Digital songlines : the adaption of modern communication technology at Yuendemu, a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia

  • Lydia Buchtmann

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    During the early 1980s the Warlpiri at Yuendemu, a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia, began their own experiments in local television and radio production. This was prior to the launch of the AUSSAT satellite in 1985 which brought broadcast television and radio to remote Australia for the first time. There was concern amongst remote Aboriginal communities, as well as policy makers, that the imposition of mass media without consultation could result in permanent damage to Aboriginal culture and language. As a result, a policy review 'Out of the Silent Land' was published in 1985 and from that developed the Broadcasting in Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS) which allowed communities to receive radio and television from the satellite. BRACS also provided the option to turn off mainstream media and insert locally produced material. This study of the Warlpiri at Yuendemu has found that, since the original experiments, they have enthusiastically used modern communication technology including radio, video making, locally produced television, and, more recently, on-line services. The Warlpiri have adapted rather than adopted the new technology. That is they have used modern communications technology within existing cultural patterns to strengthen their language and culture rather than to replace traditional practices and social structures. The Warlpiri Media Association has inspired other remote broadcasters and is now one of eight remote media networks that link to form a national network via the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia. The Warlpiri have actively adapted modern communication technology because it is to their advantage. The new technology has been used to preserve culture and language, to restore, and possibly improve, traditional communications and to provide employment and other opportunities for earning income. It appeals to all age groups, especially the elders who have retained control over broadcasts and it also provides entertainment.
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorElisabeth Patz (Supervisor) & Glen Lewis (Supervisor)

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