11 April 2010

An award-winning journalism professor from the United States will share two decades of knowledge about informing the next generation of journalists to cover Indigenous Issues on May 1 at The University of Queensland.

Carol Van Valkenburg from the University of Montana’s School of Journalism in the United States is a guest speaker at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day’s Indigenous Voice Closing the Gap Forum.

The Global event is hosted by the UQ School of Journalism and Communication and Centre for Communication for Social Change on May 1, 2010, at the UQ St Lucia Campus.

Almost 20 years ago Professor Van Valkenburg began a project aimed at training future professional journalists to understand and examine issues of importance to America's American Indian community.

The students' work has won dozens of national awards, but more importantly, many of those former students have improved the coverage of Indian people in the professional media and more American Indians have chosen journalism as a career.

In 2000 the Freedom Forum honored her with a national teaching award.

Professor Van Valkenburg said the Indigenous Voice Closing the Gap Forum is central to the mission of the mass media to report on all aspects of a diverse society and not just those people who have traditionally wielded power and made policy.

“While journalists must strive to give voice to those segments of society long underrepresented, it is equally important that indigenous people receive the opportunity and the training to be able to tell their own stories and shape their own futures,” she said.

“I welcome the opportunity to hear about the work other journalism programs and journalists are doing and to share ideas and experiences so that we may all do a better job of including indigenous voices in the conversations we engage in about how to govern ourselves and secure a more just society.”

Professor Van Valkenburg said journalism programs must find ways to attract more Indigenous students and journalism outlets must commit to enlarging their Indigenous representation, not only in terms of staff, but also in relation to coverage of Indigenous issues.

“If Indigenous people do not see people like them in the news, or as part of news staffs, they tend not to think of journalism as a career possibility,” she said.

“They need mentors and role models and effective training. All this requires a commitment and an investment from journalism programs and the professional media.”

Professor Van Valkenburg is joined by Duncan McCue from the University of British Columbia and Professor Minelle Mahtani from the University of Toronto in the Strategic Planning and Processes theme of the Forum.

UC JAC Head of School Michael Bromley said the international presence at the Forum indicated the depth of commitment to improving coverage of Indigenous Issues and representation of Indigenous media workers in journalism.

“Early iterations of our new courses at the UQ School of Journalism and Communication indicate you can arm students with the skills to cover Indigenous Issues in an informed way,” he said.

“We are looking forward to sharing our insights from our Indigenous Voice project at the Forum and connecting with our project partners from the Media Industry, community and education sectors.”

SBS Head of News Paul Cutler, and CBC News Executive Heaton Dyer are the keynote speaker at the Forum .Both public broadcasters are attempting to increase the number of Indigenous journalists in their organisations.

The Indigenous Voice Project is a joint collaboration with the UQ JAC and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit headed by Michael Williams to get more Indigenous student graduates.

Industry Project partners include SBS, ABC, NIRS, NITV, National Indigenous Times, National Native News (US), CBC in Canada and 989fm in Brisbane.

Education partners include Triple-A Training, QUT, Griffith, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University.

The project has new links with Cherbourg, Warwick, the Drumley Walk in Beaudesert and organisations including Australia’s peak Indigenous Media body AICA, IRCA and in Canada SABAR, the (Strategic Alliance of Broadcasters for Aboriginal Reflection.

Project Leader Heather Stewart said the gathering would not have been possible without the sponsorship, particularly from QUT and Griffith universities, and SBS, ABC and CBC public broadcasters involved in the event.

“Further to this the support and guidance from our project partners has been invaluable,” she said. “This project is a collaboration and crucially relies on Industry, Community and Education sector in-kind input. The Indigenous Voice project relies on this support and that includes Project partners covering their own airfares and expenses to attend.”

For further information about the Indigenous Voice Project and the Closing the Gap Forum contact Project Leader Heather Stewart heather.stewart@uq.edu.au Mobile: 0418 830 938

To register for the World Press Freedom Day Conference: http://www.unesco-ci.org/cgi-bin/events/registration/page.cgi?g=World_Press_Freedom_Day_2010%2Findex.html;d=1

Indigenous Voice is a project run by the University of Queensland School of Journalism and Communication to develop cross cultural awareness, investigate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander journalism and communication student intake, retention and graduate outcomes and develop resources for journalism students about covering Indigenous issues under the guidance of the UQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit and Education and Industry Media partners. More information can be found online at www.indigenousvoice.com.au

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