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Reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander Peoples and Issues

This resource provides quick guidelines to support media professionals


࿳࿳ Whether deliberate or unconscious, those ࿳࿳ Like many cultural groups, Aboriginal and
working in the media have the power to Torres Strait Islander peoples have diverse
influence how Aboriginal and Torres Strait skin tones, features and appearances.
Islander peoples are perceived and understood.
࿳࿳ It’s easy to make assumptions on whether
࿳࿳ Reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait you think someone ‘looks’ Aboriginal or
Islander peoples without taking appropriate Torres Strait Islander.
steps to ensure cultural protocols are followed
can be incredibly damaging. ࿳࿳ Asking someone about the “percentage”
or “ratio” of their heritage can be offensive
࿳࿳ It is your responsibility as journalists to ensure because of the way people were classified
reporting is both factual and respectful. during the Stolen Generations.

LANGUAGE ࿳࿳ If you have a number of images to select
from, ask yourself why you selected a
࿳࿳ Before you begin your story, consider the certain photo and whether the skin tone of
use of language and terminology when the person featured in the photo, or location
referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait affected your decision.
Islander peoples.
࿳࿳ The most common and widely used
terminology is “Aboriginal” or “Torres Strait ࿳࿳ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Islander” person or peoples. all have very different opinions, views and
perspectives about the things that affect
࿳࿳ If you are wanting to say “Aboriginal and their individual lives, their communities and
Torres Strait Islander peoples” more than their families.
once in a story, it can be interchanged with
“Indigenous people”. ࿳࿳ It is important to canvass a range
of views and not rely on one
࿳࿳ When in doubt, ask how an Indigenous “Indigenous perspective”.
person would like to be referred to.
“Aboriginal”, “Torres Strait Islanders”, and ࿳࿳ The broad spectrum of views can be
“Indigenous” should always be dignified with based on geography, political persuasion,
a capital ‘A’ and ‘I’. profession, expertise, age, gender or socio-
economic background.
࿳࿳ Aboriginal should never be abbreviated and
Torres Strait Islander should be used in full ࿳࿳ Also consider using Indigenous opinions in
and not shortened to ‘TSI’ non-Indigenous stories too.

Reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Issues


࿳࿳ There are cultural protocols around .. Have you researched the community
using the name and image of a you’re going into—the country, the people
deceased person. and appropriate protocols?

࿳࿳ In some communities, using the deceased .. Are you visiting any sacred sites? If so,
person’s name - out loud and in writing - or have you sought permission to do so?
showing photographs of that person is
restricted during the mourning period. .. Is the use of language appropriate
and accurate?
࿳࿳ Practices vary from community to
community, so be mindful before .. Have you addressed the “Aboriginal-
reporting on the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander-First Nations-
Torres Strait Islander person. Indigenous person” question, by asking
the people you are reporting on their
࿳࿳ Consider providing suitable warnings preferred terminology?
at the beginning of the content to warn
audiences that a deceased person’s .. If reproducing deceased people’s images,
imagery or name is being used. has permission been sought from the
family or clan representatives for the

࿳࿳ If you are wanting to film in an Indigenous .. Has a deceased warning been placed in
community, area or cultural site - it is best a prominent position at the beginning
to check with the relevant Land Council as of the story, after discussing the proper
to whether you need to gain permission. wording with relevant family and
community members?
࿳࿳ In many Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities some sites, images, .. Is your story canvassing a range of
objects and knowledge are sacred. Indigenous opinions?

࿳࿳ ‘Sacred and secret’ refers to information .. Have you considered how Indigenous
and material that is restricted under people are portrayed including through
cultural laws. language, character and cultural symbols?

࿳࿳ Be aware that in some instances, .. Are you respecting the lands and cultural
community members may prefer to property of Indigenous people?
deal with people of the same sex in
certain contexts. .. Before and after your story is
disseminated, have you taken time
࿳࿳ There are other cultural practices which, to reflect on how it may impact the
while they should not necessarily inhibit community you are reporting on?
reporting, should be handled with
appropriate care. When in doubt, ask!


Published July 2018