How Can Indigenous Cinema Cure the Plague of Mass Media?

Indigenous Cinema, at its core, is shaken on account of non-Indigenous-controlled, -owned and -produced mass media coverage, whose reflection on, and motivation of, public debates (Jennett 1983) forms a dense record of secondary-sourced, social discourses of  Indigenous Australian Peoples (Bullimore 1999). Reinforcing this fortifies distorted representations of Indigenous Australians, including, but not limited to: the violent criminal; the ‘exotic’ other; the ‘dying‘ race; the welfare dependant; the drunkard; the ‘invisible‘; the out-of-control irrational; the incompetent; and the ‘threat‘ to civilisation (Red Earth 2015).This can create a set of circumstances where, incidentally, the reluctance to contemplate departures from this inscribed ‘cultural norm‘ bolsters a constructed notion of Aboriginality (Nugent et al. 1993) to foster consequentialist, albeit obstructive, implications on contemporary Indigenous issues.

Indeed, the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia (PHAIWA) identified that, in a 2013 survey on ‘The Portrayal of Indigenous Health in Selected Australian Media’, 74% of said media coverages were negative (Stoneham et al. 2014). Perpetuating this can be counterintuitive through fuelling ignorant, prejudicial and misconceived perceptions of the Indigenous Australian population, whether internalised or externalised (Stoneham 2014).


Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity’s (LEAD) ‘Experiences of Racism‘ project surveyed 755 Victorian Indigenous Australians’ experiences of racism across 12 months (Image Source:

Thus, an intercultural dialogical exchange, or framework, is crucial to acknowledge and enrich understandings of Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and communities, recognising and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples through driving meaningful, ethical responses to enact positive models of change, commitment and contributions towards Indigenous Australian Peoples’ communities (Stoneham 2014)


Aboriginal Filmmaker Warwick Thornton (pictured) in Production of ‘Samson & Delilah’ (2009) (Image Source:

To auteur filmmaker Warwick Thornton, Indigenous Cinema is expansively revolutionary, inspiring a much-needed diversification in mankind, prompting attention to contemporary Indigenous issues, including, but not limited to, post-Apology reconciliation, revisions of Australia’s pre- and post-invasion colonialist history and Aboriginal Peoples’ Native Title Rights, in order to impart ethical responses, such as developing government policies, through the elucidation of Indigenous Peoples’ storytelling traditions’ implicit knowledge (ACMI 2009).

If only the world would catch up…                 

Please Like, Share & Comment!

Thomas Joannides


Australian Human Rights Commission 2014, Close the Gap, Australian Human Rights Commission, accessed 8 September 2016, <;
Bullimore, K 1999, ‘Media Dreaming: Representation of Aboriginality in Modern Australian Media’, Asia Pacific Media Educator, no. 6, accessed 8 September 2016, <;
Jennett, C 1983, ‘White Media Rituals About Aborigines’, Media Information Australia, no. 30, accessed 8 September 2016, <;dn=273128760506850;res=IELLCC&gt;
Nungent, S et al. 1993, The People We See on TV: Cultural Diversity on Television, Australian Broadcasting Authority
Red Earth 2015, Media Representations of Indigenous Australians, Red Earth, accessed 8 September 2016, <;
Stoneham, M et al. 2014, ‘The Portrayal of Indigenous Health in Selected Australian Media’, The Internal Indigenous Policy Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, accessed 8 September 2016, <;
Stoneham, M 2014, Bad News: Negative Indigenous Health Coverage Reinforces Stigma, The Conversation, accessed 8 September 2016, <;
Warwick Thornton on Samson and Delilah, 2009, online video, accessed 8 September 2016, <;

4 thoughts on “How Can Indigenous Cinema Cure the Plague of Mass Media?

  1. Reblogged this on Colour Australian TV and commented:
    A common question people have about representation in television and film is why it’s actually important. This great blog looks at the social relationship between Indigenous Australians and representation on screen and explores ethical considerations that must be taken into account when looking at representation in film. This post explores the responsibilities of film-makers when exploring or featuring Indigenous people and story lines to create significant meaning.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the Reblog, ‘Colour Australian TV’! Of course, Australia – as a cosmopolitan, albeit networked, nation, which you persistently regale – needs to coordinate meaningful, ethical responses to drive reconciliation through, for one, the self-representation, or agency, of Indigenous Cinema. Notwithstanding its litigious, disadvantageous representations of Indigenous Australian People, we, at ‘We Are All Visitors’, hope that, as you, at ‘Colour Australian TV’, engage with counterintuitive reflections, of thereby lack of, of an otherwise diverse Australia, including said Traditional Owners of this Land, that we create an intercultural dialogue to understand and learn about Aboriginal cultures, histories and communities to create timely, relevant stories. If you’re hooked,check out Catriona Moore and Stephen Muecke’s riveting ‘Three-Tiered’, or arguably ‘Four-Tiered’, Model of evaluating filmic representations of Indigenous Australian Peoples:

      Accordingly, we, at We Are All Visitors, have a variety of posts concerning discernible actions to this predicament. Read about how Indigenous Australian Filmmaker Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds) believes labelling Indigenous Cinema as a collection of inherently ‘Aboriginal’, ‘political’ or ‘issue’ films fosters an anti-diversification:

      Let’s hope our campaigns drive an awareness – or, optimistically, change – for future storytellers.

      Thomas Joannides

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This topic is a very important one that should be discussed and explored. I am also very passionate about Australian Indigenous films, as my campaign relates to how ‘Indigenous Films are overlooked in the Australian Film Industry’. I agree that many Australian films portray Indigenous people as the ‘violent criminal; the ‘exotic’ other; the welfare dependant and the drunkard’. These stereotypes need to change. Indigenous cinema moves beyond these ‘stereotypes’ and explores issues that effect all Australians. Ivan Sen’s 2002 film ‘Beneath Clouds’, follows the story of two teenagers who are coming to terms with themselves and others. This issue effects all Australians, not just Indigenous people.
    I also like how you referred to Warwick Thornton as an ‘auteur filmmaker’. These labels are not regularly applied to Aboriginal filmmakers, when they should be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the Comment, ‘Bran Nue Day’! We, at ‘We Are All Visitors’, wholeheartedly agree with your inference that distorted, albeit disadvantageous, representations of Indigenous Australian People affect said Aboriginal People as well as non-Indigenous Australians because this, as a foundation to establish an intercultural dialogue, drives reconciliation.

      You’re appreciation of Thornton’s auteur status as a “label[]” that, while not ‘characteristically’ applied to Indigenous Australian Filmmakers, should be when warranted, is interesting by virtue of your appraisal of Aboriginal Australian films’ critical, or rather, cinematic aesthetics. This evaluation is more commonly, to its detriment, focused on such films’ political assessments. You can read, or check out, our criticism of labelling Indigenous Cinema as a collection of ‘Aboriginal’, ‘political’ or ‘issue’ films (supported by Beneath Clouds’ Ivan Sen) that promotes a pigeonholed assessment of a film’s political, rather than cinematic, assessment here:

      Let’s hope that, be that either through your timely ‘Bran Nue Day’ campaign’s promotion of an overlooked Indigenous Cinema or enriching an understanding of Indigenous cultures, histories and communities in Indigenous Cinema on behalf of ‘We Are All Visitors’, Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous People, create a community of change in celebrating, not vilifying, Aboriginal People.

      Thomas Joannides

      Liked by 1 person

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