• Protesters rally outside the Channel Seven's Martin Place studios in March 2018. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Channel Seven breakfast show faces the repercussions for a controversial segment about removing Aboriginal children from their families.
NITV Staff Writer

5 Apr 2019 - 5:31 PM  UPDATED 5 Apr 2019 - 5:31 PM

Residents from a remote Aboriginal community are suing Seven West Media for defamation over a controversial breakfast show segment about the Stolen Generations.

The lawsuit, filed in the Federal Court, alleges that the Sunrise program defamed the 15 applicants by playing slightly blurred background footage of them during a controversial panel discussion.

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

Sunrise broke TV rules with controversial segment on removing Indigenous children
Aboriginal community members said the segment was false, misleading and damaging, and the television watchdog agrees.

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 last year, lead to protests outside the show’s studio in Sydney and during an episode filmed on the Gold Coast. The offensive comments were found to be in breach of television codes of practice.

A separate Indigenous group also filed a racial discrimination complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

The background footage was originally filmed with consent for a health promotion in Yirrkala – a small Aboriginal community approximately 700km east of Darwin.

However, lawyers for the Yolngu group said their clients “remained readily identifiable” and that the presentation implied they had abused, assaulted or neglected children.

“Our clients are extremely unhappy with being recklessly depicted in such a negative manner,” said Peter O’Brien, principal solicitor of O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors.

“The plaintiffs assert that the segment about child sexual abuse and the forced removal of children while showing identifiable images of innocent people is defamatory.

“If child sexual and physical abuse was being discussed in a non-Aboriginal context, it is inconceivable that children from a Sydney suburb would be randomly depicted.

“The plaintiffs are Aboriginal people from a remote part of Australia, they should not be depicted in this manner in the context of this program, just because they are Aboriginal.

“Hopefully this court action goes some way to changing that approach.”

A Seven spokesman told NITV News: “The proceedings relate to some footage used in the background to the story which was blurred to prevent any person being identified and Seven is able to defend the case on that basis.

“It is unrelated to the ACMA ruling which is being dealt with separately.  We can’t comment further as the matter is before the court.”

Aboriginal group files race discrimination complaint against Sunrise
They say Channel Seven 'must be held responsible' for offensive comments about removing Aboriginal children from their families and the Stolen Generations.
Sunrise rushes in Indigenous panel after train wreck show leads to protests
PR nightmare: It took six days of protests, community outrage, national criticism and a number of comedic parodies for Channel Seven’s breakfast show to finally have an Indigenous panel on the program to discuss Indigenous issues after a panel spread wrong information and one called for a second Stolen Generation.
'Leave the kids alone!': Sunrise tries to hide protesters after Stolen Generations comments
An all-white panel discussed Aboriginal adoption earlier this week, with one commentator calling for more child removals, prompting today's protest.