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Identity in Communities and Networks Indigenous People, Virtual Communities and Online Social Networks

How Facebook Communities have Changed Cultural Connections and Identity Amongst Aboriginal Australians.

This essay looks at how Facebook has shifted the way Aboriginal Australians connect with communities, enabling them to have cultural connections, define their identity, express their voice and be advocates for Aboriginal issues. This essay recognises the necessity of Facebook to facilitate a sense of belonging and a sense of self after the failures of mainstream media to bring light to important Aboriginal topics.

Introduction

There is power and encouragement that can be found in the membership of communities. They can bring support, contacts and a sense of belonging that is highly sought after. A connection to culture and community is key in Aboriginal Australians understanding identity and their social, emotional and physical well-being (Tauli-Corpuz, 2017). Aboriginal Australians have however, experienced a history of repression, forceful assimilation, displacement and the dismantling of culture that has not only been echoed by mainstream media, but reinforced and aggravated by it (Dussart, 2006). One key shortfall of mainstream media is their distinct lack of Aboriginal voice represented in the coverage of events and issues in which they are involved and connected with – non-Aboriginal voices continue to exclude from the community and dominate Aboriginal voices (Meadows & Avison, 2000). This has led to formations of identity that are heavily influenced by Western and former colonist’s stories, instead of relating to Aboriginal people and their truths (Fforde et al., 2013). Although the media continues to fail to engage with inclusive representations of their culture or communities, social media has presented an opportunity for Aboriginal Australians to reclaim their voice and dismantle oppressive power systems. In particular, communities on Facebook are paving the way for Aboriginal Australians to become more connected, both socially and culturally. Facebook has become commonly used amongst Aboriginal Australians and communities on the platform are widespread, which has changed the way culture and identity is understood, encourages them to have a voice that contributes to discussions and helps them discover ways to be advocates in order to improve social issues that face Aboriginal Australians in contemporary society. 

Increased use of Facebook Amongst Aboriginal Australians

As a culture that is quick to adopt new technologies (Carlson et al., 2015), the use of Facebook has become widespread and commonplace, which has allowed for new ways to communicate and connect with communities. There have been barriers that have restricted Facebook use amongst Aboriginal Australians including financial constraints or limited access to technology such as ICT equipment, the National Broadband Network or mobile phone services, especially in discrete locations, where as little as 50% of people have 3G coverage (Antonia, 2013; Watson, 2015). However, Watson (2015) notes that despite limited ownership of personal computers or laptops, internet access and use has increased drastically in remote communities, mostly through hand-held devices and smartphones, where Facebook can be and is used frequently amongst Aboriginal Australians (Carlson et al., 2015). As it happens, Facebook usage amongst Aboriginal Australians is higher than the overall Australia population (Rice et al., 2016) and over 60% of the population in remote communities are active users of the platform (Carson et al., 2015). The use of social media is not alien to Aboriginal Australians and for many, it is a daily routine check social media, with Facebook being the most popular platform to use (Carson et al., 2015). One key use of Facebook for Aboriginal Australians is for communication and connection with offline communities, such as friends and family, which has been particularly useful for those who live far from each other, those experiencing separation from their family, or those that live in distant and remote communities (Carlson & Frazer, 2015; Rice et al., 2016; Petray, 2015). In this way, Facebook communities are replicating and reinforcing offline communities, strengthening bonds that have been formed in real life and providing opportunities for communication that can overcome barriers of distance and time that would typically exist for Aboriginal Australians without social media (Carlson et al., 2015). This reinvigorated sense of community is not only used for communication with family and friends but can have an important impact on a connection to culture and the development of an Aboriginal identity. 

