30 November 2020

First Nations media can play a driving role in achieving more positive race relations in Australia, challenging negative stereotypes and attitudes.

The 2020 Australian Reconciliation Barometer shows that 46% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people believe media portrayal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is usually negative. Meanwhile, the general community is divided over whether the media usually portrays Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a negative way (44%) or a balanced way (44%), leaving only 12% of people believing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are usually presented in a positive light.

While this is a small improvement on 2018 figures, it highlights the role of the community-controlled media sector in telling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander success stories. McNair Yellowsquares survey data found that 79% of audiences stated their reason for listening to First Nations radio services 'for positive stories on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people'.

First Nations Media Australia CEO Catherine Liddle said the outcomes of the Reconciliation Barometer reinforce how important First Nations community-controlled media is for truth-telling in this country.

"In an era of misinformation and social media vitriol, balanced reporting has never been more important.

"First Nations media exists due to the failure of mainstream media to provide fair and balanced reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the issues that matter to us.

"Our media outlets provide a balanced view of First Nations communities, sharing our strength, our stories, our successes in a way that celebrates our culture and educates the broader community. It is a space to have our voices and perspectives heard, to talk about challenges, but also to share solutions."

The Barometer found positive change in community attitudes around self-determination, representation, treaty and in understanding and learning about history. However experiences of racial prejudice have risen with 52% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiencing at least one form of racial prejudice in the past 6 months, up from 43% in 2018. In 2020 more people agree that 'Australia is a racist country', jumping up to 60% from 51% in 2018.   

"With nearly half of Australia seeing the portrayal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in media as negative, its unsurprising to see a correlation in racial prejudice and perceptions of racism in this country," Ms Liddle said.

"We need to change the media narrative, by making space for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the media, to change attitudes."

The good news is that people are showing a willingness to learn. 90% of the general community agrees is it important for all Australians to learn about past issues, increasing from 86% in 2018.

"There's so much for the general community to learn from First Nations media.

"We see those light bulb moments every day in the feedback First Nations media organisations get from their audiences.

"Last year we saw Barnaby Joyce shift his position on an Indigenous Voice after watching NITV - from being exposed to a different perspective and listening to a First Nations point of view.

"Our members see those instances all the time, by being generous with our stories, sharing our truths and inviting audiences to consider the events and policies that have shaped Australia since colonisation and before white settlement.

"Our media educates our own mob about culture and language, but also builds bridges with the wider community to share our pride as the oldest continuous culture in the world.

"We absolutely support Reconciliation Australia's recommendations for public campaigns against racism and public education on First Nations cultures and histories. Education is a significant part of the media sector's role in Closing the Gap. "

Attitudes in the general community align with priority reforms in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap signed in July 2020 in partnership between the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies (Coalition of Peaks) and governments. 95% of the general community believe it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in matters that affect them. This supports the shared decision-making structure now in place to address Closing the Gap objectives.

86% of the general community and 91% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also believe it is important to establish a representative Indigenous Body, with similar levels of support shown for formal truth-telling processes relating to Australia's shared history.

"Community discussion around Constitutional Recognition and a representative Indigenous Body is vital," Ms Liddle said

"First Nations media outlets provide a space for public conversation on these matters to support localised decision-making forums. The 2020 Reconciliation Barometer suggests people are ready to have those conversations and our radio, television, print and online platforms are here for it, ensuring the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are heard."
For images, interviews or further information contact:
Claire Stuchbery 0403 520 765 or
First Nations Media Australia is the national peak body for the First Nations media and communications industry. View our member list here.
2/70 Elder St,
PO Box 2731 Alice Springs NT 0871
08 8952 6465 |

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