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Australian Indigenous Protocols for Journalists [And Tourists]
Issues that effect or involve Indigenous people are often newsworthy. Similarly Indigenous people make up a proportion of the media consuming public, and are interested in what the media has to offer them.
Further info on Ethics and Codes of Conduct.
The manner in which Indigenous people are portrayed and addressed by the media is important for informative and effective journalism.
Good journalism is based on many things, but effective relationships between the source or subject of information and the journalist is a good start.
These protocols are aimed at providing a guide for journalists to effective and respectful communication with Indigenous peoples. There are no firm rules which can be applied to all Indigenous peoples or situations but there are some guidelines and principles which can help identify the best way to proceed when researching, interviewing, writing and publishing works dealing with matters of concern to Indigenous people.
Lack of knowledge about the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture can create a breakdown in communication resulting in misrepresentation of Indigenous people reporting which is offensive to Indigenous people.
There is often a gap between many white media representations of Indigenous people and Indigenous perspectives of their own situations. This was recognised at the National Inquiry into Racist Violence (1990). It was claimed that television is perceived by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (and other minority groups) to be influential in maintaining racism against them. Insensitivity and ignorance of journalists are seen to be some of the primary reasons.
This protocol provides guidance and suggestions for ensuring accurate and appropriate journalism. It takes each step of creation of a story and advises on methods and practices to ensure efficient, accurate and respectful work.
General Protocols There are no hard and fast rules when interacting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Every community is unique. The approach you will take will be different depending on the community's location - there are remote communities, rural communities, communities in provincial towns and major cities - each to be recognised as culturally distinct.
People • It's offensive to question the 'amount' of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander blood an Indigenous person has. • The labels "half caste", "quarter caste", "full blood" etc. are racist and unacceptable. • The regional terms Koori, Murri, Nunga etc. are used by Aboriginal people to describe each other according to their home country. • Western Australia (southwest) - Nyoogar • Northern NSW and Queensland (eastern) - Murri • South Australia - Nungah • Tasmania - Palawa • Northern Territory (Arnhem land) - Yolngu • NSW - Koori • Victoria - Koorie • The use of such terms recognises the changes to the original structure of language groups but acknowledges the cultural variations still existent within contemporary Aboriginal society. • Your credibility has been well established within the community if you have sought permission from the relevant community.
Grammar • Do not use acronyms to refer to Indigenous people e.g.'ATSIs', 'TIs' etc. • Abbreviation for Aboriginal is Abl. and Torres Strait Islanders TSI. • Always use a capital A for Aboriginal and Aborigine. This applies only to Australian Aboriginal people. • Most Aboriginal people prefer not to be called an Aborigine, and it's preferable to say Aboriginal person or peoples. • When using Indigenous always use a capital I. Aboriginal and Indigenous are classified as people, and therefore qualify using capitals. This applies only to Australian Indigenous people.
Conduct • Speak in a manner that can be easily understood as English is often a second, and sometimes, a third, fourth or even fifth language for many remote Indigenous communities. If necessary, use an interpreter; • Keep technical words to a minimum, or if used, they should be fully explained; • Be careful not to speak too quickly; • Do not mimic Aboriginal speech patterns. Learn a few words of the local language. This will be a positive step in improving your relationship with the community. • However, only use a language within its home community. It may be inappropriate to use elsewhere, or the language may be misinterpreted and you may find yourself excluded from another community. • Be sensitive to the use of nonverbal communication cues, which are a natural part of Aboriginal communication patterns: • Use of silence does not mean Aboriginal people do not understand. They may be listening, remaining noncommittal or waiting for community support; • Use indirect eye contact (which is a sign of respect in Aboriginal culture). • Time delays (sometimes lengthy) before communities impart requested information, or a less direct communication style, is common within Aboriginal communities. • To be direct may be seen as confrontational: • During discussions, Aboriginal people may delay expressing a firm opinion even though they may hold one. • Instead, they may listen to others before offering their own view. • If their view conflicts with others they will often tend to understate it; • The question "why?" is virtually absent from the language of remote Aboriginal communities. Instead, observation is used as a learning device.
Source: Protocols for Consultation and Negotiation with Aboriginal People (1998) Qld Department of Families, Youth & Community Care
Further information: • Further info on Ethics and Codes of Conduct • ABC 'Message Stick Cultural Protocols for Indigenous Reporting in the Media (PDF, 653KB) • Indigenous Heritage consultation: Australian organisations keen to Ask First 17 December 2002 - Australian Heritage Commission - Due to high demand from Australian organisations wanting to know how to consult Indigenous communities about planning and development, the country's first comprehensive guidelines to protecting Indigenous heritage have been reprinted. • National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association (NIAA) — Copyright: Questions and answers
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