Aboriginal beliefs and the media


By Melanie Sjoberg

The debate about whether a bridge to Hindmarsh Island should be built has focused on the spiritual beliefs of Aboriginal women in relation to the site. Green Left Weekly spoke to Katrina Power, chairperson of Tandanya (Aboriginal Cultural Centre), who is currently conducting research work with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement.

What has been the media role in the Hindmarsh Island bridge issue?

The Advertiser has been clearly pro-bridge from the outset. The Chapmans have commended the Advertiser for its coverage

The credibility of our sources have been consistently challenged. There has been a lack of respect for the separation of women's and men's issues within the Aboriginal community. It also needs to be understood that we relate collaboratively and treat each other with respect. That doesn't fit the Advertiser agenda.

The media have sensationalised Aboriginal divisions. Is it true that all members of the white community know everything and agree with each other on all issues?

If five atheists said Mary wasn't a virgin, you can bet Mr Murdoch's billions that it wouldn't make front page or prime time television news.

Chirpy Campbell has been quoted prominently by the establishment press. He is known for his support for an Indigenous Republican Army. Yet the Advertiser would have everyone believe that he represents all Aboriginal opinions.

It has been suggested in the establishment press that the sacred sites are invented. Questions are asked about why they have not been identified previously.

Aboriginal culture puts the group ahead of the individual. If some people don't know all the details about our history, that doesn't make it untrue; it just means that different people have the truth. In our history of resistance to white invasion, many sacred areas only became known when they were under threat.

The mainstream media reflect the social conscience of the white editors. During the Channel 10 reporting of the desecration of the grave of Eddie Mabo, there were women speaking about the issue who were not identified.

The media seek to keep us invisible. Newspapers carefully place articles and images which reinforce the dominant views of how Aboriginal people are living. Articles and pictures of drunks are used to discredit the Aboriginal people.

Doreen Kartinyeri has been consistently quoted out of context in the Advertiser during the debate. Doreen has actually not spoken to the Advertiser since May 10, 1994, months prior to Tickner's announcement in July of the 25-year ban on the building of the bridge.