Two of the central figures in a major media and government scandal that erupted in the lead-up to the launch of the Northern Territory intervention will speak in Sydney on September 3, in their first public engagement together.
Tjanara Goreng Goreng, a former Howard Coalition government official-turned-whistleblower, and Chris Graham, the founding editor of the National Indigenous Times, will speak address a public forum, at the University of Technology, Sydney, hosted by the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).
Goreng Goreng and Graham will talk on “Racism in the media: the Lie that Built the Northern Territory intervention”, an expose about a fraudulent ABC Lateline program that aired in the lead-up to the intervention, called “Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous communities”.
The Lateline story helped the federal government mount the case for the NT intervention. But, as the pair will reveal, the story was built on a gigantic fraud. The scandal surrounding this story has already destroyed several careers, sparked a series of parliamentary brawls and an apology to federal parliament — not to mention police raids on homes in Canberra and Central Australia.
Goreng Goreng will provide her first-person experience as one of the whistleblowers who helped expose the government fraud leading up to the intervention. She’ll also discuss the personal cost of taking a stand – Goreng Goreng’s home was one of those raided by police, but it was far from the highest price she would pay for speaking out.
It was Graham’s reporting that led to the raid on Goreng Goreng’s home, and several others. He’ll provide an insight into the ABC story, and detail a series of startling frauds perpetrated on Lateline viewers.
The spotlight on Lateline’s reporting has already seen an “anonymous youth worker” unmasked as a ministerial adviser, and a doctor caught prescribing Viagra to an alleged paedophile. Graham promises new information at the upcoming forum.
“The scale of the fraud perpetrated by Lateline, and the determination of the ABC to whitewash this scandal and avoid any further scrutiny, will leave your head spinning” said Graham.
“If you think you know what media behaving badly looks like, then you need to think again.
“Lateline’s reporting led directly to the greatest human rights abuse against Aboriginal people certainly of my time, and probably in the last half century.
“The Northern Territory intervention has harmed Aboriginal people; it’s caused starvation; it’s seen a dramatic rise in reports of self-harm incidents; it’s driven children away from school; it’s wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
“In short”, Graham said, “it’s been a disaster for the nation’s most disadvantaged citizens, the people who could least afford it.
“The media has always played a crucial role in creating an environment where governments can get away with race politics during election campaigns. In this case, the government couldn’t have done it without Lateline.”
Jean Parker from STICS said: “The Aboriginal communities in Central Australia have sent a clear message to Canberra. With up to 40% swings towards a clearly anti-intervention candidate, they are calling for the intervention to be abolished. The Labor government’s expansion of income management has been sold as an end to discrimination, but for Aboriginal communities who have had their land and self-determination stripped away under the intervention, these amendments offer nothing."
The Australian Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes has recently called for the Racial Discrimination Act to be fully restored in relation Aboriginal communities in the NT. Shamefully, the Labor government continued the discrimination inherent in intervention laws.
“The intervention is an outright return to assimilation, but many well-meaning people have believed the government’s claims that the policies are designed to help”, continued Parker.
“And ABC Lateline’s dishonest reporting formed the basis of that myth”, continued Graham.
“I’ve worked in the media for more than 20 years, almost half of that in Indigenous affairs, so I already had a pretty mixed view about the conduct of many of my colleagues.
“Even so, I’ve always had a very positive image of ABC news and current affairs. It was one news source I felt I could really trust.
“I don’t feel that way anymore.”
The forum, “Racism and the Media: The lie that built the Northern Territory Intervention”, will take place at 6pm on Friday September 3 at University Hall, UTS, entrance in Harris St, opposite the ABC at Ultimo.
[This statement was by Stop the Intervention Collective, Sydney. For more information about the forum, or for an excerpt from Chris Graham's expose, visit www.stoptheintervention.org .]