National Indigenous Television (NITV)

NITV provides television from the perspective of indigenous people in Australia. Christie (1985) discusses the differences between a ‘world view as seen by people of western cultures and indigenous people’. He suggest that the western view is one of the environment having been controlled and manipulated for survival, this is also extended to the social world. In contrast, the indigenous world view is one of co-operation and co-existence with the forces of nature and this is generalised to view of fellow humans. Further, western people have a positive view of knowledge: the world exists in a certain way and knowledge can be gained by observing and collecting data and studying it. Instead indigenous people believe the way the world is has special meaning which unties people, land and songs. Other differences are the value placed on kinship and reciprocal relations within indigenous culture where the focuses is on cooperation over competition with less emphasis on individual ownership of possessions and a greater importance placed on membership to the family and community  (Dockery 2010). Taking this into account the indigenous ‘world view’ is not interpreted or represented in much of  mainstream Australian culture, including the media. For this reason Indigenous media is a key way through which this cultural world view and identity might be expressed and shared. As has been discussed on other blog posts, evidence suggests that culture provides meaning and value to people’s lives contributing to their psychosocial stability  (Dockery 2010) NATSIS data suggests that continuity of traditional indigenous cultural production, such as this television channel, have a positive outcome on well-being (Biddle and Swee 2012).

US TV show ‘2 Broke Girls’ under fire for racist joke

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This example of a ‘joke’ demonstrates nomalising of racism in a global context; it is an american made television program and the joke is made by a character played by an actor of Asian decent. It place one group, the Indigenous Australians, as the ethnic “other” to be mocked and thus discriminated against. O’Neil Jr (2009))suggests it is the “constancy, universality, and, at times, invisibility of racism and intolerance make it an ongoing threat and one that functions most often by stealth.” In the case of this program the racism is in a sense ‘hidden in plain sight’ we are expected to accept it as part of the humor as it exists in a fictional space it is untouchable due to the existential separation of both the character and their opinion  from reality.   Scott  (2005) notes such examples of racism in TV and media are often assumed not to be truly racist by virtue of the fact that they so effortlessly engage in the offensive. Ironic racism, in this view, takes advantage of the notion that in a culture so concerned with political correctness, only creators “secure (in their) lack of racism would dare to make, or to laugh at, a racist joke” (Scott, 2005). Thus, to present racist characters in the current comedy environment may, paradoxically, testify to the creator’s ultimate lack of prejudice. However this view may be contested as it fails to consider whether this trend makes a positive, progressive contribution to discussions of prejudice or works to make such views ‘socially acceptable’ further preventing any real distinction and thus eradication of racism and discrimination towards indigenous people .

Hollywood representation of Indigenous Australians

Jedda 1955

In this film by Charles Chauvel the depiction of indigenous people reflects attitudes of the 1950s regarding the belief that it was within the best interests of indigenous people for them to be assimilated into wider society . Indigenous culture is represented as savage and even in this promotional video the actors are described as having come from their ‘traditional way of life’ to bring it to the big screen. Both indigenous characters Marabuck and Jedda are eliminated in the film, a consequence of their ‘Moral weakness’.  Rekhari (2008) states ‘The representation of Marabuck and Jedda is constructed by Chauvel to signify the end of a race. They are not allowed to live, because they are made to represent the fiction of a race that is ultimately doomed to extinction’

Walkabout 1971

In Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout the outback is depicted as a kind of mystical land romanticised through a kind of Orientalism or ‘nativism’ (Said 1986) depicted in scenes of the two white children  losing themselves in the beauty of the land under the protection of the indigenous boy. However the film also provides a disappearing view of aboriginal culture, the young boy kills himself at the end of the film again emphasising the dying culture, too fragile to survive exposure to the ‘outside’ ‘white’ word

Rabbit Proof Fence  2002

Philip Noyces film deals with the experience of the stolen generations. It aims to prompt an emotional response to the plight of the protagonists Molly and Daisy. It did so successfully, raising awareness around the world to what happened to these children and their families as a result of the governments assimilation policies. Whether the film is a ‘true’ narrative of the kind of experiences or merely a Hollywood exaggeration is widely debated. The film received fierce backlash for gross misrepresentation of the white Australian government’s treatment of indigenous people. Nevertheless the film raised awareness.

Australia 2008  

Baz Lurhman’s epic displays the kind of dualism seen in all the films above. The images of the grandfather in country and the small boy on walkabout are juxtaposed with Nicole Kidman’s colonial British aristocrat and the cattle business in the town creating a constant reinforcement of aboriginal racial stereotyping. There film demonstrates the belonging of the indigenous people to the land through customary obligations resulting in he physical and emotional distress of the small boy when he is taken away to the missions, perhaps reflecting more recent ideologies around self determinism of indigenous people.

Rekhari’s anthropological analysis of aboriginal filmic representation argues that they this far reinforce the fact that things are in a continual process of change, but have not yet reached a level representative of an actual contemporary Aboriginal socio-cultural, political and historical identity.

Bit of Black Business 2007 Short Film Series of Black Business Series

This indigenous TV series demonstrates  a shift from etic to emic in representation. In contrast to much of the  mainstream media and film  attempts to define Indigenous Australians by western categories  the issues are presented by those of the indigenous people themselves. This episode is directly linked to the idea of self determinism vs assimilation through the issue of employment. For many indigenous Australians achievement of employment may require sacrificing  elements of their culture, which may in turn have a negative impact upon their wellbeing. Dockery  thus suggests we must raise questions over the appropriateness of standard socio-economic indicators. (2010)

Australians Shake Up Internet With Indigenous #MotherLanguage Tweets


According to McConvell and Thieberger (2001) less than half of the 200- 300 indigenous languages spoken in Australia at the time of the European colonisation are still spoken and many more are currently endangered. They argue that language is a key connector to tradition and heritage connecting people to culture and environment. The NATSISS survey found that only 24.7% of Indigenous adults could understand or speak an Indigenous language.  Hallaet et al state that this loss of indigenous language “spells the end of another way of looking at the world, of explaining the unknown and of making sense of life” (Hallett et al (2007 p393).  Maintenance of Indigenous languages among young people is key to keeping the languages alive for future generations. Being able to converse in one’s own language has been proven to produce a strong sense of self, and has been found to reduce rates of suicide among indigenous youth (Hallet et al 2004). This kind of online learning through tweets may be a key way in which the internet can be used as a means of culture preservation for indigenous people.

Indigenous Singer Australia Day Controversy

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This story highlights the divide that exists within Australia, it is perhaps a demonstration of the conflict that occurs on the frontier between indigenous and non-indigenous traditions and practices. There is a need for sensitivity and respect to indigenous issues as well as an understanding of the history that has formed the generations of oppression. It is for this reason young Australians both indigenous and non indigenous need to be taught about the history and hardships experienced by indigenous people. Such an education would perhaps facilitate new attitudes among non-indigenous people and prevent further discrimination as well as creating young activists within indigenous communities.