Connection to Culture and Understanding Identity on Facebook

Facebook has provided access to communities that encourage a sense of connection to culture which can have profound impacts on the way that Aboriginal Australians make sense of and form their identity. Although there are varying definitions of community, there are common characteristics or emotions that a sense of community evokes, such as feelings of “empathy, affection, support, interdependence, consensus, shared values, and proximity” (Kendall, 2011, p. 309). In Facebook communities relating to Aboriginal topics, there is evidence of the formation of deeper human connections and relationships through shared values, norms, meanings, history and identity (Kendall, 2011; Petray, 2015; Oliver & Nguyen, 2017), which is seen on pages such as “Blackfulla Revolution” (2014), “NITV” (2007) and “Whadjuk Yorgas” (n.d.), or private groups such as “Aboriginal”(2008), “Aboriginals of Australia” (2014) and “Indigenous Rise” (2015). After a history of colonisation and dispossession, Facebook communities have transformed the way that Aboriginal Australians can forge a connection to culture (Carlson et al., 2015). In particular, the increase in child removal practices have had historical and lasting intergenerational impacts on culture and identity – in 1996, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children represented 20% of children in out of home care and in 2016, this figure jumped to 35% (Tauli-Corpuz, 2017). On Facebook, Aboriginal Australians can reconnect with their culture by seeking information about it, corresponding with people that share similar backgrounds to them and participating in cultural practices, unburdened by space or time (Carlson et al., 2015). Carlson and Frazer (2015) highlight “Sorry Business” on Facebook as a way that Aboriginal Australians engage with cultural practices related to death, funeral and loss, which can include notifying people of funerals, offering condolences, grieving, healing and offering or seeking support. Unlike mainstream media where Aboriginal perspectives are underrepresented and non-Aboriginal perspectives privileged (Bacon, 2005; Fforde et al., 2013), Facebook communities allow for Aboriginal people to navigate and solidify an understanding of identity through choosing how they express their identity and whom they share it with, as well as interactions and insights from people with similar backgrounds to themselves (Lumby, 2010; Petray, 2015; Oliver & Nguyen, 2017). After the dismantling of Aboriginal culture in Australia, Facebook pages and groups provide a place for communities where Aboriginal people can begin to understand and connect with their culture and identity, while also finding a voice to contribute to discussions about themselves and other Aboriginal people. 

Aboriginal Australians are Empowered to Contribute to Discussions on Facebook

Facebook communities have empowered Aboriginal Australians to express their voice in new ways, so that they may contribute to discussions about Aboriginal topics and seek solutions for complex issues that are faced outside of these online spaces. Unlike previous conceptions of one, all-encompassing and mainstream public sphere, Meadows and Avison (2000) argue that smaller communities of Aboriginal Australians in media can be seen as a series of overlapping public spheres where people with similar cultural backgrounds and interests engage with each other to debate issues about their livelihood, before bringing the decisions to the wider public sphere. In these online communities, Aboriginal Australians are not only exposed to cultural experiences, but are also provided the tools to interact and contribute to the discussions hosted in these spaces in a rather open manner (Oliver & Nguyen, 2017). In these communities, Aboriginal Australians are empowered to express their thoughts about political or social issues, discuss concerns and debate solutions, which enables them to have a voice after a history of it being silenced (Meadows & Avison, 2000; Carlson et al., 2015). This then allows the Facebook communities to agree on positions that can then be taken to the wider community with a sense of solidarity that may have not been achieved without such far-reaching discussions unimpeded by distance (Meadows & Avison, 2000). It can be empowering to find common ground and solutions for issues that face those with similar backgrounds or experiences, which is also apparent in the way that young Aboriginal Australians confide in Facebook communities for assistance in making important decisions or facing stressful situations (Carlson & Frazer, 2015). Rice et al. (2016) suggest that gives young Aboriginal Australians a sense of control in their communities, where they can navigate social change, participate in discussion and most significantly, have a voice that is unregulated by non-Aboriginal people. This is an important aspect of Facebook communities that takes membership a step further – it is not just being exposed to information, but contributing to the content of a community that can empower Aboriginal Australians to have a voice and further, to take this information to the wider community for many purposes, including activism and advocacy. 

