• Protesters rally outside the Channel Seven's Martin Place studios in March. (AAP)Source: AAP
They say Channel Seven 'must be held responsible' for offensive comments about removing Aboriginal children from their families and the Stolen Generations.
NITV Staff Writer

19 Sep 2018 - 10:25 AM  UPDATED 19 Sep 2018 - 10:29 AM

Indigenous activists have filed a racial discrimination complaint to the Human Rights Commission over a controversial segment broadcast on Channel Seven’s breakfast show Sunrise.

Earlier this year, presenter Samantha Armytage introduced a 'Hot Topics' segment by incorrectly stating that Aboriginal children at “risk of rape, assault and neglect” could not be adopted by white families.

Conservative commentator Prue MacSween suggested they should be taken from their families "just like the first Stolen Generation" and radio presenter Ben Davis agreed.

The segment, which aired on March 13, lead to protests outside the show’s studio in Sydney and during an episode filmed on the Gold Coast.

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An all-white panel discussed Aboriginal adoption earlier this week, with one commentator calling for more child removals, prompting today's protest.

Today a group of eight Indigenous people said they lodged a complaint to the HRC against Seven, Ms Armytage, Ms MacSween and Mr Davis.

They claim that the comments made during the show breached the Racial Discrimination Act.

One of the complainants, Wiradjuri woman Lynda-June Coe, said she was shocked about the "total disregard" around such a contentious subject.

“As a group, we found the segment to be deeply hurtful and harmful to Aboriginal people,” she told NITV News.

“We feel that Channel Seven must be held responsible for perpetuating negative racial stereotypes.”

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The group complainants also include Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, Aunty Debra Swan, Trisha Morton-Thomas, Gwenda Stanley, Ruby Wharton, Cameron Manning and Simone Davison.

Ms Coe said the TV station did not respond to direct complaints, did not offer a satisfactory correction and hid live footage of protesters.

“The fact that we have also not been afforded a public apology is another ongoing issue in terms of resolving those false statements,” Ms Coe said.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority concluded on September 4 that the segment breached the commercial TV code of practice  by inciting contempt based on race.

Craig McPherson, Seven’s director of news, said the finding had attempted to rule out topics for discussion.

"Its decision is a form of censorship; a direct assault on the workings of an independent media and the thousands of issue-based segments covered every year by Sunrise, other like programs, newspapers and talkback radio," he said in a statement.

Seven plans to appeal the decision in court.

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Aboriginal community members said the segment was false, misleading and damaging, and the television watchdog agrees.

Ms Armytage was previously accused of racism in 2015 for congratulating a mixed-race twin on her fair skin during an on-air interview. Seven weeks later, shortly after an online petition appeared, she circulated a statement offering an apology.

“I would be mortified if anyone thought I would say or think anything racist,” Ms Armytage said.

“It’s not in my nature. To anyone who I might have offended, I’m sorry.”

Michael Pell, the executive producer of Sunrise, said the statement was issued to avoid “further misunderstanding” about the comments.

“Sam has always admitted that her own fair complexion was a disadvantage in the Australian environment,” he said.

“We apologise if anyone misunderstood or if they were offended.”