Victoria’s Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, will formally open a two-day conference in Melbourne this month that organisers are describing as a milestone in relations between new migrant communities and the mainstream population.
Mr Scott will deliver the opening address of the inaugural National Conference on Media, Migration and Integration, an event co-hosted by Africa Media Australia, the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council and the University of Adelaide, at Rydges on Swanston, Carlton, on May 31st and June 1st.
The forum brings together some of the country’s leading researchers, policymakers, journalists and social commentators with representatives of migrant communities to address some of the most pressing issues facing “new Australians” – including their often negative portrayal in the mainstream media.
“This conference will be a critical milestone on the journey of migrant communities to address the persistent injustice of their negative representation by the media, and – even more importantly – to help journalists understand the impact that consistently negative reporting can have on individuals from these communities,” said the Conference’s convenor, Clyde Salumu Sharady.
“By continuously representing some migrants as being ‘un-Australian’, “criminal” or potentially sympathetic to terrorists or oppressive to women, you can wind up distorting the image of an entire community, and having a terrible impact on their chances of finding jobs, homes or new friends – all the opportunities we should be able to take for granted in a so-called tolerant society.”
The conference includes presentations by some of Australia’s most prominent ‘cultural champions’ and social justice campaigners, including World Vision CEO Tim Costello, John Searle, Chairman of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Inga Peulich, Press Council Chairman David Weisbrot, and prominent South African-born journalist, Indira Naidoo.
Ms Naidoo will speak about her personal experiences as an “outsider on the inside” of Australia’s mainstream media – where, she notes, “new migrant communities remain virtually non-existent”.
A former SBS newsreader, Ms Naidoo says most of her university-educated peers were encouraged to pursue careers in law or medicine – not journalism, which was viewed more as an instrument of state control. “Our communities were not used to having any representation in the media,” she says, “and it’s much the same situation for refugee and migrant communities in Australia today.”
“You really have to have a ‘media face’ before you have any say in how a society operates,” Ms Naidoo says. “It’s not just about ‘how can we make these journalists come and cover our stories?’ We have to be telling our stories in the mainstream media ourselves.”
John Searle, who will deliver a presentation on the important role the media plays in promoting social cohesion, says journalists have a responsibility to deliver a balanced view of new migrant communities.
“We have so many people from many backgrounds making contributions in our society, bringing their unique perspectives and talents,” says Mr Searle. “Focusing on negative incidents exclusively does not paint an accurate portrait of any community or culture, and the media plays a powerful role in guiding public discourse on multiculturalism and inclusiveness.
“Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly is compelling proof that Australians want to celebrate the talents of people from all backgrounds, from different cultures and religions. This was one occasion where a really positive signal was sent to the broader community.
“At the recent Jewish Community/African Community dinner, I heard three young African-Australians speak with incredible passion and eloquence about their hopes and dreams of living in Australia,” adds Mr Searle. “Anyone who heard those incredible speeches would have known – without any doubt – that Australia has a very bright future indeed if it is in the hands of young people like that.”
The Media, Migration and Integration Conference is the first of its kind, and its sponsors hope it will become a regular event in Melbourne – home to more than 140 nationalities, and recently rated “the world’s most liveable city” for the fifth year running.
The overall theme of the Conference is “Media representations of ethnic communities and their impacts on integration and social mobility”. Among its aims are the development of a mutually supportive framework to guide the media’s reporting and engagement with migrant communities – particularly newer groups from Africa and the Middle East, who often receive only very sporadic and unsympathetic coverage in the press.
The Conference will also look at barriers that prevent journalists and newscasters from migrant communities from accessing high-profile media jobs, and forums through which media and community representatives can potentially come together to discuss issues of mutual concern – such as radicalisation, crime and family violence.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Clyde S. Sharady
Conference Convenor, Africa Media Australia
Tel: 0437 724 469