Indigenous Studies

June 27, 2018

It is a scientific fact that Aboriginal peoples have been inhabited Australia, the smallest continent and the sixth largest country, for about the last 20,000 years (Motion, Leitch & Cliffe 2012, p. 123). Although Indigenous peoples have suffered various attempts of erasing their cultures and whitening their skin colors through government policies aimed at absorbing their origins and rich ethnic hereditary, they survived. Regardless few generations of Aboriginal Australians have been stolen, modern representatives of this part of the country"s population try to support and cherish customs and traditions of their ancestors. Nowadays, Indigenous people make up 2.4 percent of the total Australian inhabitants about 460,000 out of 22 million people (Australian Government n.d.). However, notwithstanding seeming supremacy of law and democracy highly promoted by the globalization process, Aboriginal peoples still experience racism and others" prejudiced attitudes toward them in accordance with the so-called colonial stereotypes. In the light of this issue, the main role of public relations" professionals is to be an intermediate link between the general population and Indigenous peoples. Moreover, these specialists are to aid the latter in bringing their cultural domain to the wider audience in order to fight stereotypical views, create a possibility for others to see the world in the Indigenous peoples" perspective and ensure their equality with others in different aspects of life.

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An Overview of the Issue

As it was mentioned above, Aboriginal Australian peoples are an integral and significant part of the country"s socio-cultural history and life. Furthermore, the process of their marginalization is continuous, as well.

Overall, the indigenous and tribal peoples can be defined as follows:

People in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of the present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural, and political institutions (Whiteman 2009, p. 102).

Tracing the world history, it becomes evident that colonialist way of life has always been dominant over colonist, namely, indigenous culture. As a result, the cultural borrowings and changes are always present (Dodson 2003, p. 30). In this way, British colonialists had taken a course at "Eurocentrism" (Greenwood 2013, p. 101) "over 500 different clan groups or "nations" around the continent, many with distinctive cultures, beliefs and languages" (Australian Government n.d.). Nevertheless, policies implemented by British and later independent Australian governments, as it has been clarified by previous research, were a true eradication of autochthonous population and its ethnicity. Despite Aboriginal Australian cultures are amongst the most ancient worldwide (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission [ATSIC] 1998, p. 8), the notion of Euro superiority has been the leading force for Aboriginal children removal strategies among other anti-Indigenous programs. During 1909-1969, 100,000 sons and daughters of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents have been taken away from their families forcefully; "so they could be brought up white and taught to reject their Aboriginality" (Reconciliaction 2012). Besides, such policy has been justified by scientific racism that was influential in the early twentieth century. Scholars emphasized higher evolutionary forms of Europeans as compared to stone-age characteristics of Australian Indigenous people. This circumstance, as stated by Hollinsworth (1998), has been proved to be "the manifest destiny of Europeans to subdue and rule the world" (p. 44). In 1997, The Bringing them home report had been proclaimed telling the stories of the reinforced participants of those horrifying events stating that 1-3 out of 10 children were stolen from their parents. In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made a speech,"Apology to Australia"s Indigenous people," lasting 4 minutes and 3 seconds, apologising for the mistreatment policies and programs, "especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country" (Australian Government n.d.).

Media sources have played a significant role addressing and paying attention to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations" problems. For example, in the late 1990s, multiculturalism was the major issue discussed by various Australian media (Gale 2005, p. 73). However, inequality between Aboriginal as compared to non-Aboriginal people is still evident in the contemporary world. For instance, the recent research conducted by Schertow (2013) confirms this fact. Figure 1 below shows that most notable news websites rarely write articles about Indigenous people, whereas this issue is highlighted by specific web-source, like IC Magazine, only. Moreover, important news regarding Aboriginal peoples" lives and concerns are just omitted. Consequently, such author"s question as how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples" issues can be solved when no one knows about them seems extremely acute and topical.

