In this piece, this essay will be discussing Aboriginal representation
in the media. It includes many texts in the study; these will include
“Jedda” from the 1950s, “Barbakuaria” from the 1980s and finally a Sydney
Mail picture, from 1917. To analyze the texts they will be compared it with
the cultural expressions of the time created. There are also comments on
the framing and how the story affected the final representation of the
Aboriginals, and if the text portrayed the publics views correctly for that
In Australia during the 1950s, a process put into practice called
the “Assimilation policy”.
It was designed to ‘civilise’ Aboriginal
children who were not full blood. The children taken were either fostered
or sent to missions for domestic service. This was the birth of the stolen
generation. The text representing this time was “Jedda”. Jedda was the
first colour film with real aboriginal actors, the movie had an anti-
assimilation storyline, and with one of the main characters saying, “you
can’t change a 40,000 year old culture in one generation.” “Civilization is
how you see it, these people have a different way, that’s all.
The film followed Jedda, a young Aboriginal who was brought up in a
white family after her mother was died, she is curious about her people’s
culture, but she is very restricted by her adopted mother. We see Jedda
watching the aboriginals from the homestead leave for their walk and
welcoming them home, we see the longing in her eyes, and we feel for her.
We then see the mother discouraging her, keeping her from playing with the
other Aboriginals, making sure she stays in her clean western clothes.
When Marbuck steals Jedda away from the camp, by seducing her with
his traditional Aboriginal ‘magic’, it shows the more wild and uncivilized
view of the Aboriginals. He seams mad and shown in a stereotypical way,
with scars and a loincloth being his main characteristics.
There are no positive portrayals of ‘traditional’ Aborigines, we
see this when Marbuck takes Jedda to his tribe, and they would rather kill
her than let him marry her.
They curse him, even though he is a member of
their tribe, for bringing an outsider to the meeting place. This seams to
show all Aboriginal tribes as uncivilized savages, which destroys the whole
point of making it an anti-assimilation movie.
Despite the films good intentions, it ultimately portrays most
Aboriginal characters in negative ways and maintains some damaging
stereotypes. Criticized as being too “fatalistic”, the Hollywood style did
not suit this story, and the Aboriginal people who had an input would
probably be ashamed with the way it turned out.
In Australia, during 1800s and 1900s, European settlement started
to spread across the country. There was a lot of conflict over land, with
masses of blacks and whites dying, but more Aborigines due to the white
settlers having superior weapons.
The Aboriginals were represented as a
menace to white lives.
The Sydney Mail photograph shows an Aboriginal woman in the
background with a spear, and a tombstone in the front saying “Speared by
blacks.” The figures in the background are of a female with spear, showing
ignorance, because in typical tribes, the women do not use weapons, the
weapon is there to suggest violence and possibly scare the reader into
believing the reporter took some great risk in taking the photo. The date
on the tombstone indicates it is not news and only been taken to promote
fear to the public.
This photo represents Aborigines as primitive, uncivilized and
violent, a threat to all white people. This photo is typical of the time,
and probably achieved its point of scaring the public.
In 1980s Australia, land rights claims for Aborigines were
abundant. They were shown as radicals and possibly violent, people saw
their typical behavior as petrol sniffing drunks through the media and
although this was the case for a few, not many actually did either of
“Barbakuaria” showed a twisted version of the historical events,
putting Aborigines as the settlers, and white people as the indigenous
Australians. A reporter lived with a typical white family, saw them split
up during the assimilation time, and commented on how they never smile when
We saw the younger boy say what they were thinking, about asking
how they can smile when they have nothing.
The movie shows how vain people are, as it made the public feel
sorry for the whites, but they still wouldn’t feel for the Aborigines .