Black Stories Matter: the media, power and Aboriginal aspirations

The Australian Centre thanks Ashley Anderson for the careful and considerate revision of provided captions.

Webinar summary and key themes

This webinar is the third in the Australian Centre's 2022 Critical Public Conversations series: Undoing Australia.

Mainstream media reporting of Aboriginal people has long been governed by the broader inequalities and racism that shape Indigenous-settler relations in Australia. In a major study of how media had covered Aboriginal political aspirations, we identified three major narratives that operated to delay and deny Aboriginal self-determination. We also uncovered an alternative narrative of Indigenous sovereignty and nationhood – present across Indigenous communication texts and in interventions of Aboriginal political actors and their supporters – which worked to unsettle the dominant narratives and challenge their constraining logics. In this collaborative lecture, we aim to share the tools and resources we developed to understand and analyse the discourses and narratives that shape our ways of knowing Indigenous-settler relations. We consider how they have changed and can be changed to advance sovereignty and self-determination claims. By understanding the media’s ways of knowing Aboriginal people and political worlds, we can be armed to disrupt the patterns of the past.


Professor Heidi Norman is a leading Australian researcher in the field of Aboriginal political history. She has made significant contributions to understandings Aboriginal social, cultural, economic and political history where she addresses questions of power in relation to Aboriginal citizens, the state and settler society and Aboriginal land justice. She is the Associate Dean (Indigenous) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney and a descendant of the Gomeroi people from north western NSW.

Dr Archie Thomas is a Research Fellow in the Social and Political Sciences Program at the University of Technology Sydney. In 2021 they completed a six month postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). Their research focuses on institutions and social change, education and power, discourses and media representations, and Indigenous and settler relations.


Professor Sarah Maddison is Professor of Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, and Director of the Australian Centre. She is particularly interested in work that helps reconceptualise political relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian settler state, including critical examinations of a range of relevant public policies. Her recent work has focused on the treaty process in Victoria, and she is currently working with the Australian Centre’s Deputy Director, Julia Hurst, exploring the role of truth-telling in treaty making. Sarah has also designed the Professional Certificate in Treaty, which includes the Preparing for Treaty series of Melbourne MicroCerts.

Sarah has published widely in international journals and is the author or editor of nine books including, most recently, The Colonial Fantasy: Why white Australia can’t solve black problems (2019). Her other books in the field include The Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation (2016), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation (2015), Beyond White Guilt (2011), Unsettling the Settler State (2011), and Black Politics (2009). Sarah has led numerous research projects and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2011-14, undertaking a project that examined reconciliation in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Guatemala. Her current ARC project is exploring intersections in Indigenous and settler governance regimes.

The presenters have granted permission for this recording to be used for personal viewing and educational purposes.