On August 14th and 15th 2010, around 120 young community media-makers from around Australia converged in Canberra for the inaugural Multicultural and Indigenous Youth Media Conference, marking the first youth media conference in Australia to have a focus on Indigenous and multicultural communities and journalists. The diversity of industry professionals, media sectors and broadcasters made this conference a truly unique and inspiring experience.
The collaboration for the conference was a response to requests from both Indigenous young people and migrant and refugee young people to meet with interested young media producers from around Australia who may have shared experiences of culture, heritage, language and identity. Participants from migrant and refugee backgrounds reported that they gained a lot from the opportunity not only to meet with media professionals and other young broadcasters, but also to develop networks and learn from Indigenous broadcasters and journalists. As Aisha Ali from the Oromo youth program on 3ZZZ community radio remarked,
“The conference has been fantastic… I love it. There has been such a diverse range of speakers and it’s put a lot into perspective… I’ve also learnt so much about the Indigenous population of Australia.”
Similarly, Milton Namakoyi aka Cisive Lyrics, who does a hip hop show on Radio Skid Row in Sydney, appreciated the opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture. He is now committed to playing less American hip hop on his program and more hip hop coming out of Indigenous and multicultural communities. Realising the need to broadcast important stories from the community, Namakoyi also wants to incorporate more talk-back in his music program to get more perspectives and voices on air.
The conference included presentations from industry professionals representing TV, radio and print media. Speakers included Faustina ‘Fuzzy’ Agolley from Video Hits, Channel 10, Auskar Surbakti from SBS World News Australia, Paul Bongiorno, Bureau Chief and Political Editor at Channel Ten News, Kirstie Parker, editor of the Koori Mail, Gladys Namokoyi aka Kween G from SBS Radio, Jessica Smith, 2010 NAIDOC Youth of the Year, Saeed Saeed, a journalist for Leader Newspapers, Kerry Klimm, a journalist with the National Indigenous Times, and representatives from National Indigenous Television (NITV), CuriousWorks, New Australia Media as well as other community media outlets, relevant NGOs and government.
The program covered a number of areas relating to community media, including new media technology, training information, opportunities for cross-platform media participation and media career pathways, as well as representing and developing culture, language, heritage and identity. The overarching conference theme was ‘Empowering Young Voices’ – a theme which President of the Australian Indigenous Communications Association, (AICA) Jim Remedio saw as being particularly pertinent to Indigenous communities:
“The theme ‘Empowering Young Voices’ has never been so relevant. In the Indigenous community our youth make up 60% of our population and are quickly becoming the voices and leaders of tomorrow. Conferences like this are a very important part of that process. I am sure that the skills and networking opportunities delegates experience will only ensure that community broadcasting will be strengthened into the future.”
Presentations also promoted cross-cultural communication, understanding and dialogue. In a broader sense, speakers encouraged the delegates to have journalistic integrity and to stand up and be a voice to promote respect, human rights and social justice. In discussing their experiences as media producers and community leaders, the presenters encouraged the participants to actively challenge stereotypes and work towards breaking down prejudice and racism.
One of the opening keynote presentations was from 2010 NAIDOC youth of year, Jessica Smith, who set the scene for journalists to challenge any preconceptions or stereotypes they may hold and encouraged the delegates to never give up despite hardships that may come up along the way. Jessica’s presentation particularly resonated with Brisbane’s 4EB German youth broadcaster, Thomas Wright, who reflected:
“What inspired me the most was Jessica Smith’s story of her life… what she’s been through and where she ended up despite the struggles she had. And I think if she can do it, I should be able to do it as well.”
Many of the young broadcasters could identify with the presenters who had similar backgrounds or experiences of migration, culture and identity. For example, Adeyemi, who migrated to Wagga Wagga from Sierra Leone, found that Fuzzy’s presentation was most inspiring and relevant to some of his experiences as well: “When I listen to her story, I feel connected to what she is saying.” Similarly, Oromo youth presenter Aisha Ali was also encouraged by Fuzzy’s very honest presentation:
“I’ve been watching her on Video Hits and I’ve been trying to figure out how she got there. Finally hearing her story was fantastic and keeps your hope up!”
The conference presented a unique and rare opportunity for these young people to be inspired to have a strong voice in the media and represent themselves and their community. There was an overwhelmingly positive response from the delegates, many of whom wouldn’t normally had have the opportunity to travel nationally, learn from their peers and industry professionals, enhance their current broadcasting skills, and discuss media career pathways.
The presentations highlighted the importance of representing culture, language and heritage at a community level. This perspective recognised the unique and important space that community broadcasting inhabits to get voices, stories and issues that are seldom heard in other media out in the public. Although the presentations validated the importance of a voice in local communities, participants also saw the value of engaging with mainstream media to address the misrepresentation and often underrepresentation of their cultural and/or linguistic communities in that arena.
Looking around the room of young Indigenous and multicultural media-makers makes you wonder why this diversity isn’t reflected in the general media. Supporting these voices in the mainstream media could make the media sector more representative of Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse society, thus working towards addressing the cultural imbalance in the media and improving people’s sense of belonging, wellbeing and security in Australia.
The conference also provided a rare opportunity to explore the link between media participation, representation and community development.
One of the delegates, Adeyemi, who hopes to join his brother currently broadcasting on Star FM in Wagga Wagga, said that the conference completely changed the way he thought about the media:
“I didn’t know that the media is one of the key factors in community development... the only way we can communicate is by media, without all those means you can’t communicate and our community can’t grow.”
Some of the community development themes brought up in the conference, in particular the discussion around mental health, also caught the attention of Adeyemi, who noted, “I’m really interested in getting more information about mental health and suicide prevention in the community, because it’s something that’s not brought up in the media often.”
The delegates learnt a lot from the conference and forged strong networks with fellow community broadcasters from around the country, as well as industry professionals and representatives from community organisations that work with Indigenous and CALD young people. Marlia Fatnowna from Western Australia was particularly pleased with the networking and learning opportunities the conference offered, remarking in relation to her involvement in media: “I’ve never done anything at high school or uni but now I feel like so many doors are opening.” She now hopes to start broadcasting on Perth Indigenous radio station, Noongar Radio.
Since the conference the delegates have kept in contact with each other, particularly through the social networking site, Facebook, sharing radio program updates, community notices and photos. The NEMBC youth officer is committed to keeping in contact with the participants to provide support for current youth broadcasters as well as those who are seeking to get involved. The NEMBC wishes to thank AICA and 1CMS for their collaboration to make the conference happen as well as the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF), Mindframe Media and Deutsche Welle for their generous sponsorship.
NEMBC Youth & Women’s Officer