Table of contents
2. History of Aboriginal Australians
3. Aboriginal languages and culture
4. The presentation of Aboriginal topics in the mainstream media
The Aboriginal author Anita Heiss said in an interview about her writing once:
"The whole point to all my writing is to portray the positive stories about Aboriginal people, because everyone else is doing a great job with the negatives” (Elliott: 2012).
In the Australian society, there seems to be an ongoing conflict, between the white british Australians, and the initial citizens of the island continent, the Indigenous people. The image that most white Australians have of those Aboriginal people, is mainly negative. Why is that so? What is the white Australians' source of knowledge about Aboriginal people? And most importantly: What role does the mainstream media in Australia play in the continuously bad relationship between white Australians and Aboriginal people? Does the mainstream media contribute to that conflict? And if so, in what way?
In the following, I am going to try to answer those questions. I am going to try to shed some light on the role that the media is playing in the relationship between white Australians and Aboriginal people. In order to answer those questions, it seems indispensable, to first have a look into the history of Australia and Aboriginal Australians. I will outline the most important events in the history of Australia, starting with the arrival of the Indigenous people, ending with the current situation. After that, I will amplify the Aboriginal culture, assuming that to most readers it is largely unknown.
In the main part of this work, I will then investigate the mainstream media coverage of Aboriginal affairs in Australia. I will try to ascertain in what manner the mainstream media treats Aboriginal topics. Further I want to determine if prejudices and stereotypes towards Aboriginal people exist, and how the current situation in the Australian society could be described.
In the end, I will attempt to summarize my findings in a final conclusion.
2. History of Aboriginal Australians
There have been speculations about the origins of the Indigenous people of Australia. It is to this day not completely clear, where they have descended from. Throughout the examination of their history, they have been linked with tribes from different continents, including Africa and Asia.
A study from a western Australian research team claims, that the ancestors of the aboriginal people left the African continent about 75 thousand years ago, crossing the ocean and spreading through Asia to arrive in Australia about 50 thousand years ago (Koori Mail: 2011).
In 2016 a DNA study confirmed, that the indigenous Australian people as well as the indigenous tribes from Papua New Guinea descended from Africa and populated the island continent about 50 thousand years ago. In this study it is also stated, that this gives reason to believe, that they were the first people ever crossing the ocean and the oldest group of people that can be linked to one specific place (Devlin: 2016).
Given these scientific evidence and archaeological findings in Australia, there is a broad consensus amongst scientists and researchers, that the Aboriginal people of Australia not only descend from the first homo sapiens known of, but also were the first inhabitants of Australia, having lived there for approximately 50 thousand years before the arrival of Europeans. Furthermore, it is believed, that the Aboriginal people developed in those many centuries “[...] key technologies such as stone axes [...] bone needles [...], wood-handled stone tools [and] gypsum (Cooper: 2016).
At the time when Captain James Cook claimed possession of eastern Australia in 1770, it is believed that there was a total Aboriginal population inhabiting Australia of up to 1 million people, living a nomadic lifestyle. This is the time where most school- and history books put the beginning of Australian history; despite of the fact that there is no doubt that Aboriginal people have been inhabiting Australia for many thousand years before that.
In 1788 Captain Phillip landed with the British fleet at Sydney Cove. Their plan was, to establish a panel colony there. The Indigenous inhabitants tried to resist this invasion of their motherland. However, their resistance was met with violence and force by the British invaders. In the following years, the British settlers advanced and occupied more and more of Australian soil. There are many records of hostilities from the British towards the Indigenous people in those times. It is recorded, that in 1804 the British settlers were “ [...] authorised to shoot unarmed Aboriginal people” (Korff: 2016), which has led some to refer to many of the recorded killings oflndigenous people as 'slaughter'.
In those first years of British invasion and settlement in Australia, many Aboriginal people died of virus infections which came from Europe and which entered the country alongside with the settlers. Since the Australian Indigenous people were living for many thousand years in isolation on the island continent, they were not immune against many of the viruses of the western world.
In the early nineteenth century, the British settlers started the so called 'policy of absorption' program, with which the growth of the population of Aboriginal people was supposed to be controlled. In order to teach the Aboriginal people western beliefs, the settlers moved them to mission stations. At those stations these people were also used as cheap labour.
Between 1790 and 1816 the Aboriginal people tried to defend their country in a guerillalike war against the white people who started right away to build houses and other infrastructure. In those years, many Indigenous people were forced to move by the British settlers.
In 1837 for the first time a 'protection policy' was introduced by British officials, involving the catholic church in the conflict. However, hostilities continued, and in the same year “A massacre of Aboriginal people occurs at Gravesend, New South Wales with more than 200 killed” (Korff: 2016).
In 1869 the “Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines is established” (Korff: 2016). This marked the beginning of the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Many children were taken from their parents, were brought to stations, dormitories and schools and would never again see their parents or families. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, children that were taken away from their parents were trained as domestic servants. Those children would later be called 'the stolen children' or 'the lost generation'.