The National Indigenous Times

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:13 :13 ): I move:

 That this council notes—

 1. The immense contribution of The National Indigenous Times as a powerful voice for Australia's First Peoples;

2. The investment made by the founders of The National Indigenous Times , John and Beverley Rowsthorne;

3. The National Indigenous Times ' record as Australia's most awarded Indigenous publication, including a Walkley Award for Indigenous coverage in 2005; and

4. The sad departure of the newspaper from the media landscape following an announcement that its parent company, Destiny Publications, had gone into voluntary administration in January and the subsequent closure of the newspaper in February 2015.

I wanted to move this motion today to recognise the passing of The National Indigenous Times ' print and web-based news operation that operated as a powerful voice for Australia's First Peoples. It shut its doors—if you like, its metaphorical doors—in February this year.

It was started through an investment made by John and Beverley Rowsthorne, who are described by Marcus Wollombi Waters, who was one of the newspaper's contributors, as 'loving grandparents of Aboriginal children'. It has a record as Australia's most awarded Indigenous publication, a very proud record. It won a Walkley Award in 2005 for Indigenous coverage, and a Walkley High Commendation in 2004. More recently, it has received several other gongs from the Multicultural and Indigenous Media Awards.

While the newspaper was described by some as past its prime—and I think many would acknowledge that print media is facing particular challenges in this new millennium—in its final few years I think we can all agree that the efforts upon which it was founded and the history of providing a voice to Indigenous Australians is highly commendable and should not pass without being noted. It is a sad departure to see this publication lost from Australia's media landscape.

It has been in financial trouble in recent times and it went out because of litigation. An announcement was made about its impending closure earlier this year with ads put online seeking expressions of interest in trying to make it a viable proposition into the future. That is when I became aware that it was shortly about to close its doors. Its parent company Destiny Publications went into voluntary administration in January this year. Sadly, that call for financial support was not met with enough support in dollar terms to ensure the continuation of the newspaper but certainly the outpouring of support online and the special role that this paper played in ensuring an Aboriginal voice in the debates that affect not only Aboriginal people in this country but, indeed, in this country's debates is something that was put forward very strongly.

The departure of this magazine also comes as just the latest in a string of losses, following the departure of Deadly Vibe magazine, a magazine which promoted the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the fields of sport, music, health, education, community and the arts. Funding for that magazine was cut by the federal government and redirected—or supposedly redirected—to frontline services from 1 July 2014.

I lament the loss of that magazine also from the public space. It was a magazine that profiled indigenous achievement, achievers and role models for close to two decades. I note the importance of positive stories and the importance of not just self-determination but self-esteem, and the way that media can ensure, through positive stories, that we can challenge stereotypes. That is certainly a sad loss.

It also follows on from the cancellation of Tracker magazine which was a contemporary Aboriginal rights-based magazine which used to be produced by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. Journalist Gerry Georgatos, who was one of the main journalists that I had contact with in regard to this particular publication, said:

We brought to the fore voices which had until then remained unheard—from shanty towns around the nation, from the coalface, and from people burdened by injustices where prejudice and racism prohibited them their right to have their say.

The newspaper was commendable on so many grounds but its journalists, including Mr Georgatos, never earned a wage, only a small fee for expenses. Mr Georgatos continued:

Those whom I will remember most are the many people I wrote stories for and about, who we campaigned for, who we advocated for. We worked at a pace to produce as many stories as fast as possible, so as many souls as possible could be heard. I will never forg e t those who went unheard. We tried desperately to give a voice to the voiceless.

As Dr Woolombi Waters wrote:

It was the National Indigenous Times which raised the issues of self-harm, incarceration and suicide long before they became national concerns.

Those issues remain with us. As I noted previously in this place today, tomorrow is Close the Gap Day and yet the gap is widening and we are seeing the loss of yet another Aboriginal voice. I commend the newspaper's efforts over two decades, and I commend this motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins .


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