In light of African American footballers refusing to stand during the US National Anthem and the 'Twitter war' that followed, NITV's Channel Manager Tanya Orman-Denning spoke at the annual Long Walk Women's Luncheon on Friday, addressing representation and activism in media and sport.
In its 12th year, the annual Women's Luncheon brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous women (and supportive men) to honour the contributions of Indigenous people and help raise money for The Long Walk's cultural and educational programs. Inspired by former AFL legend Michael Long's walk from Melbourne to Canberra to raise awareness around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander well being, the Long Walk charity promotes the theme: "We Walk Together", to get the lives of Indigenous people on the national agenda.
A strong advocate for improving Australia's understanding of First Peoples, Tanya was asked to speak on this years' theme 'Equality'. She joined panelists and speakers such as, Deborah Cheetham AO, Benny Walker and other prominent people in arts and business.
Opening with a personal story, Tanya talked about being a young Murri girl influenced by media and its positive and negative impacts.
"A kid of the 70s and 80s, Television was the powerful message box filled with stories - it told us what to think of the world around us, an out of reach concept. Definitely not the place I would see the world I lived in, not the way I saw it anyway. The only time I would see myself and my community was negative. No wonder the kids at school and teachers had such opinions on who I was.
Such is the power of media that inspired me down a path to become an ABC Journalist after I saw a beautiful black woman – full of authority, reading the local news when I was 10 years old. I saw what I could be."
She spoke about the Indigenous media being central to truth-telling in this country and without the role of Indigenous led and self-determined media, "the alternative view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through mainstream media is shock jocks, fake news and the presentation of culture and race through a white lens."
With sports as a structural foundation for The Long Walk - Michael Long being an Australian Rules great and a recipient of the prestigious Norm Smith Medal - Tanya turned to the sports industry and how it simultaneously works alongside the media. She highlighted how television, radio and online is a significant career pathway for current and past players in commentary and writing, and how Indigenous sports media in particular, moves away from the usual "pale, male and stale" presence in sports commentary.
"Sport is a major part of the NITV brand, and for Australians, suggested to be a part of our national identity. As blackfellas, it’s a place that we are fiercely proud and have celebrated a shared success with other Australians," Tanya said.
"Sadly in 2017, we still see poor media commentary of race and racism due to the absence of our people and other minorities across all systems. At the most elite level of sport we have seen exposed, some of our deepest wounds, demonstrating how quickly an uninformed narrative can take hold, especially within the media by the dominant culture."
Tanya spoke about the career of Heritier Lumumba, whose story was documented in 'Fair Game' which aired on NITV and SBS earlier this year. As it goes, Lumumba was in the middle of his best season of the AFL when his club president, Eddie McGuire made a racist comment on-air about Adam Goodes. Lumumba spoke out during a media storm, resulting in somewhat of an on-air showdown with McGuire. However, Lumumba in turn ended up being painted as the villain and was condemned for "throwing the president under the bus". His story is one that says a lot about being in the dominant culture during a debate about race.
Tanya continued by saying the very recent publicity campaign around the documentary has provoked similarly misleading debate across the media.
"Heritier is very concise and articulate about his observations of the systemic racism present in the AFL. He suggested he had low confidence in being able to turn to anyone within the system on matters of race and named the absence of people of colour in administration and coaching, heavily criticising the AFL for silencing victims of racism.
"Internationally systemic racism and inequality has been a focus of a Twitter war between President Trump and some of the world’s most successful black athletes and their sports administrators."
Tanya quoted the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela's South Africa Rugby World Cup victory speech: 'Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.'
"I am sure we can all think of great athletes who have changed narratives through their sport, [and] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led media has the power to do the same ... we are born storytellers – the founding narrative of this great nation."
For more information about The Long Walk go here
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