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Re-framing the riot : journalism, creative non-fiction and telling the story of Australia's black history

Little, Janine 2009, Re-framing the riot : journalism, creative non-fiction and telling the story of Australia's black history, in JEANZ 2009 : Proceedings of the 2009 Journalism Education Association of New Zealand Conference, JEANZ, [Rotorua, N.Z.], pp. 1-11.

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Title Re-framing the riot : journalism, creative non-fiction and telling the story of Australia's black history
Author(s) Little, Janine
Conference name Journalism Education Association of New Zealand Conference (2009 : Rotorua, N.Z.)
Conference location Rotorua, N.Z.
Conference dates 3 - 4 Dec. 2009
Title of proceedings JEANZ 2009 : Proceedings of the 2009 Journalism Education Association of New Zealand Conference
Editor(s) [Unknown]
Publication date 2009
Conference series Journalism Education Association of New Zealand Conference
Start page 1
End page 11
Total pages 11
Publisher JEANZ
Place of publication [Rotorua, N.Z.]
Summary On 19 November 2004, an Aboriginal man was arrested on Palm Island, off the coast of Townsville in northern Queensland. He was taken to the local watch house on a drunk and disorderly charge. An hour later, he lay dead on a cell floor. His liver, an autopsy showed, had been split in half and his spleen ruptured. But when that autopsy report also found that Mulrunji Doomadgee’s severe injuries were not caused by force, the Palm Island Indigenous community, enraged and grief-stricken, went looking for payback.

The Palm Island “riots” ensured that this Aboriginal death in custody made international news headlines where others barely got a mention, if at all (Hollinsworth, 2005). The ensuing Coronial Inquest and criminal prosecution of the arresting Queensland police officer, Chris Hurley, also were covered consistently by the news media. Senior Sergeant Hurley has, however, so far escaped punishment and the Queensland media’s most recent report of the case was to tell how the Qld Police Union now funds a legal bid to clear his name. Meanwhile, little is heard in the news media of the Doomadgee family, the Palm Island community, or of other deaths in custody occurring steadily through the 18 years since the Royal Commission that was supposed to implement a raft of preventative recommendations.

While the news media’s framing of these issues has most often followed historically predictable and ultimately racist lines, a work of creative non-fiction tells the story with warranted complexity and power. Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island documents Cameron Doomadgee’s death, the riots, and the ensuing legal farce from the front row. Hooper, in the tradition of Truman Capote, arrived at Palm Island as a white writer from a big city. But by “walking the talk” – being with the Doomadgee family and their community through the hearings and after, Hooper was given extraordinary access to community, history, and significant cultural nuance barely identified by, let alone understood by, non-Indigenous readers.

By focussing on Hooper’s experience with sources and court reporting, compared with some print media coverage, this paper will consider the comparative roles of journalism and creative non-fiction in re-framing the Palm Island “riot”. It will suggest that Hooper’s work subverts some dominant (and racist) news media representations of Australian Indigenous peoples through its use of source relationships in an extended narrative structure.
Language eng
Field of Research 190399 Journalism and Professional Writing not elsewhere classified
200104 Media Studies
200299 Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 940116 Social Class and Inequalities
HERDC Research category E1.1 Full written paper - refereed
ERA Research output type E Conference publication
Copyright notice ©2009, JEANZ
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30030941

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Communication and Creative Arts
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