Channel 7 is being sued by an Aboriginal community which claims it was defamed by TV breakfast show Sunrise during a panel debate over whether more white families should be allowed to adopt indigenous children who had been abused.
Last year, a panel discussion on Sunrise about preventing the abuse of Aboriginal children triggered a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has a bill before the Senate to remove the most problematic words,”offend” and “insult”, from 18C.
The Australian reports, this latest lawsuit, filed in the Federal Court, alleges Sunrise defamed Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr and 14 others from the remote Yirrkala community when it aired blurred video footage of them during a panel discussion, hosted by Channel 7 celebrity Samantha Armytage.
In the statement of claim, Ms Mununggurr and the other applicants say, despite the “slight blurring” of their faces, they were “readily identifiable”, making them the target of “hatred, ridicule and contempt”.
The TV segment, they allege, also subjected them to a raft of defamatory imputations, including that they abused, assaulted or neglected children, left children “vulnerable to rape by community members” and were members of a “harmful culture”.
The segment, which aired on March 13 last year, featured regular panellists Prue MacSween and Ben Davis. The debate followed a call by David Gillespie, the Assistant Minister for Children, to relax restrictions on “white” families adopting abused Aboriginal children.
MacSween weighed in, suggesting it might be time for authorities to consider a return to force the removal of Aboriginal children from their families, as they did with the Stolen Generations: “Please, don’t worry about the people who decry and hand-wring and say this will be another Stolen Generation. Just like the first Stolen Generation, where a lot of children were taken because it was for their wellbeing, we need to do it again, perhaps.”