Revitalising Indigenous Resistance and Dissent through Online Media


Author: Elizabeth Burrows, Griffith University, Australia
Published: June 2016

Citation: Burrows, E. (2016). Revitalising Indigenous Resistance and Dissent through Online Media. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 3(1).


Indigenous peoples continue to experience exclusion from mediated mainstream public sphere debates. In Australia, recent government funding cuts suppress opportunities for Aboriginal resistance and dissent. Long-standing Aboriginal print media have ceased publication. Public broadcasters have cancelled Indigenous news services, and a 2014 Australian Federal Government Commission of Audit recommended culling the community broadcasting sector. This is in direct opposition to Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which stresses that all people have the right to “without interference…receive and impart information and ideas through any media”. This paper considers how online media may overcome the silencing of dissenting Indigenous voices and broaden public sphere access and engagement. Drawing on interviews with Canadian and Australian traditional print journalists, bloggers and social media producers this paper investigates how online media circulate news and information to Indigenous communities and inject Aboriginal perspectives into public sphere debates. The paper interrogates the diversity of current Indigenous online media and considers whether access to online and mobile media technologies expands or inhibits democratic participation. How successfully Indigenous media producers have upskilled to meet the demands of multimedia platforms is discussed, along with unique challenges they face in relation to funding, responsibilities and community expectations. The investigation concludes that online media are facilitating a revitalisation of grassroots media production that counters the exclusion of Indigenous voices from democratic conversations. However, while they enhance the circulation of Indigenous perspectives and information, demand for multimedia delivery results in “two-speed” Indigenous public sphere processes.


indigenous, democracy, public sphere, online media, communication