Aboriginal Activism and Advocacy on Facebook

Facebook has transformed the way that Aboriginal Australians may participate in community discourse and in turn, has encouraged more accessible, inclusive and simple forms of activism. The ease of participation on Facebook has lowered barriers to activism, as users can support causes and be advocates for political organisations or campaigns, through simple actions such as short captions, captivating images, funny or emotional videos and sharing content (Petray, 2015; Lilleker & Koc-Michalska, 2017). Petray (2011) found that activist leaders such as Aboriginal activist Gary Foley, will make use of Facebook greatly to share news about current events and political issues, so that their friends on the platform will be exposed to such information every time they scroll through their news feeds. Aboriginal Australians can also quickly and simply express support for political causes through their membership in communities, such as being part of groups, or liking pages on Facebook (Petray, 2011). Mainstream media has often failed to bring to light Aboriginal deaths in custody or have neglected to include Aboriginal perspectives on the issue, instead privileging non-Aboriginal and government perspectives (Bacon, 2005; Fforde et al., 2013). Activism through varied media channels, including Facebook, is a way to challenge the unfair portrayals of Aboriginal issues and fight the dominance that mainstream media and the Australian State has (Dussart, 2006). In relation to Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, it is relatively straightforward and simple for Aboriginal Australians to advocate for justice on Facebook, through membership to groups such as “Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody” or by liking pages such as “Stop Black Deaths in Custody Australia” or “First Nations Deaths in Custody Watch Committee Inc.”. This can be a very empowering way for Aboriginal Australians to participate in civic activities and engage with politically minded communities, without the level of dominance that is seen in mainstream media or barriers to participation such as geographic, social or economic factors (Rice et al., 2016). An example of this is when in 2019, a police officer involved in the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day was photographed at a Blockade IMARC protest (blockadeimarc19, 2019) and shared around to several Aboriginal-run Facebook pages, including “Antifacist Action Brisbane” (2019) and “Blackfulla Revolution” (2019). This photograph prompted passionate conversations in the comment sections, providing advocates with a platform to scrutinise deaths in custody, to question the neglect of the Australian Government to allow the Senior Constable to continue working and to discuss the issue with other Aboriginal Australians, as well as allies or advocates. The ease of use on Facebook has empowered Aboriginal Australians to communicate with like-minded people and band together to become advocates or activists. 

Conclusion

Facebook has significantly changed how Aboriginal Australians may belong to communities and in turn, how they connect with culture, people and their identities. Membership in Facebook communities has the potential to facilitate cultural practices, meaningful discussions about Aboriginal topics and invigorate political participation, in a way that is starkly different from when Aboriginal Australians, especially in remote communities, experienced little access to the Internet or empowering media coverage. Facebook has provided simple access to spaces unregulated by non-Aboriginal voices, where it is easy for Aboriginal Australians to not only be exposed to Aboriginal discussions, but actively contribute to community activities. This innovative and often subversive style of communication provides a much-needed challenge to the dominant views of Aboriginal identity misrepresented through mainstream media by non-Aboriginal voices and instead, encourages Aboriginal people to take control of the discourse surrounding their culture. It is a promising example of how self-determination in the media can change power structures and contribute to the movement towards equality in a contemporary Australian society. Wider ownership of mobile devices and more reliable and equal access to internet connection will extend the reach of such communities, so that the benefits may be experienced by more Aboriginal Australians.

Reference List

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28 replies on “How Facebook Communities have Changed Cultural Connections and Identity Amongst Aboriginal Australians.”

Hello Grace. I am Rhoma from Curtin Mauritius. Firstly, great work!
I totally agree with your paper. Facebook is indeed playing a major role in changing cultural connections and identity amongst Aboriginal people in Australia. Like you mentioned Facebook is now bringing effective changes for indigenous people, for example indigenous people are now able to voice out their hardships, struggles online compared to long ago. Since colonization, indigenous people have been oppressed and somehow some of them are still facing issues but with interactive online platforms like Facebook, there has been this shift from bein oppressed to having a voice. You mentioned that Facebook is empowering Aborignal people where now they are able to participate in politic events and all, actually with Facebook now, they feel less alienated and they are finally embracing their identity.
Another interesting point that you have raised is on Facebook giving young indigenous people the opportunity to feel powerful online, this is very important because at a very young age itself they should know how to affirm their identity rather than feeling inferior or even being ashamed of their own identity. Facebook is being a real life saver for them and i think that indigenous people should continue to use Facebook in an effective way.
I really liked your work! It was a very informative one and thank you for that.
Also, my paper is on Indigenous people too and it would be great if you could check it. Feel free to voice out your point of view! https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/12/online-social-networks-reinforcing-cultural-identities-of-indigenous-people-in-australia/

Hi Rhoma, thank you for reading my paper!

For me, it is really interesting to see how a social media platform, which some may view as superficial in comparison with face-to-face communication, can be empowering to certain groups. There really is power in being able to voice your own experiences to people who have shared similar ones. A sense of belonging can be so revitalising for people, especially young Aboriginal Australians like you mentioned. It’s interesting you mentioned that Facebook can be a “life-saver” for young Aboriginal Australians. One of the journal articles I referenced, “Mediating tragedy: Facebook, Aboriginal peoples and suicide”by Carlson et al. (2015) discussed how Aboriginal Australians engaging with others on Facebook to seek and give help relating to mental health, suicide and self-harm.

