10 years of stories about the mob: NITV’s big birthday

10 years of stories about the mob: NITV’s big birthday

December 7, 2022

Australia’s First Nations people got their voice on television 10 years ago this month when NITV began broadcasting free-to-air with SBS. For the first time programming produced and presented predominantly by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was widely available across the nation (for five years previously it was narrowcast by satellite). The channel, which hosts a daily national news service and commissions a range of documentary, sport and childrens’ programming, now reaches over two million unique viewers a month and is available in 95 per cent of Australian homes.

NITV is staging a celebratory concert at Uluru on Monday to mark the occasion, with a line-up including Christine Anu, Casey Donovan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Electric Fields, and Shane Howard. Here five NITV personalities, past and present, share their reflections on its accomplishments.

Brooke Boney says NITV specialises in telling stories about the mob.Credit:Don Arnold/WireImage

BROOKE BONEY
Now Nine’s Today show entertainment reporter, former NITV Canberra correspondent

The thing about working with NITV is that you’re telling stories about your mob. So it’s not just reporting on an issue. You’re going out and speaking to your community about a story that affects them and telling the story back to them, so there’s a huge level of responsibility. But also it’s a real privilege because you realise that without the work you’re doing a lot of the people would be voiceless.

I remember the first election campaign I went on for NITV when I was in Canberra in 2013. We weren’t sure whether we would have the budget to go on the campaign trail. It was a huge achievement for the network, still new to being free-to-air. It’s so expensive to send a crew out and a reporter. We ended up doing it, and I remember thinking it’s not that long ago my grandparents weren’t even allowed to vote and now we’re able to be here holding our leaders to account.

“It’s not that long ago my grandparents weren’t even allowed to vote and now we’re able to be here holding our leaders to account.”

It was a particularly important election for blackfullas as well because Tony Abbott was running and a big part of his platform was he wanted to be the prime minister for Indigenous Australians. He was going to do this week-long trip every year where he’d take the press gallery out on a tour of remote communities so they could get a better understanding of the issues that affect us. It was a big part of his identity as prime minister and that to me really summed up where things were headed.

When I was younger, TV was very white. There weren’t people from any other countries, except for characters to poke fun at. It didn’t really feel that great, when you’re constantly fed that message that you’re invisible or you’re a parody. Those messages affect the way you see yourself, so the way NITV has not only been able to develop a range of programming that challenges those stereotypes and shows people what black households, black humour and black joy all look like – that’s really important.

RACHEL PERKINS
Director, producer, screenwriter and an NITV founding board member

About 15 years ago, a few of us in the Indigenous media community realised that a review of broadcasting act gave us a window to put the case for an Indigenous television service. So we began organising, bringing the Indigenous media sector together and put in a submission to that review. We had a lot of meetings in remote areas, and we ended up in Redfern to hammer out our final position. I remember on that day police in Redfern called in the riot squad and they locked down The Block, so nobody could get in or out of the meeting. It’s a really interesting reflection on why we needed a TV service!

Rachel Perkins: changing the nation through story-telling.Credit:

It was long overdue. There’d been a similar service in Canada for a decade before, and Maori television had also been operating for quite a few years. That was part of the building of our case, other Commonwealth nations had already got there and we were being left behind. We argued that Australia needed to deepen its understanding of Indigenous people and NITV could be a great conduit to that. We also argued that it would help with revitalisation of Aboriginal languages and culture and generally help inform the wider community as well.

I was out driving with a friend on a shoot when we heard the funding announcement. We’d put so much time into it. So many people had this long-held dream. We had to stop the car, get out and literally jumped with joy.

One of NITV’s main pillars was to educate and give back the history of the country to all Australians, and give Indigenous people a voice in the narrative of the country. Australian Wars (the documentary series Perkins directed, produced and presented) certainly shines a light on a history that a lot of non-Indigenous people were not aware of. It’s a history this nation is still coming to terms with. It interviewed more than 50 people, the majority of whom were Indigenous, who were given a voice through that series to talk about their histories. That’s really what NITV hopes to do, as well as entertain, move, and touch people. It’s there to change the nation through story-telling.

TANYA DENNING-ORMAN
NITV director, Indigenous Content

Literally, it started on the verandah in Alice Springs back in 2007, I was hired in May of 2007 and we had to launch it by July of 2007. Originally we went out as a narrowcaster on the Aurora satellite.

First Nations media had been lobbying for decades to have a place where they could be represented in Australian media. So there were a lot of expectations on our shoulders back then. However, when it launched it didn’t have access into every Australian home, it was really hard to form partnerships with state agencies because it didn’t have access to the home, it had a lot of challenges. We negotiated onto Foxtel and Austar by the end of 2007, but I think a lot of people didn’t know if it was going to be what the founders had wanted.

Tanya Denning-Orman has told how NITV started on a verandah in Alice Springs.Credit:

We shot festivals and sports and did what we could to fill the schedule. However, we really wanted to work like the other players did. Our community wanted and were expecting to see an ABC or an SBS, however, our money was nothing. We had our community being frustrated because they wanted their shows. They wanted to see our own children’s show and our own news. So our community was super excited but how do we get there? The negotiations happened with SBS and a lifeline was eventually provided to the channel in 2011.

