just a focus on Indigenous children not at school, and a focus on their families...
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