There are certainly other platforms which perhaps can bring similar benefits – I have seen this on Instagram quite a bit lately, especially for younger Aboriginal Australians, as it is a great platform to share artwork and fashion.

It is definitely something I am interested in researching further. Contemporary media has really opened up opportunities for people to challenge historical power dynamics – Web 2.0 has lowered the barriers to participation so that people can easily create this meaningful content.
I look forward to reading your paper!

Hello Grace,

I have just finished reading your paper and I am glad that you are shedding lights onto the topic of aboriginal people. I don’t see a lot of papers about it which built my interest towards it. I am also an international student, so I would like to learn more details about the history of aboriginal people here in Australia.

I am actually not an active user of Facebook. Therefore, it is surprising for me to know that Aboriginal Australians are so engaged with this social platform. I am glad to know the social networking communities like Facebook are actually able to raise sense of belonging for people. It is never a good feeling to feel discriminated. It definitely influenced me to go onto Facebook more.

My paper is about how online social networking could empower women, which is kind of similar to yours on how Facebook could empower aboriginals. I hope you could take time and read it as well.
Below is the link to my conference paper if you would like to check out my perspectives on the power of social networking:
https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/10/timesup-movement-social-networks-influence-on-personal-identity-within-social-media/
Feel free to give me a comment as well!

Kind Regards,
Shong Wut Yi

Hi Shong Wut Yi,

Thank you very much for reading my paper – I really appreciate it. I too noticed the lack of papers on this topic, but I am glad you found mine!

I don’t use Facebook too much either and tend to favour other platforms, especially Instagram. So I also found it very interesting that the rate of use is so high in Aboriginal Australians, but after reading journal articles it began to make sense. It’s a platform where they can contribute freely without experiencing the same discrimination they face in real life, especially in mainstream media. This is especially true in Facebook groups that have some form of admin!

Again, thank you for reading my paper. I look forward to reading yours.

Yo, Grace, What a solid paper…It flows so well that I didn’t even realise I finished until I hit the conclusion subheading. Everything just seems to work and fit nicely which was pleasing. Your topic was surprisingly interesting seeing as I’m pretty much clueless about Aboriginal culture apart from what we learned at school, so it was cool to learn about how the culture is utilising new digital technologies to counteract the long lasting effects of their near cultural obliteration and oppression. I’m not really educated in the matter at all so hopefully i don’t sound like an idiot but you paper did raise a few questions.

Do you think that through new digital technologies, we could potentially see an evolution to Aboriginal culture? I’m thinking of a scenario where distant communities could use platforms like Facebook to enhance their traditional practices, maybe even potentially collaborating with one another? And while we’re on the subject, I’m pretty sure that each individual Aboriginal community have slight variations to their culture and practices so in that regard, Is there any evidence of two differing Aboriginal communities drawing cultural inspiration from one another as a result of platforms like Facebook providing a place for them to connect and share their individual cultures?

Also, from the way you were describing the interactions within online Aboriginal communities, it almost sounded like a participatory culture. Would you say that the overarching online Aboriginal culture that is forming on Facebook would be that of a participatory culture or something similar? Being that members encourage each other to not just observe but to actively contribute and engage with one another?

Finally, In a hypothetical world, assuming Facebook never existed, how do you think the online Aboriginal community would compensate? Do you think that the platform itself doesn’t matter and the community would develop in the same way just on another platform or do you believe that Facebook itself plays a large role in shaping this growth?

Sorry for the million and one questions but your topic was actually really interesting and had me thinking aha. I can’t wait to see you again, it’s been wayyyy too long. We better catch up soon 🙂

Hola Nicke!
Thank you for reading my paper and leaving such engaging questions.

Firstly, I have loved seeing the ways that Aboriginal Australians have used Facebook to enhance the ways they practice culture. I would not be surprised to see new practices being found on Facebook, or other digital technologies. While I do not want to say it will evolve the Aboriginal culture, I do believe they will continue to find ways to practice and preserve it, one of the oldest existing cultures in the world. You have raised a great question about whether one group of Aboriginal Australians have drawn cultural inspiration from another group of peoples specifically on Facebook, for example the Whadjuk people learning from the Yugara people. I cannot say for certain whether this has happened on Facebook through my own observation, primarily because I do not know enough about the diverse cultures and their unique practices. In saying that, I have noted in the Facebook group “Aboriginals of Australia” that many are sharing their own art with others, a lot of which have distinct styles. This is something I would love to look into further, so thank you for raising it. Maybe journal articles will be able to provide more accurate insight!

