Telum Vox Pop: NAIDOC Week 2023

Telum Vox Pop: NAIDOC Week 2023

By Kristy Nguyen

In recognition of NAIDOC Week and this year's theme "For Our Elders", Telum spoke to journalists and industry leaders across Australia about how they have seen the representation of First Nations in media transform in the past decade, and what further changes they believe still need to be made.

Eelemarni Close-Brown - Indigenous Affairs Reporter, AAP
As a child in the mid-2000s, the only Indigenous face I remember seeing in the mainstream media outside of watching my favourite NRL players, Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Sam Thaiday, was Ernie Dingo presenting The Great Outdoors.

In 2023, you see many more Indigenous faces, journalists, actors, media personalities, and social media influencers. For me, this shift is not surprising given that our people are the first storytellers. In terms of changes needed for the representation of First Nations people in the media, I feel that we need to be seen more as individuals rather than only a collective of peoples with a shared culture. I find it disheartening that we cannot be represented in the media without the word Indigenous before our titles. 

I would like to see more mob working in the media but as themselves, as opposed to being placed into the typical box of “Indigenous content creator”, “Indigenous Actor”, etc. I think the label of being “Indigenous anything” is very limiting, and can often push mob into designated Indigenous-only spaces, as opposed to the mainstream.

Isaac Muller - Journalist and Producer, ABC Impact
In the past decade, I have seen major changes in the way First Nations are represented in the media. Ten years ago, I was 13-years-old. I was only three years into connecting with my Palawa and Wiradjuri bloodlines and found most of my knowledge through the news.

I believed there were two types of First Nations. There were the ones everyone felt sorry for because of addictions and misfortunes or the ones that everyone looked at like an ornament in the bush, far from the society we are all familiar with. Since then, I have modelled First Nation fashion in three countries, blogged about First Nation culture in Papua New Guinea while completing the Kokoda Track, and travelled to 21 countries chasing more culture.

Today, I work at the ABC as a producer and work closely with Aboriginal mob in rural areas. I still believe the media lacks a precise representation of First Nations people but because of my travels and encounters, I believe that journalists are working harder to fix this. There is more diversity in newsrooms than ever before and our audiences are less naive. Viewers are willing to question the news, which is driving fact checks and appropriate representation.

To continue bettering our storytelling we need more diversity, more knowledge, and more cultural immersion.

Tangiora Hinaki - CEO, Ngaarda Media
Our elders are the backbone of what we do in the community. When new projects are happening, they are the first people we go to because of their wisdom, and spiritual and cultural insight.

Ngaarda Media is the voice for Traditional Owners in the Pilbara and beyond. We need to listen to their concerns, and the media is a platform that shines a light on issues that hopefully prick the conscience and ears of those who are in authority and have the money to make things happen. Yindjibarndi elder Tootsie Daniel is a cultural leader in the Pilbara. She has used Ngaarda Media as a platform to share her concerns about the absence of a much-needed nurse-supported dialysis centre in Roebourne.

Our elders are walking encyclopaedias who hold knowledge that needs to be passed onto the younger generation. As we meditate on this year's NAIDOC theme, remember your elders. When was the last time you took them for a day trip on country? Or invited Juju and Jarda for dinner?

We reap what we sow in life. Look after and respect our elders. 

Velma Gara - Freelance Journalist and Broadcaster / Producer, Triple T
From when I started working in the media in the mid-1980s to now, the objective has always been to be the voice for our people. To let the wider community know that we speak different languages, and have created song and dance for our mob. I worked at the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Media Association and in those days, we used Otari reel-to-reel, Sony cassette recorders, and playing vinyls. It was a specialist field where you had to be taught to use that equipment.

Nowadays, a mobile phone is all you would require to record and video. Technology and social media have opened the door for anyone to be a storyteller to capture events. It also helped that the NITV became a dedicated Indigenous channel in 2007, which has broadened the information to others. First Nations Media Australia became the peak body in 2016 / 17 and allowed Australia to have a bigger footprint for First Nations to broadcast in remote and urban communities.

This year’s NAIDOC theme, For Our Elders, resonates well with being a voice for our people. We always record our elders so families and communities have them for future generations. It has always been our elders who we draw strength from for their knowledge and experience - they are our cultural knowledge holders and trailblazers.

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Velma Gara

Tangiora Hinaki


Isaac Muller

Journalist and Producer, ABC Impact

Eelemarni Close-Brown

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