Linking a remote community to UOW through a community newspaper
Ngukurr is a very remote Aboriginal community in South East Arnhem land, in the Northern Territory, with a population of 1000 people. The University of Wollongong is a large teaching and research institution based in a city of 350,000 people, 90 kilometres south of Sydney.
Although very different, these two communities have had a long-standing partnership that is now centred on reviving community newspaper the Ngukurr News, which was first printed in 2000 but was closed four years later, following changes in management
Twelve years later, a multidisciplinary team from UOW responded to the call from Ngukurr residents to help re-establish the Ngukurr News. Former editor, Daphne Daniels, resumed her role supported by UOW students, two of whom were studying journalism and one public health.
The Ngukurr News is now in its 8th edition and has become a powerful information and advocacy tool. It is produced monthly, and highlights the achievements of a small community that might otherwise go unrecognised in the broader community.
The collaboration has facilitated a learning exchange, whereby UOW students have discovered what it is like to live in a remote community and the complexities of media production in this environment, and the Ngukurr News team have learnt innovative ways to produce the newspaper, including digital formats.
It also became a focal point for engagement with young people in the community. For example, the workshops facilitated by the research team to encourage young people to be involved in developing stories for the newspaper also included discussions about pathways into tertiary education.
The project is creating impact beyond Ngukurr. In 2017, Ms Daniels co-authored a paper for Practicing Anthropology which looked back at the contribution of the newspaper, especially its role in advocating for change in the community. She co-presented a workshop on the Ngukurr News at the 2017 Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies conference.
As well, during the community based work, School of Education researcher Dr Samantha McMahon was able to link Ngukurr young people up with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) program to explore the experience of going to University.
Meanwhile, two UOW media students undertook an internship with the Ngukurr News in 2016 and spent a week in the community, learning from local people. One of these students, Oliver Chaseling, continues his relationship with the newspaper for his Honours project which examines the representation of young Indigenous men in the media.
The Ngukurr News has also become the focus of Julie Hall’s PhD thesis, which examines the role of the news as a community development activity. Both Julie and Oliver visited the community for an extended time in July 2017.
A/Prof. Kate Senior, Prof. Valerie Harwood, Dr Samantha McMahon, Shawn Burns, Julie Hall (PhD Student), Laura Grozdanovski (PhD student), Oliver Chaseling (Honours Student)