#AceNewsReport – May.26: Walpiri woman Rachael Hocking, a former NITV multi-platform journalist and presenter of The Point, started her career at the Koori Mail:
#AceDailyNews says ….National Indigenous-owned-and-run newspaper the Koori Mail celebrates 30th birthday: One thing for certain is that the Koori Mail has stayed true to its original form: It prints the latest news in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs every fortnight “through a black lens”
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She said you could always count on the Koori Mail to provide the real community stories.
“You can go through that paper and just get the humblest yarn,” she said.
“You might have a barbecue at the local cultural centre that makes the paper and that’s so cool.”
“But they also do hard-hitting news where we are centred, where our solutions are there, where we’re not just focusing on the deficit. And I think that is really the strength of the Koori Mail.”
Editor Rudi Maxwell says the Koori Mail covers everything, “from the hard nitty-gritty to a maybe a fashion or music story”.
Working under former editor Kirstie Parker, Maxwell said she was able to learn a lot about Indigenous affairs.
“It’s been an interesting, and at times challenging, experience in terms of stories that I reported on myself. The ones that really stick with me are when you talk to the parents and relatives of people who have died in custody.”
“I [have] one in particular that sticks in my memory.”
Maxwell said the newspaper had been contacted on social media by the relative of a young man who died in police custody in Western Australia.
His family said they only wanted to speak to black media and trusted the Koori Mail to come into their home and share their story respectfully.
“So I went over to Kununurra and I talked to his mother and it was heartbreaking obviously. She lost her boy,” Maxwell said.
“She lost her young son and he was due to get out. We were both sobbing during the interview but she really wanted to talk.”
“So those sorts of things always stay with you.”
100 per cent community controlled
Local Bundjalung (Nyangbal/Arakwal) and Dunghutti woman Naomi Moran is the general manager of the Koori Mail and has been in the role since 2016.
Ms Moran credits Walbunja man Owen Carriage with originally establishing the newspaper 30 years ago.
Maxwell said Mr Carriage “had been spending some time at the Tent Embassy in the wake of the black deaths in custody royal commission.”
She said during that time Mr Carriage and pastor Frank Roberts, a Bundjalung man and well-known community leader, “were so disappointed” in the mainstream coverage of Indigenous affairs.
“Pastor Frank had a dream to start an Aboriginal newspaper and so they did. It must have taken so much courage and strength to jump into this unknown,” she said.
The first edition of the newspaper was published in 1991.
Then, in 1992, Ms Moran said ownership of the organisation was taken “into the hands of the local Aboriginal communities of the Bundjalung nation.”
Those communities are represented in these five Aboriginal cooperatives: the Bundjalung Tribal Society at Lismore, Bunjum Co-operative at Cabbage Tree Island, Buyinbin Co-operative at Casino, Kurrachee Cooperative at Coraki, and Nungera Co-operative at Maclean.
“I think 30 years ago that milestone with Owen having this vision and this idea and it coming to fruition back then was a massive achievement. And then a year later, in 1992, having those elders and the community support the sustainability of the newspaper was another milestone in itself,” Ms Moran said.
“And every cent the Koori Mail makes goes back into community.”
A training ground for young Indigenous talent
Fast forward to today, and the Koori Mail has a staff of 12 with correspondents in every state and territory in the country.
Over the past 30 years, the Koori Mail has become a training base for young Indigenous journalists, offering entry-level positions and school-based traineeships. It has become a place where young black writers can build a solid foundation in newsgathering skills.
Ms Moran says the newspaper prides itself on offering employment opportunities for young Indigenous people.
“We have a responsibility to create employment and training opportunities for our own mob … so our community, our people, are getting the skills that they need to work in our media space,” she said.
“As an Aboriginal media organisation, we are the best people to provide these opportunities, where people can work with us in a culturally safe space as well, and that they are supported and mentored by their own mob.”
Hocking was still at university when her first story for the newspaper was published.
And later, in her final year of university, the Koori Mail published her first opinion piece, which was about her “views on Invasion Day”.
“Nowhere else would have let me do that, except maybe my student paper,” she said.
She said that was when she realised: “We need this. This is where you read [about] all the things that our mob are thinking about.”
What’s in store for the next 30 years?
Koori Mail journalist and Gomeroi man Danny Teece-Johnson says a new digital strategy for the media organisation is underway and it involves bringing the stories in the newspaper to life through more audio and video content.
In Lismore, the Koori Mail office houses a brand new podcast studio.
“That’s going to allow us to do a whole range of podcasting and radio shows and be really led by our board and community in what we do and what we put out in the world,” Teece-Johnson said.
“We understand not everyone in our communities can read the paper, so we want to be able to provide that in an audio format.”
Despite being a national newspaper, the Koori Mail will focus on producing audio stories from the Bundjalung community, then spread out from there.
“Our aunties and uncles tell stories in very different ways and we went to explore that here at the Koori Mail,” he said.
With the new technology available, Teece-Johnson hopes the Koori Mail will also be able to become a digital archive centre soon.
#AceNewsDesk report …….Published: May.26: 2021:
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