Interpret and compare how representations of people and culture in literary texts are drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts
Analysing literary texts created by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (including documentaries, picture books, print texts and other multimodal texts)
How can contexts influence the representations of values, people and culture presented in texts?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been represented in texts in different ways depending on the context of the author and time of events
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have often been negatively misrepresented in texts. Derogatory stereotypes (e.g. primitive) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been perpetuated since colonisation.
Many documentaries produced by non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people have shown overtly biased and inaccurate representations of the facts.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and spiritualities have been grossly misrepresented in texts due to limitations in understanding of the many non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors. For example, Creation stories explain the rules for the spiritual world and the local environment as it relates to everyday living. However, the use of negative inferences, such as sorcery, when portraying traditional rituals and practices often presents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality in a dark and negative way. This also reinforces the perception that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were primitive and uncivilised, and required ‘saving’.
The accepted, and often racist, social texts from the time of colonisation and settlement through to more recent times have served to reinforce negative perceptions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as being the ‘inferior other’. For generations, this discriminatory view has led to misunderstanding and underscored ill-conceived government policies, including the forced relocation and removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from country.
As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors, storytellers, songwriters and performers have increased in number and prominence, true representations have emerged and are challenging these preconceptions.
Historians and producers have begun to tell the true stories of our shared history, helping to positively reshape negative stereotypes and misrepresentations.
Decisions that impact cultural groups, families or communities should only be made with their engagement and should be informed by accurate and unbiased information.
A positive and inclusive society should represent all people fairly and accurately in its writings whether historical, contemporary or social.
When writing texts, authors should show integrity and take responsibility for ensuring the information presented is unbiased and factually accurate.
Western cultures generally have a history of recording knowledge in writing, while many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities utilise primarily non-text forms of recording and sharing knowledge and history, such as song, dance, art, music and storytelling.
Non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander authors should seek consultation with appropriate cultural groups in the production of all texts to ensure accuracy, authenticity and credibility.
There are many ways to respond, including:
Develop research skills that focus on thinking critically when reading and viewing texts – particularly media representations and commentary.
Develop skills to understand the cultural lens with which the author has framed the text. This will be important when evaluating bias and accuracy.
Seek advice and information from primary sources to deliver authentic perspectives when representing values, people and culture in texts.