Thus, summarising the above-indicated information, it becomes clear that public relations practitioner should make every effort to popularise the culture and lifestyle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this way, their "right to control and demonstrate their own identity as part of the broader right to self-determination" (Dodson 2003, p. 31) will be adhered. What is more, well-organized public relations campaign will allow them to get rid of a kind of inferiority complex assigned to them by unfavorable historic circumstances.

Aboriginal Public Relations

Although Indigenous people story on the lands of modern Australia is rather old, public relations profession for this area is quite new and is about of few decades age. Journalists were found to be the first practitioners of this field. In 1949, they have joined institutes nationwide to form the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). There was no specific education at that time, whereas now PRIA offers a wide range of courses and qualifications for both practicing specialists and new ones. With the development of airmail and, the most important, the Internet, Australian public relations has become "a strategic function with ties to the senior levels of management within organizations" (Motion, Leitch & Cliffe 2012, p. 125). As cited by Whiteman (2009), numerous studies clarify that Indigenous people try to "resist unwanted development" and in addition, "how corporate executives perceive indigenous "stakeholders" (p. 103). What is more, since the significant part of Australian industry is of international origin, foreign business owners of multinational corporations usually know nothing about Indigenous people issue and may discriminate their employees. In this case, PR specialists" qualification can be a good assistance. Results of research by Motion, Leitch and Cliffe (2012) evidence that the main duties performed by public relations" professionals include:

  • Promotions and publicity – 59%;
  • Counselling and consulting – 52.1%;
  • Management – 40%;
  • Writer/editor/publications – 47.2%;
  • Internal communications – 30.9%;
  • Government relations – 27% (p. 125).

The above-listed functions, which each public relations practitioner is to operate, can be of great help in the sphere of Indigenous peoples" issues since those are able to ensure multi-sided addressing their concerns.

Overall, "Aboriginal public relations (APR) involves communicating to and/or behalf of Aboriginal people, organizations and communities" (Clark 2012, p. 20). Australian society in general and, for example, Aboriginal community controlled organizations, in particular, is in need of highly competent PR professionals. They should be well-qualified in terms of deep understanding of Indigenous people issues and their cultural heritage. This condition will ensure the development of sustainable relationships and communication between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people of non-Aboriginal background. The recent study conducted by Clark (2012) in this field proved that, as a rule, public relations practitioners in Australia have little knowledge on the analyzed problem. Additionally, most of them acquire their professional PR knowledge from their working experience. Besides, the scholar outlined possible ways to address this state of things:

  1. Increase the number of Aboriginal PR specialists in Australia;
  2. Promote "the study of public relations potential Indigenous students and current Aboriginal high school students, creating pathways to develop urban Aboriginal people in PR roles" (Clark 2012, p. 22);
  3. Provide specialized community-based APR programmes to learners from regional, rural, and remote areas (Clark 2012, p. 22).
  4. personal-view-on-the-indigenous-problem

My View of Resolving Indigenous People Issue

In the previous stages of my research project regarding Indigenous studies, I have outlined few points to create, organize and develop an anti-stereotype public relations campaign, which is modern in all aspects. Therefore, my strategy has included the following components:

  1. In order to show the world the real Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, I should establish friendly relationships with their representatives at first. This circumstance will give me a possibility to understand their customs, traditions, language, and culture in general from the inside. Furthermore, I would clarify what exactly Indigenous peoples themselves expect to get from the community via this programme.
  2. Moreover, today"s technologies and technical devices are to be used to show the issue from the Australian autochthonous population"s perspective. Specifically, I would apply such tools as the Internet, social media, and YouTube: set up an Aboriginal people website, create specific video channel, the blog for the targeted audience etc.
  3. Besides, both printed and e-media ought to be aware about events and occurrences in the life of Indigenous people in Australia since nowadays highlighted in media means paid attention to and thus visible for the government and another part of the population. For this purpose, the help of various organizations cooperating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inhabitants of Australia may be used. They definitely know what Indigenous people festival is about to take place next week or what sphere of their social life requires for additional state funding etc.

