Cultural protocols relating to deaths in Indigenous communities

The Australian media and broader community need to respect the cultural protocols of Indigenous people prohibiting the publication of names and images of recently deceased persons.

This page is a resource summarising the basic steps journalists should take when reporting deaths in Indigenous communities and providing links to relevant websites and details of a published guide for journalists.

On 1 September 2008 the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, with Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, called on the wider community—and the media in particular—to reflect on the distress and sadness that can result from not respecting Indigenous cultural traditions.

"We have to be sensitive to the different needs and traditions people have when coping with death, especially Indigenous Australians who hold such a special place in our nation," Minister Macklin said.

Journalists and other should be aware that:

The most comprehensive set of guidelines for journalists, filmmakers, producers and documentary makers has been developed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Journalists and documentary makers should also be aware that images and voices of long-deceased persons—for example, in archival footage and photographs—may also cause distress to Indigenous people.

The Cultural Protocol includes a warning the ABC uses at the beginning of programs and on its website to alert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers, listeners and readers:

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following program may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

The statement is copyright of the ABC Indigenous Programs Unit and media operatives can seek permission to use this for their own programs. Contact ABC Indigenous Program Unit at ipu@your.abc.net.au

Media workers are also reminded that the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance includes in its Code of Ethics the need to 'respect private grief and personal privacy'.

The commercial television industry in Australia also has a Code of Practice, which contains advisory notes on:

Another useful resource for media is a book titled Signposts - A guide for journalists to reporting Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and ethnic affairs, by Kitty Eggerking and Diana Plater. The guide is published by the Australian Centre of Independent Journalism and is available for purchase on the ACIJ website