Yes I absolutely agree that it is facilitating some form of participatory culture! I am glad you picked that up. It is an environment where they have the tools to contribute to the public sphere and further, are encouraged to do so by their peers. The ease of use on Facebook and perceived safety in private groups are just some of the ways it is stimulated.

For your final question, I have seen similar styles of community and dialogue emerge on other platforms, or other forms of media. A big one is community led newspapers, such as Koori Mail. Aboriginal publications are great because they privilege Aboriginal perspectives and provide a voice to important issues. However, much like mainstream news publications, it can be difficult for the everyday person to contribute to this dialogue. The tools to publish news, especially in print, remain unattainable for some. This is where we can thank Web 2.0 and especially social media for easing the barriers to participating. I think the other platform that has the potential to achieve something similar would be Instagram. There are amazing accounts such as @blakbusiness, @coffinbirth and @nessaturnbullroberts that discuss important issues and provide a space for Aboriginal Australians to engage with each other. But, I think the big winner about Facebook is the groups function! It is such a great way to link people who do not necessarily know each other in real life around a common topic. Perhaps once Instagram finds a way to facilitate this, similar communities will emerge.

Thanks again for such interesting questions. I could talk about this forever so sorry if my answers are too long. Hope to see you on the other side of this <3

Ello again,
Dude don’t stress, i’m actually quite intrigued so the detail in your replies are quite beneficial :))

Speaking of, thanks for the reply – it definitely shed some much needed light on things I had no clue about. It was kinda cool to see that the whole idea of a participatory culture (something that I usually associate with the online streaming platforms or video sharing platforms such as YouTube) manifest in different ways. From everything that you’ve said it really does seem like online Aboriginal culture is taking the idea of a participatory culture to its fullest.

However, with this in mind, I did have another question (heads up, It’s a little controversial and pretty broad so don’t get too choked up in your answer), How inclusive do you think the culture is to outsiders?

I noticed in your reply that you mentioned that there are heaps of spaces for Aboriginal Australians to discuss important issues and engage with each other as a whole and since they follow that of a participatory culture members encourage their fellow Aboriginal Australians to contribute and engage with one another, however, how do they take to other input. Do they encourage conversations from other cultures? Or do they tend to focus on just input from their own.

I’m sure there are heaps of different spaces and that each would handle interpersonal conversations differently but overall, do you know? It’s a pretty loaded question and i’m sure you don’t have all the answers but i’m curious to hear your opinions on it. Have you noticed any instances for either side of the argument?

Hi again!

Ooh what a question. Personally, I’ve had no issues joining quite a few private Facebook groups as an ‘ally’. They certainly welcome non-Aboriginal perspectives on issues, but I would say they need to be in support of Aboriginal perspectives. Blackfulla Revolution appears to be one of the more in-your-face, confronting spaces I’ve seen on Facebook. It’s a more unapologetic look at activism that calls out BS and calls for a real shake up of the system. They rejected Sorry Day quite openly in several posts, but even when someone commented “Is anything ever going to be enough for you people” they were respectful in their reply. I personally cannot comment on any instances where the people in such spaces said non-Aboriginal perspectives weren’t welcomed AT ALL, rather I have just seen derogatory or nonconstructive comments to be rejected. I imagine as long as the non-Aboriginal users is providing their perspective in order to be an ally, or help reconcile some of the devastating issues that face Aboriginal Australians, they are welcome to give their voice. The key is that Aboriginal voices are privileged and not overwhelmed by non-Aboriginal users.

I would love to know if you have seen any instances where Aboriginal Australians were hostile toward non-Aboriginal perspectives on Facebook! It’s okay if you’re unsure.

Thanks Nick!!

Hi Grace, I have spent much of my working life in Aboriginal contexts and I agree with your argument. In my experience, Aboriginal people were early in their uptake of social media, and their usage is social, cultural and political. I am aware that your paper focusses on facebook, but I thought you might be interested in the twitter campaign for #JusticeforTanyaDay . It was often accompanied by the more general hashtag #sayhername. Thank you for a well informed and thoughtful paper.

Hi Jane.

Thank you so much for reading my paper. I am glad to see someone like yourself who has worked in Aboriginal contexts can agree with my position. It’s really extraordinary that the culture has existed for so long, yet Aboriginal Australians have also been quick to adopt new technologies.