I believe that proposed public relations action plan can become a successful and efficient way to establish the better understanding of Indigenous culture as well as create better relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parts of the community. Seemingly, the ways to achieve the major goal are quite effective because they present the range of innovative tools of the mainstream public relations. I think that when PR specialist uses contemporary technologies to promote the culture having many-century traditions, this will demonstrate autochthonous populations are up-to-date but not stone-age characters. Moreover, if to share this message via most advanced today"s means, it will be more than clear how Aboriginal peoples of Australia respect their pasts, presents, and futures in all aspects of their senses of Aboriginalities. To my mind, the latter is the feature that we all are to follow.

Conclusion

To sum up, representation and self-representation of Aboriginal people has been distorted constantly if to trace this aspect through the prism of socio-historic context. Promoted by scientists and supported by politicians Eurocentrism and higher form of evolutional development of non-Aboriginal Australians of European origin became the background and justification of anti-Indigenous policies. Stolen Generations is one of the cruelest consequences of such policies since it has taken approximately 100,000 children from their families to be brought up with erased memory regarding their ethnic roots. Although the government has apologized before Australian Indigenous people for mistreatment officially, the sense and state of inequality is still present in the contemporary society in all spheres of life. It has been evidenced by Schertow (2013) in his research among other issues showing that events of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people"s lives are rarely highlighted or simply omitted by media.

Therefore, this research paper has outlined few ways to improve the existing situation via public relations sphere, which is aimed at communicating to and/or on behalf of Aboriginal people in this case. The role of PR practitioner in the given circumstances is maintaining sustained and balanced relationships between the general public and Indigenous people. Despite Australian Aboriginal public relations field is rather a new one, it is an important strategic link in the organisation's structure. Consequently, possible ways to address the problem discussed can be embodied in the next steps:

  • Establishing good relationships with the representatives of the autochthonous population of Australia in order to research their culture from the inside and clarify their current needs;
  • Setting up Indigenous people website, blog and YouTube video channel to create the positive image of Aboriginal people and make the audience see the world and their culture in their position.
  • Ensuring print and e-media awareness about everyday life and events in terms of Aboriginal Australians" concerns and occurrences, involving cooperation with Indigenous organisations.

Reference List:

  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) 1998, As a matter of fact: answering the myths and misconceptions about Indigenous Australians, Office of Public Affairs, ATSIC, Canberra.
  2. Australian Government n.d., Our people, viewed 4 September 2013.
  3. Clark, T 2012, "Aboriginal public relations: an exploration of the balance of Aboriginal cultural competency and public relations", in MD Sisson & M Sheehan (eds), World Public Relations Forum 2012: research colloquium: conference proceedings, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, pp. 20-24.
  4. Dodson, M (2003), "The end in the beginning: re(de)finding Aboriginality", in M Grossman (ed), Blacklines: contemporary critical writing by indigenous Australians, Melbourne University Press Ltd, Carlton, Victoria, pp. 25-42.
  5. Gale, P 2005, "Multiculturalism and the politics of discontent: "for all of us", in The politics of fear: lighting the Wik, Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest, N.S.W., pp. 73-92.
  6. Greenwood, M 2013 "Being Indigenous: commentary on Chandler", Human Development, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 98-105.
  7. Hollinsworth, D 1998, "Race": what it is, and is not", in Race & racism in Australia, 2nd edn, Social Science Press, Katoomba, N.S.W., pp. 29-45,
  8. Motion, J, Leitch, S & Cliffe, S 2012, "Public relations in Australasia: friendly rivalry, cultural diversity, and global focus", S Krishnamurthy & D Verčič, The global public relations handbook: theory, research, and practice, Lawrence Elbaum Associates Publishers, London, pp. 121-141.
  9. Schertow, JA 2013, "Infographic: under-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the media", Intercontinental Cry (IC) Magazine, 14 June, viewed 4 September, 2013.
  10. Whiteman, G 2009, "All my relations: understanding perceptions of justice and conflict between companies and Indigenous peoples", Organisation Studies, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 101-120.

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