The Sunrise Segment Saga

Sunrise, an Australian Channel 7 breakfast show, conducted a panel discussing the adoption procedures of Indigenous children. They failed to do the proper research and began making incorrect remarks about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and family systems. In response to this, on Friday 16th March, more than 100 people protested outside of Channel 7’s headquarters.

People protest outside Channel 7 headquarters in response to Sunrise’s inaccurate and inflammatory remarks regarding adoption policies for Indigenous children.

Channel 7 changed the background of the morning show backdrop so that the protest could not be seen, silencing the voices calling for a shift in the way Indigenous issues are covered by mainstream news organisations and demanding the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres strait islander people in the discussion of their communities.

Out of this 5 minute discussion, there were many statements that caused anger in the Australian community. Some of these statements reflected the lack of background research and misinformation. For example, “Currently [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children] can only be placed with relatives or other Indigenous families.”

In adoption and foster care procedures following the Stolen Generation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Placement Principle is incorporated. This principle “…recognises the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to be cared for within their own families and communities wherever possible, and the importance in remaining connected to their family community and culture.” Yet, a report released last week found that 32% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the foster care system are not placed with their families. This is clearly just a guideline not a rule, nor does it mean the non-Indigenous families cannot adopt a child who is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children often become estranged from their family and culture whilst in the foster care system due to claims of abuse and neglect. In fact there are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander run organisations such as Kinship Connections that help reconnect individuals with their families following transition out of the foster care system. The bottom line is that the law and guidelines encourage the best environment to nurture the health and well-being of a child. The laws and guidelines try to ensure that a child will not be left in an environment where they are abused or mistreated, regardless of their cultural background or the cultural background of the adoptive/foster parents. However, it does consider the cultural safety of the child hence the attempt to place Indigenous children within their own families and communities.

Other statements made during this conversation highlighted the ignorance of the Australian community to the history of their country and the desperate need for Indigenous voices to be included in the media when discussing issues that relate to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Prue Macsween for example stated, “Just like the first Stolen Generation where a lot of children were taken because it was for their well-being.. Maybe we need to do that again…perhaps.”

Statements like this are ignorant to the devastating history and trauma that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced during and since the Stolen Generation. Statements like this are evidence that the apology to Indigenous Australians in 2008 wasn’t enough to unite the Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australian community and more tragically it suggests that this history should be repeated. I highly recommend reading the Bringing Them Home report published in 1997 that details the cultural, psychological and physical violence that occurred during the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Indigenous actor and playwright Nakkiah Lui, famous for her work with “Black Comedy”, slammed the Sunrise segment in a tweet saying, “If you’re talking about the removal of Aboriginal children from their families, communities and culture, maybe speak to Aboriginal children, families and adults that have been affected. Not white people who have zero knowledge.”

Despite advocating for the inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in these discussions, it should be made clear that you don’t have to be Indigenous to be informed or to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander communities.

Ed Sheeran, long time supporter of AIME, sports a t-shirt with the Aboriginal flag while on tour.

Ed Sheeran, despite not being Australian, has been a long time supporter of Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), an organisation which supports Indigenous high-schoolers and facilitates their transition to university and the workforce, therefore closing the gap in education between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. In recent news, he was wearing a T-shirt with the Aboriginal flag on it during his concerts on his Australian tour.

When it comes to Indigenous issues, mainstream media often neglects to be inclusive of the Indigenous voices who are at the heart of these many, varied and culturally sensitive issues. Mainstream news also neglects to do the proper background research to ensure that the news they are presenting is accurate and relevant information and not
harmful to its audience.

Cheyenne Rain Travis

Cheyenne is currently a co-president of the WILDFIRE Clayton subcommittee and is a student member of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association.


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