I will check out that Twitter campaign, thank you. I know the sad story of Tanya Day well – mainly from Facebook and news articles. I think one reason there has been success in getting Tanya Day’s story out is because Aboriginal Australians (and allies) have effectively used different platforms, rather than placing sole focus on one! I have seen #sayheyname used for women of colour in the US but not in an Australian context. I am interested to see how they have linked the issues together (similar to the Black/Blak Lives Matter campaigns).

Thanks again Jane!

Hi Grace, I really enjoyed your paper. I thought it was an interesting point of view to connect the use of Facebook can affect Indigenous communities in Australia. I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly agree with the part about the platform for conversation, discussion and debate that Facebook gives Indigenous people to communicate on. I think this is so important and arguably has more reach to audiences than television or radio broadcasts do. The other hugely important aspect of Indigenous Australians using Facebook as a platform for their voice is that these issues and conversations are being told first-hand by Indigenous people themselves. All too often, Indigenous issues get “white-washed,” if you will, in basic media because the stories and news coverage are reported on by white people. In my opinion, that’s just the same as having myself, a white, Christian Canadian, try and explain the ins and outs of Chinese New Year after being told about it once, without ever having experienced it myself. So for this reason, I can definitely see the benefits of Facebook in Indigenous communities. The only thing I would say my opinion slightly varies is that I think Facebook communities have enhanced Aboriginal cultural connections rather than changed them. I say this because I think Aboriginal culture has extensive historical roots and many traditions and practices that make the culture what it is. So I would say that Facebook enhances this, but does not necessarily change it. Really loved your paper, great work Grace!

Best,
Grace

Hi Grace.

Thank you for reading my paper – your comment is very appreciated. I totally agree with you, that ‘white-washing’ is a huge issue. It overpowers Aboriginal voice when it is their perspective that matters most in Aboriginal issues.

I totally see what you mean by enhancing it, rather than changing it! I am careful to use words such as enhance or evolve, because it suggests that Aboriginal Australians needed contemporary (White) technologies to ‘be better’. In the first year unit ‘Cultures to Cultures’, one of the tutors specifically said do not use ‘evolve’ because this attitude was one that suggested Aboriginal Australians were less human, or worthy, than the colonisers of Australia. It essentially alluded to Aboriginal Australians being savage, much like how Aboriginal Australians were not entitled to the same benefits that all Australians had until the 1967 referendum. That is why I said change – because it is a rejection of mainstream media and the power structure reinforced by colonised Australia after their culture has been dismantled. It is reclaiming their voice and identity by finding cultural connections – not the enhancing of their culture.

I hope my reply makes sense! I always appreciate different perspectives as it helps me gain a better understanding of issues. Perhaps I should have chosen a better word, though I am not sure which one!

Hi Grace,

This was a fantastic paper to read! This is a really interesting topic which I have very little knowledge on, so I thank you for enlightening me 🙂

It’s really interesting to see how Facebook has empowered Indigenous Australian’s given how they have been treated in our society throughout history. It makes me think about some of my friends who are Aboriginal and they are very passionate about sharing information on Facebook about their local culture, Indigenous arts, and serious issues concerning their ancestors land etc.

I completely agree that Facebook has provided a voice for Aboriginal’s and it allows them to connect and bond with their community. I hope that this empowerment and willingness to share on such a platform can help boost more of a stronger representation within Australian mainstream media from tv shows to the news.

Regards,
Nathan.

Hi Nathan,

Thanks a bunch for reading my paper. I am really glad to see that it resonates with you and the real-life examples you see in your friends.

Grace.

Hi Grace,

I really enjoyed reading your paper, well done on crafting such an elegant and well researched piece!

I was fascinated and pleasantly surprised by some of the facts you’ve presented around the uptake of Facebook within Aboriginal Australian communities, and it’s value to dispersed groups and families.

I like how you’ve explored Facebook as a space for Aboriginal Australian people to connect, construct meanings, and unify to present a louder voice on certain issues. I’m interested to know whether in your research, you picked up on these groups collectively using any particular kinds of messages, or tones of communication, as a way to ‘cut through the noise’ of non-Aboriginal Facebook channels and newsfeeds, as a result of having formed these tight knit online communities? You mention above the respectful tone taken by Blackfulla Revolution – in general, did you see any strategies, or an increased confidence from such groups to communicate in different areas of Facebook?

I’m researching transmedia storytelling, and Aboriginal Australian culture is obviously renowned for its storytelling traditions. I’m interested to see if you saw any ways in which this was translating online?

