After Channel Seven lost a defamation case over Sunrise’s controversial and offensive segment on March 13, 2018 which implied a group of Yolngu people were unable to look after their own children, Seven must now issue an apology and pay the 15 members of the Indigenous group an undisclosed amount of money and cover their legal costs.
This segment which the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, saw an all-white panel debate whether white families should adopt “abused” Indigenous children.
ACMA found the controversial segment breached the Code by provoking serious contempt based on race, ruling the segment contained strong, negative generalisations about Indigenous Australians as a group.
Having an all-white panel discuss sensitive issues and problems they have no firsthand experience with or have not been affected by, which Indigenous communities face daily, is a major leap backwards.
The fact that these people have no experience with the Indigenous community they spoke about was just plain disrespectful.
The panel should have at least had an Indigenous person from the community in which they were discussing, as although Indigenous communities face similar issues, they are not always the same.
The segment ignored the diversity of Indigenous cultures and the varying set of challenges that come with each.
Sunrise lacked respect during what’s known as the ‘Hot Topics’ segment, by not only stating incorrect ‘facts’ but by showing footage of the community without seeking consent from them.
The segment was introduced by presenter Sam Armytage who, it was later proved, incorrectly stated that Aboriginal children at risk of “rape, assault and neglect” could only be “placed with relatives or other Indigenous families”.
The panelists, conservative commentator Prue MacSween and Brisbane radio presenter Ben Davis, then gave their views about the removal of at-risk Indigenous children.
Ms MacSween, said: “Please don’t worry about the people who will decry and hand wring and say this will be another Stolen Generation. Just like the first Stolen Generation where a lot of children … were taken … it was for their wellbeing, we need to do it again”.
Incorrect statements such as Ms MacSween’s on how the Stolen Generations was for the Indigenous children’s wellbeing is absolutely appalling. It is obvious she has little to no knowledge on this topic and has not spoken to a family who was part of this horrific time in history.
The Stolen Generations did not just do damage to Indigenous people then, but it still takes its toll today. It has caused more mental and physical health problems than if the children had stayed with their families and learnt their culture.
The Stolen Generations is what created the gap in culture. Enforcing it again would be just ridiculous.
We need to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people – not create a bigger one.
Mr Davis also commended a politician for saying what others “are afraid to say because of the fear of being labelled racist”.
These common, controversial and offensive segments and beliefs keep happening due to the lack of knowledge about Indigenous groups, our cultures, and the issues we’re faced with every day such as discrimination.
Non-Indigenous people can start to re-educate themselves by engaging in cultural awareness workshops run by an Indigenous person from their area – something relatively common now in businesses and corporations.
Although cultural awareness workshops will not solve all issues, it is a start. I believe cultural awareness workshops should be taught in all schools – the children are our future and a good future is one without discrimination.
By Sharnae Watson