Remembering our Indigenous past: Local talk as public opinion about Indigenous history

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May 2007 saw the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum to remove from the Australian Constitution sections discriminating against Indigenous Australians. Publicity surrounding this event highlighted to news audiences the dramatic constitutional and policy shifts in the governance of Indigenous Australians and their relations with the non-Indigenous majority. Indigenous history remains a site of contested knowledge among historians and policy-makers, but also among members of the Australian public. This paper reports on a project that examined public opinion about Indigenous issues when it is understood as talk in local conversational terrains. Through their conversations, participants used ‘local talk’ of history as an important narrative theme to explain their understanding of Indigenous issues. They illustrated reflexivity about the ways issues such as the ‘stolen generations’ emerged onto the public agenda in media and political debate, and explained their understanding of the ways Indigenous history had been silenced and given voice in official Australian histories and in local dialogue. The paper argues that such fine-grained analyses of understandings of history in local talk can shed light on the development of Indigenous policy and explain why some historical issues resonate so strongly with contemporary news audiences
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralian Media Traditions 2007, Distance and Diversity
Subtitle of host publicationReaching New Audiences
EditorsMargaret Van Heekeren
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherCharles Sturt University
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9781864671988
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventAustralian Media Traditions 2007: Distance and Diversity: Reaching New Audiences - Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia
Duration: 22 Nov 200723 Nov 2007


ConferenceAustralian Media Traditions 2007
Internet address


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