Keep up the great work!

Luke Webster
PhD Candidate
Curtin Internet Studies

Hi Luke,

Thank you so much for reading my paper.

A very timely example I have noticed of a unified voice is the #blacklivesmatter movement for Aboriginal deaths in custody here in Australia. Being part of several groups and following several pages, I have seen the members discuss how the movement in the US compares to the movement, or almost lack thereof, here in Australia. It has been very powerful, especially in the last few days, for Aboriginal Australians and allies, to bring these findings to the wider Facebook community. I have seen this being shared a lot on my friends pages – information about deaths in custody in Australia that I first saw in the private groups. It has been incredibly impressive to see how a unified voice from Aboriginal Australians about deaths in custody has managed to ‘cut-through’ the enormous amount of discussions about the death of George Floyd. Both equally important issues, I think the Aboriginal Australian community has really taken hold of the opportunity to shed light on the issues we see at home, at a time when the country is most passionate about black deaths in custody. Of course, I acknowledge that this is anecdotal and I am certainly very interested to do further research into this.

As for your second question, I noticed an increased confidence when discussing this in groups. In my paper, I noted how meaningful it can be to reinvigorate cultural ties and strengthen your identity on Facebook and I believe this carries over to a confidence to speak up about issues with like-minded people. In private groups, there is a feeling of safety and encouragement in voicing your opinion on important issues, which often seems to be reaffirmed by other users. This is also demonstrated on pages with larger followings, such as Blackfulla Revolution. It is a space where Aboriginal voices are at the forefront of the discussion, rather than being overpowered by non-Aboriginal voices. So, I believe this increased confidence can also be seen in the comment sections of these pages, where similar experiences and views are shared.

I am also studying Public Relations – transmedia storytelling is a huge point of interest in PR. I think the NITV Facebook page is a great example of effective transmedia storytelling. National Indigenous Television is a channel on SBS but their Facebook page is also an engaging and very popular channel for them to continue their narrative. There is a series shared on the NITV Facebook page called The Hot Dot with Bo De La Cruz, which features bite-sized, comedic and informative interviews with notable Aboriginal Australians, while eating burgers and chips. It is something that is suited so well to Facebook – it is witty, funny and very shareworthy. This complements NITV’s more serious coverage on their TV channel and demonstrates an understanding of the different functions of traditional and contemporary media, rather than a simple copy and paste of content across platforms. It’s also an example of how Aboriginal Australians have embraced new media to tell their stories in exciting and engaging ways! The hashtag is #OverTheBlackDot if you’d like to check the videos out.

Thank you again for reading my paper and leaving such thought-provoking questions. I really appreciate it.
Grace.

Hey Grace,

Excellent insights, thanks for sharing! Yeah very interesting times to see your research playing out! I’ve been watching and participating with interest too 🙂

Oh nice, yeah the transmedia storytelling work in PR is great too. Thanks for the tip RE NITV, I’ll check it out.

Cheers!
Luke

Hi Grace,

Hats off for this amazing piece of work! I’ve read many papers from other streams, but could not find many papers from the stream indigenous people, virtual communities and online social networks. It was an informative and you supported your arguments with relevant examples and facts. Personally, I got past that Facebook phase- I do not find it as interesting as other platforms such as Instagram. But it’s good to see that it is such a meaningful place for some people, in occurrence, the Indigenous community.
Your paper taught me so much about the communities that I feel like joining facebook again. Without social networking sites, Indigenous people would not get the attention they deserve. I totally agree with what you said- the online community give support for each other to voice out and advocate. It gives them a sense of power due to the freedom of expression online communities offer.

Thank you for writing this paper. I really enjoyed it.
I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts on my paper, which is also about online community; how it helps promote self acceptance in young females on Instagram
https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/10/the-online-community-of-instagram-a-tool-promoting-self-acceptance-in-young-females/

Hi!

Thank you so much for reading my paper. Yes, there were not many papers in this stream which is a shame – it is such an interesting topic!

I have also found myself drifting to Instagram more than Facebook. I would be interested to see whether there will be a shift to Instagram communities once this generation gets older. I mentioned this in a comment above, but without the function of private groups, I think Instagram really loses an opportunity to encourage meaningful, safe communities on the platform. In saying that, there are plenty of young Aboriginal Australians on Instagram really making a mark, such as @coffinbirth and @nessaturnbullroberts.