What you see when you connect with NITV is the strategy beneath it. It’s not just the shows, it’s who’s partnering with us. There’s a real desire for an authentic Australian content, which we’re seeing really connect through to everyday Australians. Our most popular program is Going Places with Ernie Dingo, an internally produced program that tells a story of country, people and characters.

Ernie Dingo is the host of the NITV show Going Places.

We’ve done the hard yards, hit heaps of new milestones, shown what you can do with children’s animation with Little J and Big Cuz. We’ve shown how you can work with other platforms and players. We’ve got really interesting partnerships with Channel 10, ABC, Netflix even.

I remember the day clearly when I saw an Aboriginal woman reading the news. I was about 10 years old and I thought, what, that’s possible? Now there are young First Nations children who take it for granted, oh yeh, we’ve got NITV. Their aspirations are even bigger and stronger, more confident, oozing out of our next generation of young people, which is super exciting.

KUTCHA EDWARDS, singer-songwriter, presenter of Kutcha’s Koorioke

I would never have imagined that there would be a specific station committed to the voice of our people, so I congratulate NITV on that commitment. All I ask is that they tell all the stories, as many stories as they can.

Kutcha Edwards: “They’re not interviews, they’re yarns in a car.”Credit:

That’s what Kutcha’s Koorioke is about. We’d seen Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and we thought that would work for us. It’s just a vehicle for the guests who hop in the car, I’m just the conduit for the conversation. They’re not interviews, they’re yarns in a car. I try and make the guests in the car as comfortable as if we’re sitting around a kitchen table or a fire in the backyard or a fire in the bush. That’s what these yarns are about. There have been some amazing ones. To sit in the same car with Archie Roach is humbling. His spirit is so powerful it’s practically pushing you out the door! It’s amazing. I’ve travelled the world with Archie and Ruby (Hunter), but his journey is my journey, and mine is his.

I’ve been re-watching our series and I get really emotional and sentimental because those were practically the last conversations that our brother, Uncle Jack Charles, was being filmed in, but we didn’t know that.

We have a responsibility to give voice to sometimes the voiceless. Our people are the most imprisoned people per capita on the planet, so we’re giving voice to people who’ve been told to shut up. so that our kids can be confident in who they are and who they’re connected to. It’s about seeing a reflection not in the mirror but on the screen, on the TV. You see yourself and your story being told. That wasn’t happening before.

RAE JOHNSTON, NITV reporter and co-host of Going Places with Ernie Dingo

When I was a kid I wanted to be on telly. That was my goal! So I always hoped there’d be something like NITV out there. And I think having NITV on the landscape now, it provides role models for kids that were like me, who want to do what I’m doing today. I know that because I have them reach out to me, I have people contact me and say I see the work you’re doing and I want to do what you’re doing, can you mentor me, and I’ve had the ability to mentor a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young kids, older adults, that want to get into science, tech, video game work, that wouldn’t have seen that as an option for them without Indigenous outlets.

Rae Johnston says NITV is all working together for a common cause.Credit:

You feel like the news on NITV is for you, not for other people and you happen to be overhearing it. And especially with news that does impact your community, so personally that’s a really important thing to have.

The last 10 years, it’s been amazing. I still can’t believe it’s been 10 years. It’s gone by so quickly. Six years ago I started off at NITV just doing little science and technology segments alongside Stan Grant on The Point. They were segments I’d been doing at other networks, at commercial networks, on morning television, for a few years at that time. Doing them for NITV allowed me to approach them from an entirely different perspective, one that felt more honest.

One of my favourite stories I’ve covered was about the use of artificial intelligence up in the Top End for saving endangered marine turtles. Feral pigs are getting in and eating the turtle eggs. There are Indigenous rangers that know that country like the back of their hand. It’s where they were born and where their ancestors were born. They’ve been working really hard to be able to intercept these pigs to stop them from eating the eggs to save the turtles, but they just couldn’t get there in time.

So they’ve started sending up drones to take photos, and collaborated with Microsoft who created an AI system to analyse the photos from the drones so that it could work 10,000 times faster than the rangers to figure out where these nests are, and also track where the pigs were going to be, so they were able to get there before the pigs.

To cover the use of technology combined with the knowledge of Indigenous people working on their own country to protect their own country, and getting this gorgeous footage, and creating a wonderful news package was exciting. You don’t always get to tell good news, but that was an absolute highlight for me.

Working with NITV is not just like working with family, it literally is working with family. You are all working together for that. It’s a common cause. NITV is just so audience focused. Not in the sense of how do we extract value from the audience or get them to tap into what our advertisers are selling, but who are we telling this information to, what do they need to know and how can we best serve them.

The NITV 10th anniversary Uluru concert, hosted by Narelda Jacobs, screens at 7.30pm on Monday on NITV and SBS.

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