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Amplifying Indigenous News: A digital intervention

Article by Bronwyn Watson

The Amplifying Indigenous News project will road-test, document and analyse an innovative strategy for amplifying Indigenous voices in news media.

An innovative collaborative project that could transform the way Indigenous people are depicted in the news, and also increase the diversity of blak voices and stories across print, broadcast and digital media is currently underway at the University of Canberra.

Recent research has shown that three out of four Australians have a negative view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet, at the same time, most Australians know little about Indigenous culture and history. This negativity is often reflected in news coverage, such as crime reporting. Other research also suggests that using a greater range of blak voices and perspectives in the mainstream media is essential to improving representation and policy (

In an effort to change these perceptions and enhance a wider range of Indigenous perspectives, a University of Canberra project, titled Amplifying Indigenous News: A digital intervention, is being conducted by the News and Media Research Centre in the Faculty of Arts and Design. It is organised in partnership with digital media outlets The Guardian Australia and IndigenousX.

The project assesses the effectiveness of a web-based database that aggregates, centralises in one place, and provides a continuous, up-to-date feed of Indigenous news stories from around Australia. The full name of the database, in traditional Gathang language, is Wakul gagil ngarraldiyn, which means “coming together through knowing”. The database has been nicknamed the Wakul App.

As part of the project, the Wakul App is being road tested by a journalist at The Guardian. The journalist uses the database as a tool for numerous purposes: to research and produce stories on Indigenous issues, identify sources, potential contributors, and provide story ideas and advice to other journalists. The aim is to increase the depth and quality of Indigenous reporting at The Guardian, and also impact representation in other media outlets.

At the University of Canberra, the research team consists of chief investigators Associate Professor David Nolan, Professor Kerry McCallum, and Professor Peter Radoll, and project manager Dr Alanna Myers. Partner investigators are Mr Luke Pearson, founder of IndigenousX, and Ms Lorena Allam, Indigenous affairs editor, The Guardian Australia.

Lead investigator David Nolan says that the project aims to increase public understanding of the issues and perspectives affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and this will provide opportunities for more informed discussion and debate in the media. Other aims of the project include amplifying a wider range of Indigenous voices in the media, encouraging more Indigenous reporters, and, in the long term, changing perceptions.

“This is something that critical work in this area has been calling for for years, so it is exciting to be looking at how successful a project that seeks to do that might be,” Dr Nolan says. “There is also an opportunity in journalism to provide a wider platform for Indigenous people who have taken up opportunities using digital media to tell their own stories. We live in interesting times and there are opportunities for change, and we would like to support that while also seeking to understand the transforming media landscape better.”

N&MRC Associate Professor David Nolan & Chief Investigator, Amplifying Indigenous News: A digital intervention