• Naomi Moran looks at old editions of the Koori Mail. (NITV)Source: NITV
The first edition of the Koori Mail newspaper was published in 1991 - now, more than 700 editions later the paper is celebrating 30 years of publication.
Keira Jenkins

The Point
4 May 2021 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2021 - 5:09 PM

The Koori Mail is much-loved by many. 

The national Aboriginal newspaper has for 30 years now called the town of Lismore, on Bundjalung Country, home. 

For the past three decades the paper has told stories in our communities in a way that, until its creation, had been missing in the mainstream media for so long.

Every fortnight, its pages are splashed with photographs of our icons, our Elders, our sporting heroes, and our mob who are achieving their own personal goals.

The Koori Mail general manager Naomi Moran said the Koori Mail is just one part of the Black media landscape, which champions the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"We are sharing the voices of our people, we are sharing the stories of our people that are being told in the most genuine and authentic way and we are responsible for the truth-telling in our communities," she told NITV's The Point.

"I think that's the most special part. We have staff members that play a really special part in who we are as the Koori Mail.

"Ultimately the best thing that we can be doing and the most valuable thing that we have been doing is being a voice for our people."

Naomi has been the general manager of the Koori Mail since 2017, but her relationship with the Koori Mail started in 1998. 

"I actually started at the Koori Mail when I was a teenager," she said.

"I was 14 and a half when I decided I wanted to quit school... Coincidentally at that time the Koori Mail had reached out to my high school that I was at and said 'we've got a traineeship position for a young person'.

"I put my hand up straight away and said 'please pick me'. I was desperate to get out of school.

"The day I signed out of school, the following Monday I started work with the Koori Mail newspaper and that was the start of a 10-year journey for me."

'Full circle'

Naomi stayed with the Koori Mail until 2008, working in the administration, finance, editorial and advertising departments, as well as managing the subscription database. 

"I remember when I first started I didn't even know how to turn a computer on but that was one of my jobs, to navigate word processing and that type of thing," she said.

"I remember being really freaked out by the fax machine - wondering what does this do, where does this piece of paper go.

"I've been really fortunate to have opportunities where I've travelled all around to different communities, met some amazing countrymen that I've learned from.

"All of those experiences have contributed to me coming full circle and being in the position that I'm in today."

A number of the Koori Mail's staff have a long history with the publication.

Darren Moncrieff is now the paper's sports editor, but he started as a freelancer in the 1990s.

"I first started in Lismore in 2003 and I was here for a few years, but before that I used to freelance in Western Australia's Gascoyne, mid-west, the Kimberley and the Northern Territory and that started in the late 90s," he said.

'Forefront of truth-telling'

Darren said he feels privileged to work for the publication, and to be part of the truth-telling it represents for First Nations people.

"I really appreciate what I'm doing and where I'm at with Koori Mail," he said.

"...Koori Mail has been at the forefront of truth-telling and of storytelling for our people, so I feel really appreciative that I can work here and use my creative skills to relay our people's stories nationally."

The love for the paper is palpable among the staff, former staff, community and board members of the Koori Mail.

Kirstie Parker was the editor of the Koori Mail between 2006-2013, she said marking 30 years is a significant milestone, not just for the paper itself, but the community that loves it so much.

"I remember when I was at the Koori Mail as editor and we celebrated the 20th anniversary," she said.

"That was a big deal, but it's 10 years on from that and such an important milestone for the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander newspaper.

"It's an indication of the love that is felt in our community and more broadly in Australian society."

Stories to lift the heart

Kirstie said the paper has covered so many significant milestones over the past 30 years, some of which she is proud to have been part of covering.

"Obviously things like the national apology to the Stolen Generations and the Northern Territory intervention, but also the magnificent achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country in every sphere," she said.

"There are too many stories to mention them all but every single one gave my heart a boost."

Trevor Kapeen is the Koori Mail chairperson, and said this is what's special about the Koori Mail - it's loved by community because it is Aboriginal community owned and controlled, and tells the stories you don't see in the mainstream media.

"It's our paper for our people," he said.

"It's not my paper, it's not the board's paper, it's not the owners' paper, it's Aboriginal Australia's paper."

The Koori Mail has always been 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned.

Currently, it is owned by five organisations, scattered throughout Bundjalung Country - Bunjum on Cabbage Tree Island, Buyinbin in Casino, Kurrachee in Coraki, Bundjalung Tribal Society in Lismore, and Nungera in Mclean.

Tracey King runs Bundjalung Tribal Society, and said she's proud to be on the Koori Mail board, and for her organisation to be associated with the paper.

"The 30th anniversary has come around so quickly, and I think it's a great achievement in terms of the longevity of the Koori Mail," she said.

"When I visit the office, I feel so proud to see the young people - the cadets, the trainees in there."

The hope is that these young people, and of course, the veteran staff will carry the paper's legacy on for the next 30 years (and the 30 years after that) with a focus on new ways of storytelling.

Trevor said, it's important the Koori Mail exists that it always has - in print- but it's exciting to see it's digital presence grow, and a new podcast to be launched in the coming weeks.

"We're still here digitally," he said.

"We're still here in print for the people in the bush who haven't got internet, and now a new milestone in setting up a podcast, which I thought we'd never achieve and the furthest thing from my mind."

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