2 November 2010

A unique project established at The University of Queensland is helping to educate non-Indigenous Journalism students about Aboriginal and Islander cultures and also to explore ways to open the education system to Indigenous people.

Indigenous Voice is a collaboration between the UQ School of Journalism and Communication and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit as well as education, community and industry media partners.

Indigenous Voice Project Leader Heather Stewart said the project was passing on the skill set to journalists to cover Indigenous issues in an informed way and the research was paving the way to significant ongoing national and international collaborations.

"The idea was to give students an opportunity to generate real content about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues for industry outlets with the support of experienced journalist mentors," she said.

"Too often reporters are thrown into the field without any understanding of the complexity of these issues and many do not have any cross-cultural awareness about the need to approach these stories sensitively."

Indigenous Voice recently featured at the the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day, held at The University of Queensland in early 2010.

The project hosted the "Indigenous Voice Closing the Gap and Putting Communication for Social Change into Practice Forum" at the conference.

The event attracted journalists and media educators from New Zealand, Canada and the United States to share experiences and create positive change in the reporting of Indigenous issues in the media.

The forum was the first of its kind bringing together a group of key players in Indigenous media and journalism education to discuss practices and protocols in reporting on Indigenous issues, how these policies are currently being put into practice and ways to train new journalists to report on Indigenous issues.

CBC News executive Heaton Dyer delivered a key note speech at the Forum, highlighting the universality of Indigenous issues and the media.

“Even though we have different issues and different populations to serve, broadcasters and journalists around the world all face the same challenges. The forum provides an invaluable exchange of ideas and learnings,” Mr Dyer said.

“Different perspectives and different voices are essential to a diverse and dynamic media.”

Indigenous Voice aims 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 covering Indigenous issues.

It currently includes SBS, ABC, 989fm, National Indigenous Radio Service, Koori Mail, National Native News (US), Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Native American Journalists Association, National Indigenous Times, IRCA, AICA, Triple-A Training, Batchelor Institute, UTS, Griffith, QUT, Edith Cowan University, University of Montana, University of British Columbia, SABAR (Canada), University of Toronto and Murdoch University.

The project also enjoys a partnership with the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory.

Earlier this year The University of Queensland hosted 12 students from the Institute, who particpated in a broadcast training workshop.

The visit was an opportunity for the students to visit Brisbane media workplaces and discuss issues facing Indigenous media students and Indigenous reporting.

The visit also aimed to create professional networking connections for the students and strengthen the relationship between the two educational institutions.

The group was accompanied by Lynda McCaffery, Head of Media at the Batchelor Institute.

The success of Indigenous Voice has culminated in the project being honoured as the main prize winner in the 2010 UQ Vice-Chancellor's Equity and Diversity Awards. The project also secured a 2010 UQ Stategic Teaching and Learning Grant.

Media: Helen Burdon, Marketing and Communications Manager, UQ Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, (07) 3346 9279, h.burdon@uq.edu.au