So Many Voices, So Many Stories
Words by Bonita Mason and Kate Leaver. Photos by student Danielle Le Messurier.
On Wednesday, August 27, an audience gathered into Gallery Central, Perth for the Women in Media panel "So many voices, so much to say: Aboriginal Western Australia and the media". Hosted by ABC reporter Jessica Strutt, and with a panel of savvy Indigenous media women - Jodi Hoffmann, Michelle White and Gina Williams - the evening promised explore the growing voice of Aboriginal media in WA.
"You don’t look Aboriginal. What percentage are you? Surely you’re more white than black? You could pass for white. Why do you say you’re Aboriginal?"
Journalist and community arts manager Michelle White remembers the confusion when she began as the new Aboriginal cadet at GWN. Blonde haired and blue eyed, White, has been getting these questions throughout her media career.
"I got into the media because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to speak up and tell stories, and the idea of working on a major metropolitan newspaper seemed like a really good idea at the time. When they stuck me on the weather pages, the balloon sort of burst."
Balladong woman, journalist and singer-songwriter Gina Williams has worked in community and mainstream, print and broadcast media. She recalls Indigenous awareness training as she started as cadet reporter at the West Australian. “We all hopped in a mini-bus, and drove out to Gnangara and got shown a couple of plants. I think that was about it. Then we jumped back in the bus and went back to the office where we got yelled at for our copy.”
Nunga woman (from Adelaide), journalist and WA ALS media officer Jodi Hoffman is acutely aware of the need to follow the cultural protocols of the country she’s working in. Even after 20 years in mainstream and Indigenous media, she had to learn what was culturally appropriate in Noongar country.
"Whether you’re an Aboriginal journalist or a non-Aboriginal journalist it doesn’t mean that you’re qualified to go 200km up the road and do your job."
These three Indigenous media professionals spoke at So Many Voices so much to say: Aboriginal Western Australia, an evening of thought-provoking discussion at WA Women in Media’s recent event hosted by TAFE’s Central Gallery in Northbridge. They delivered insights – to an audience of 95 journalists, media professionals and students – into what it’s like on both sides of the media: as Indigenous women working in the mainstream and community media, and as women whose communities are often reported in that media. Jessica Strut, ABC political reporter and former Indigenous Affairs reporter for the West Australian, facilitated the discussion.
They told horror stories, and shared experiences of doing great work and making a difference. They also noted improvements in Indigenous affairs media coverage, and that we still have a long way to go to improve coverage and broaden the range of Indigenous voices in the media. Jodi Hoffman:
"In short there’s been a lot of improvement, and [journalists] are really interested and want to know more and want to know how they can make it better."
For more insights from WA WiM’s successful recent event, see the student journalist story on So Many Voices so much to say: Aboriginal Western Australia here.
Bonita Mason is a WiM committee member and journalism lecturer at Curtin University
Kate Leaver is a student reporter