Rise of Indigenous media is good for the nation's soul

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When I started my blog Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist just over four years ago, the major motivation was that I wanted to claim some space in the worldwide web for Aboriginal feminist left-wing discourse.

Tracker magazineI strongly felt that the mainstream media continued to ignore these types of opinions and, thanks to the internet providing public and freely available space, for the first time ever there was the ability to circumnavigate these traditional channels of communication.

I believed no one would read it. This very soon proved to be an ill-founded belief for not only did my blog gain a strong readership very quickly, but it was picked up by a couple of keen editors shortly after I started it.

I thought this was a fluke at first, but as the requests kept rolling in, I eventually realised there was a craving for the types of perspectives I was giving in the broader mainstream discussion. And thus, my career in freelance opinion writing and social commentary began.

Around the time I started taking this space, quite a few other Aboriginal people were doing the same. Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter had allowed us to connect and organise over vast distances. They also gave us platforms to discuss matters which had long been denied within the mainstream press.

Channels such as IndigenousX elevated the profile of many Indigenous people from all sorts of fields. Bloggers networked and in no small way, the media landscape changed. We now see more diverse Indigenous voices in the media than ever before, and though we're a long way off parity levels of representation, we are also less stilted by what the mainstream deems is an acceptable view for an Indigenous person to have.

Yet all has not been smooth sailing. There have been casualties. It was a real shame, for example, when Tracker Magazine was discontinued. Tracker was a fantastic addition to the landscape when it was first conceived because not only did it house some strong journalistic coverage of pertinent events in the community, it also gave the space for more radical and critical commentary.

Though you can still find that commentary going on in other places, it was a gift having it all in the one place, which we no longer get to enjoy.

 

"For all the battles that increased public profile brings (particularly as an Aboriginal woman), the ability to change the political landscape so our voices are centred is incredibly important."

 

Likewise, I echo the words of Emily Nichol when it comes to the sad demise of Deadly Vibe — and indeed, Vibe Australia in general — particularly when it comes to the reach this had when it came to our young people. With the magazine came sporting carnivals, careers fairs and health information, and kids across the country were kept engaged and informed. It was, of course, much more than a youth-focused organisation, but due to the multifaceted way it handled this engagement, it's really difficult to see anything which comes near to this nowadays.

Yet as mentioned, I am now seeing a greater diversity of Indigenous voices in the mainstream media. As one of those voices, I have mixed views about this. It is fantastic that with the rise of online media, the diverse Indigenous voice gained platform. Places like The Guardian Australia, for example, actively sought out and engaged Indigenous voices and now have an Indigenous affairs editor. Likewise, it has been good seeing resources like Vice Magazine give a platform to some of our younger writers.

Working within mainstream media where you are one of only a small number of go-to Aboriginal voices can be exhausting. Unfortunately, when you see incidents like Don Dale and Kalgoorlie unfolding, it's obvious that Australia isn't going to get any less racist soon. The call for Aboriginal comment can be intense and I don't think the mainstream truly gets just how emotionally exhausting this can get. Aboriginal commentators rarely have the privilege of distance that the dominant white male commentators have, and when we seem to be on an endless cycle of racism, the pressure can be intense.

While it is crucial that we have more Indigenous commentary within the mainstream, it is also crucial that we continue to have strong Indigenous-run media. This is the one space where we are not bound by the confines of the mainstream. Where we talk about our issues and tell our stories on our own terms. One of the spaces I felt most comfortable was on the National Indigenous Radio Service with the late Tiga Bayles, on his show Let's Talk. The beauty of this space was that it was Indigenous-controlled and I knew that my words were getting out to a mainly Indigenous audience. Issues such as racism therefore did not need to be justified or quantified before they were believed. It was understood outright and therefore could be spoken about plainly. I've found much the same when writing for Indigenous audiences and appearing on Indigenous shows.

Starting my blog all those years ago gave me the ability to speak about issues which concerned and interested me and do so on my own terms. It additionally gave me the ability to network with other Indigenous writers taking up alternative online space. I have subsequently valued my interactions with the mainstream spaces because, for all the battles that increased public profile brings (particularly as an Aboriginal woman), the ability to change the political landscape so our voices are centred is incredibly important. I am grateful that there is more diversification of Indigenous voices in the mainstream media now than there was only five years ago. Yet running alongside this must always be a strong Indigenous-run media, telling our stories in our ways to our communities. It's good for our souls, good for our stories, good for our talented media workers and good for this country.

 


Celeste LiddleCeleste Liddle is an Arrernte woman living in Melbourne, the National Indigenous Organiser of the NTEU, and a freelance opinion writer and social commentator. She blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist.

Topic tags: Celeste Liddle, Indigenous media


 

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It's great that you, Celeste, an Aboriginal left-wing feminist, has a voice in a crowded media space. I admire and respect your stance on many issues. But I'm not you. I admire and respect a range of personalities, from our Queen Elizabeth II to past monarchs like Russia's Catherine the Great. But I'm not them. It's always pleasing and gratifying to find our own voice. Whether people value and respect our particular voice depends on a number of variables. Rules are sometimes useful for those who don't always understand the uniqueness and value (that word again) of each individual. Catherine the Great for instance established a number of rules for The Hermitage, the famous museum she founded and which it is one of my ambitions to visit. Rule No.1: "Leave all rank outside the door, along with hats. And also swords". Through to No. 10: "Do not wash dirty linen in public, and what comes in one ear should leave the other before you step out of these doors." Rules 2 to 9 are also pretty interesting! Keep writing Celeste.
Pam | 27 September 2016


I live and work in a remote indigenous community and am gob smacked by the subtle racism that takes place. It is perpetrated by all. I see the old women beg for welfare reform, but they are patted on the head and told they are 'too political' whenever the professional aborigines come to town and 'ask' for their advice. Destructive racism is far more subtle than than that perpetrated by your average red neck. As far as I can see, western materialist socialism (that which throws billions of dollars of white guilt money at marries) is what has done the damage. The community model has to be re-examined. If one were to sit down and devise a plan to wipe indigenous people from the face of the planet without firing a shot, they wouldn't have to go past the community model that already exists.
Russ White | 28 September 2016


May there be many more Aboriginal voices added to those already available and emerging (although I personally particularly appreciate an "Aboriginal feminist left-wing" one. Thanks, Celeste Liddle, and those "keen editors" who helped to spread your work...Joan Beckwith.
Joan Beckwith | 28 September 2016


Just letting you know I clicked on your link to Celeste's Blog: Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist but this came up '404 - File or directory not found. The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.'
Fairlie Arthur | 28 September 2016


Celeste Liddle. .. All power to you and your people. Thank you for what you are doing to lead our country towards some health.
Patricia Bouma | 28 September 2016


Not only good for Australia's soul but vital; keep it up.
George | 28 September 2016


The most recent addition (on miscarriage) to Rantings shows that independent indigenous media serves the nation's soul as much for exposing the beliefs of the responding readers (who might not surface in mainstream media) as well as those of the author. If there is in fact an authentic indigenous belief that abortions are of no loss because they release the child's soul to return in another incarnation or simply to stay with the mother in some spiritual sense, then such a belief, even if indigenous, is as problematic as a religious or cultural belief in female genital mutilation. If exposure serves the nation’s soul, it’s how indigenous Christians respond to change these views that will determine whether some good is done to the nation’s soul as a result of it.
Roy Chen Yee | 29 September 2016


I think that it is fantastic that these different forums exist and that Indigenous voices are rightly privileged and celebrated. You are an amazing woman from an amazing family. Respect.
Robyn Williams | 30 September 2016


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