Year

2010

Degree Name

Master of Arts - Research

Department

University of Wollongong. School of Journalism and Creative Writing

Abstract

The research path taken in this thesis follows a number of separate yet overlapping topics. Critically I have sought to re-examine the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy as a media phenomenon. This leads me to address the question: to what extent did the creation of the Embassy protest as a media event influence the outcomes?

I examine the Aboriginal Embassy as a historic event shaped by the US Black Power movement with its emphasis on urban self-help programs free of ‘white’ influence. The Embassy protest was also forged around the Aboriginal Land Rights movement originating in non-urban areas, especially in the Northern Territory. These influences, and others, helped create a turning point in the history of the Aboriginal struggle.

This thesis also investigates the role of government agencies - ASIO in particular - in carrying out covert surveillance of Aboriginal organisations and individuals. The information gathered was used undermine and discredit legitimate protest actions. This is revealed through files released by the National Archives of Australia.

The radio feature and short film form part of a methodology grounded in practical media work. The radio program is based around the story of Chicka Dixon – who is central not just to the Aboriginal Embassy, but to decades of political activism. The short film covers the experience of the Aboriginal Embassy from the perspective of student activist turned newspaper editor, Jack Waterford.

This dissertation reflects on the author’s journey as a student of film negotiating various tasks from researching to filming, editing and seeking institutional support for film development. It summarises and assesses research carried out over a five-year period to present a fresh perspective on one of Australia’s most important historical events.

The thesis accompanies a feature radio program (on CD) and a short film (on DVD) made in my capacity as a journalist working in radio, television and film. The radio program and short film were created as part of the research process for the thesis and for a proposed feature documentary film. The completion of the feature documentary is a separate project; but its development informs the thesis.

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