Presented images

Site: USQ OpenDesk
Course: Understanding Australian Aboriginal Educational Contexts
Book: Presented images
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Sunday, 17 January 2021, 5:00 AM

1. Presented Images Cover

Presented Images

© University of Southern Queensland (USQ)

2. Introduction

How Aboriginal people, histories and places are presented in the media influences the way in which we interpret and understand the value, position and identity of our original peoples and in today’s society. What images present themselves on a regular basis in the media? Is the match between reality and imagery clear? In this section we ask you to:

  • consciously seek out and analyse the way in which Aboriginal people are portrayed in the media
  • make comparisons across different media and art forms
  • question the role of the participants who have contributed to the image presented – the characters, the photographer or film maker, the audience

3. Headlines

Click on headline above to view story

Symbols & ImagesWhat attracts your attention in the words above? What image is created in your mind? What message/s do the words 'in custody' send to you? 

4. The Hidden Agenda

All forms of media, portray a hidden bias, often not easily visible to the reader. How?

Through the media format “…concealing as well as revealing, distorting as well as delineating… through its selective representations of events, issues and social groups, shap[ing] our perceptions and values… provid[ing] not only information about the world but also ways of seeing and understanding it” (Quinn, 1995, p. 7). As such it, in all its forms, is powerful in reinforcing stereotypes or breaking them down; maintaining status quo or advocating change.

Bias, understandably, may come back to the experiences and understandings of those reporting a situation, because "interpreting society and reflecting it back on itself...involves for journalists the often-unconscious recourse to dominant ideas of the desirable and the 'normal'. The reproduction of these dominant ideas through media representation is a chief component of ideological control" (Little, 2012, p. 50).  Who's 'desirable'? Who's 'normal'?

Education that involves multiple representations of reality and rigorous debate on 'What is truth?' and 'How do we know?' is essential in order to break down the bias in so much of what we read and see. This involves truly listening to diverse voices, seeing beyond the image to why that image was presented, and questioning one's own reality and identity in the desire to understand how past experiences colour the way in which we see, understand, present and interpret the stories around us.

Deconstruct Reconstruct

5. Words and Pictures

Indigenous Australians must stop the excuses and accept responsibility

What message does a headline like this send? Read the article which concludes with the following words: …the real hurdles today aren’t white racism and stingy or arrogant governments. They are more likely to be Aboriginal culture as it’s now imagined by activists: such things as communistic land ownership, putting ceremony above school, living where there’s no work…, leaving child-raising too often to the collective, feeling owed… Responsibility, not reconciliation, is now the key.” (Bolt, 2016)

What is your response to this article? What do you think needs to be done next – by governments, by Aboriginal Australians, by non-Aboriginal Australians? What can individuals do?

Please read the following post:

Are all the assertions in this post true?   If not then, in your opinion, is the essence of this article true?

Image Credit: © University of Southern Queensland (USQ)

Non Linear

6. Varied Perspectives

The Southern Cross is a constellation dear to many people and recognised as the central component of the Australian Flag. It features in songs, movies, on products and produce but well before any of these artefacts were created it had another meaning and purpose.

Warwick Thornton’s asks you to look at the Southern Cross from a different perspective.

Read this article from 2004. Do you think things have changed?

Other important points regarding the process of news gathering included encouraging journalists to recognise that journalism can be pro-active as well as reactive; that news stories do not always have to be about conflict; that workplace culture may not be supportive of Indigenous issues, but that should not be used as an excuse; that media workers should be aware of their own assumptions and position; that simply reporting two opposing opinions on an issue is not a balanced story; that it is important to show a variety of perspectives; and that it is important to check facts before reporting, particularly regarding sensitive or sensational material” (Burns & McKee, 1999, p. 97).

Does a statement like this apply only to the context of media practice? Dig below the surface. Do not accept what you see at face value. Explore possibilities.

Image Credit: Open Clipart-Vectors, Australia-Australia Day Borders  Creative Commons License

Land Links

7. Relationships and Knowing

Image Credit: Reconciliation Australia, 2014 Australian Reconciliation Barometer (p.6) Creative Commons License

So where do the majority of Australians get their ideas about Indigenous Australians? The media? The government? How do they determine what is truth or propaganda? Have a look at where things were up to in 2016?

Community Links

8. Reading the images

On some pages in what is to come, you will not find many words – that is the point. The images presented can be interpreted on many levels. Please consider the checklist below and jot down your thoughts. You are being asked to answer the following three questions:

1.    What was your initial reaction to the image/s presented (words or pictures)? 

2.    What hidden messages might there be? How are these portrayed?

3.    How does the article/website etc link add meaning or a new perspective for you?

Consider -

§  The image itself, its composition, colouring, context etc

§  How words (if there are any) relate to the image – Reinforcement? Contradiction?

§  Possible stereotyping

§  Overt political or social messaging

9. Reading Pictures 1

What do the images below say to you? Click on each image and read the attached article.

Remember the hidden agenda (p. 4). Have you answered the three questions?

Image Credits:

  1. Mombas at English Wikipedia, 1981 event Australian aboriginals Creative Commons License

  2. L. Abawi Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Flags  Creative Commons License 

  3. Stock SnapBeer Alcohol Drinks Creative Commons License

  4. CameliaTWUDot painting on a weapon Creative Commons License

Community Links

10. Reading Pictures 2

What do the images below say to you? Click on each of the images to read the attached article.

Remember the hidden agenda (p. 4). Have you answered the three questions? Now answer these:

      • What have you learnt about the media? 
      • About your own prior and post perceptions?

Image Credits:

  1. State Library of NSW, Visit to Murrook Culture Centre, Williamtown Creative Commons License

  2., New Enjay printing press 2014  Creative Commons License

  3. Commonwealth of Australia, Indigenous Advancement Strategy Creative Commons License

  4. Darko Stojanovic, Doctor Medical  Creative Commons License

Symbols & Images

11. References

  1. Bolt, A. (Feb 2016). Indigenous Australians must stop the excuses and accept responsibility. Herald Sun. Available from 
  2. Kulaszewicz, K. E. (2015). Racism and the Media: A Textual Analysis. Master of Social Work Clinical Research Papers. Paper 477.  
  3. Little, J. (2012). Enraged Aborigines at the Embassy Ball: Media representations of Indigenous Australia. In J. Phillips & J Lampert (eds.) Introductory Indigenous Studies in Education (p. 40-55). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia
  4. McCausland, R. (2004). Specialist treatment – the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the media. Journal of Indigenous Policy, 4(16), 84 – 98
  5. Sheridan Bums, L. & McKee, A. (1999). Reporting on indigenous issues: Some practical suggestions for journalists, Australian Journalism Review, 21(2),103-116.
  6. Quinn, W. (1995). Putting rationaility in its place. In R. Hursthouse, G. Lawrence & W. Quinn (eds.) Virtues and reasons: Phillippa Foot and Moral Theory (pp.181-208). Oxford University Press
  7. Van Dijk T. A. (2012). The role of the press in the reproduction of racisim. In M. Messler, R.Schroeder & R. Wodak. (eds.) Migrations: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (pp. 15-30). New York, NY: Springer. DOI 10.1007/978-3-7091-0950-2_2

12. Return to Main Page

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