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We can't count on media to call out racism

  • 08 October 2019


When it comes to racism perpetuated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country, one thing is for certain: we cannot rely on the mainstream media to tell the truth of the situation. 

Consider what happened back in January when Network 10's Studio 10 panel show turned its attention to this year's Invasion Day protests. Attendances at the protests have been surging, with 80,000 people estimated to have been at the Melbourne one this year, and some 50,000 people attending the Sydney one. 

I don’t think many of us were prepared for the vitriol displayed on Studio 10 by Kerri-Anne Kennerley the Monday after the rallies. Beginning by misrepresenting the rally numbers in Sydney as a mere 5000, she proceeded to attack the attendees, asking: 'Has any single one of those people been out to the Outback, where children, babies, five year olds, are being raped? Their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done?'

To Studio 10's shame, the only person to call out this statement was Yumi Stynes — the only woman of colour on the panel. Though she called out the statement calmly and accurately, highlighting Kennerley's racism, she was later vilified for daring to suggest that a white woman making racist generalisations with no knowledge of the protests themselves was a 'racist'. Stynes has not appeared on the show since.

Instead of learning from the fallout, Studio 10 doubled down. The following day, they allowed Kennerley an opportunity to criticise Stynes and repeat her racist comments. They additionally chose to hold a 'debate', engaging Aboriginal right wing figure and unsuccessful CLP candidate for the seat of Lingiari, Jacinta Price, whose very presence seemed designed to mollify Kennerly and to undermine any claims that her words had been racist.

Not only that, her presence allowed for the denigration of another Aboriginal woman on screen for their entertainment. Lidia Thorpe is a former Greens Politician, current community activist, women's advocate and a strong figure in the Indigenous rights movement in Victoria. She has additionally been open about having to rebuild her life after leaving a domestic violence situation. 

Despite her expertise, attempts to silence Thorpe were a feature of this 'debate'. Price derided, mocked and rolled her eyes while Kennerley repeated her offensive line from the previous day and showed 'offence' at Thorpe daring to bring up the topic of white privilege. It was an appalling