Australia

Why Australian indigenous representation matters to kids

Picture of Aboriginal author Melanie Prewett and her mother Maggie. Image copyright Magabala Books
Image caption Ms Prewett (left), seen here with her mother Maggie, is the author of the book Two Mates

Images of Indigenous Australian rugby star Johnathan Thurston hugging his daughter as she clutches a dark-skinned doll have become a talking point, with many praising it as a positive portrayal of indigenous people. Melanie Prewett, the Aboriginal writer of award-winning children's book Two Mates, gives her take on why the doll has generated so much interest.

There's been growing representation, certainly in the last 10 years, of indigenous people and children in the media. There's definitely an appetite for it.

There's been a lot of focus on languages and the cultural aspect incorporated in schools - we have the National Indigenous Television channel, characters in TV shows and movies, and more children's books too. There are even Aboriginal kids writing books for other kids and and passing on their stories.

I would attribute it to advances in technology and media, and also the younger generations who are taking up their cultural awareness and sharing it more widely.

There's definitely a place for indigenous representation - it goes back to people getting along and living together in a community.

Image copyright Magabala Books

I wrote my book based on the relationship between my son Jack who is Aboriginal and his best friend Raf, who is white, and has spina bifida. I wanted to document this caring friendship between two boys, who are so opposite to each other.

Media like this teaches kids that it's not about the colour of your skin, it's not about what you look like - it's about who you are as a person. It doesn't have to be an issue - it's only an issue if you make it into one.

I think it's pretty good for indigenous children to see themselves in the media - there's a little bit of that sense of belonging, and identification.

It's a good and positive thing to be able to say, 'Yep, that kid looks like me'. They can relate to it. So in terms of teaching and education that is fantastic, and a lot more is happening now.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rugby star Johnathan Thurston has two children with his partner Samantha Lynch

When I first saw the pictures of Johnathan Thurston and his daughter in the newspaper, I didn't really think much of it.

I'm not sure why it's such a big deal. Perhaps it depends on how you've been raised and what difference means to you.

Image copyright Getty Images

I just think maybe it's because the doll is so dark? It really stands out and obviously is something his daughter treasures. And then it goes back to them perhaps at first glance not looking very indigenous, the daughter especially, and she's holding the doll.

There is that contrast, and if you don't know anything about the family, you may go, 'Oh, are they Aboriginal?'

I can understand why people are interested, because it's different and you don't see it all the time.

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