Prison blues and token truths: Inside the reality and fantasy of first nations representations in Australian women's prison drama Wentworth

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TV Transformations and Transgressive Women: From Prisoner: Cell Block H to Wentworth


The Australian TV dramas Prisoner (1979- 86) and Wentworth (2013- 21) have been produced in a culture of continuing White colonization and domination. This chapter analyses the characters and representations in Wentworth in the context of the overrepresentation of incarcerated First Nations women in Australian prison systems, and also looks back to how First Nations women were represented in Prisoner. By using theories by and about First Nations people to guide the process of analysing and interpreting these two Australian series, this chapter highlights the common absence of and tropes associated with First Nations characters, addressing the key issues of silences and stereotyping. Guided in particular by Indigenous theories of epistemology, critical race studies and standpoint theory, this chapter explores how representations of First Nations characters on Prisoner and Wentworth contribute to the inequality of First Nations women in Australian society and in particular the challenges of those experiencing incarceration. This chapter concludes that, despite the landmark recognition of the violence and widespread impacts of incarceration on First Nations people by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody from 1987, there has not yet been a major storyline addressing this problem in over 700 episodes of Prisoner and Wentworth.

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