I am so sorry to have missed your comment before the conference ended, but I am going to give it a read today and leave my thoughts anyways!

Grace.

Hi Grace
This is very interesting topic indeed and I enjoyed reading it.
You have highlighted how the use of technology through social media platforms (Facebook) on your paper, could have a bigger impact particular culture.
As you mentioned on your paper how Indigenous Australians who have access to smartphones or any other devices can now be able to freely communicate, share, educate, promoting their culture.
I concurred with your argument that mainstream media has not been active enough in covering and promote Australia indigenous communities.
Despite increasing numbers of the social media partcipitation among Indigenous Australia, the big portion of that number would be young adults.So more need to be done to engange senior Indigenous to partcipate to these platform so that they can be able to share and promote their culture.
It is encouraging to see the so called social disadvantage communities have social media platforms to which they can engange freely withouth any barriers.

Do you think increasing usage of Facebook to indigeneous Australians could also impacted other aspects of their life apart from social engangement for instance educational activities,film making etc.

Thanks,
Sam

Hi Sam,

Thank you for reading my paper!

That’s an interesting question you have left me. One of the papers I hav referenced (Oliver & Nguyen, 2017) looked at how Facebook helps young Aboriginal Australians develop their trans-language skills, to switch between the multiple languages they are familiar with, including Aboriginal English, Standard Australian English, Kriol, or traditional Indigenous languages. They suggested that the use of Facebook and language switching helped young Aboriginal Australians develop their abilities in Standard Australian English.

I also think the use of Facebook and Web 2.0 in general, has helped Aboriginal Australians find new ways to tell their stories. This includes making shorter videos for social media for their music, art or storytelling. It has lowered barriers to participation in content creation, where tools to voice their perspectives are far more attainable than traditional media.

Thanks again for reading my paper,
Grace.

Hello,

The only place where I heard about Aboriginals is in my Culture to culture class last semester. It is nice to read about it as I was able to get clearer picture as to who are the Aboriginals and that they are normal humans who understand the technology, including the use of social media platforms. Being a Mauritian student with very little information about such topic, I was able to broaden my knowledge. Keep up the good work!

Take care. 🙂

Hi!

Thank you for reading my paper – I am so glad it could contribute to your understanding of Aboriginal Australians and their culture. It is such a beautiful culture with a wealth of history and knowledge.

Grace.

Hi Grace

Your paper was well written.
I do agree that facebook has had a positive impact on the cultural identity of aboriginal communities as it builds an online community to promote share values and relationships using online media, this theme is similar to theme of sharing information to build relationships using an online platform, linkedin.

Regards
Aarifah

This is a link to my paper: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/how-linkedin-has-developed-in-global-recruitment-communities-and-helps-businesses-and-job-seekers-to-find-job-opportunities-but-has-failed-to-comply-with-ethical-recruitment-practices/

Hello!

Thank you for reading my paper. I am glad you could see similarities between our two arguments.

Grace.

Hey Grace!

Thank you for sharing your paper with me and bringing insight into a topic I have little knowledge of. As an Australian, it is a bit of a shame that I do not know much about Indigenous culture and communities. I was surprised that Facebook is such a popular social media platform amongst this community as I hardly come across Aboriginal content on my feed. I guess that’s because I do not have many Indigenous friends that do take part in their communities.

I have also noticed that on TikTok there is an emerging community amongst Australian Indigenous users where they make jokes and show their culture to the rest of the world. Since TikTok is becoming a popular platform, I’m guessing that they will be able to reach a wider and younger audience to share their experiences and culture with as well as interact within their community in a different way compared to Facebook. What do you think?

Thank you once again for the great paper! 🙂

Agnes

Hello Grace

Thank you for this enlightening piece of work. I think you did a great job depicting the importance of Facebook as an empowering platform for Aboriginal communities. I completely agree with you over the fact that Facebook allows aborigines to voice-out their hardships, opinions and ideas. In my experience, the mainstream media often depicts those communities as oppressed, backward, held-back, hostile and they are often regarded as outsiders. I think it is a very positive thing that aborigines are using the features of Facebook to change people’s opinion on them and empowering their whole community.
Good job

Hey Grace,
your paper was really inspiring and it opened my eyes towards the use of Facebook i hardly knew was possible. I totally agree that Facebook can serve as a platform where anyone can voice out their opinions freely unlike the physical world we live in where a person might be subjected to social judgement if that individual voices out infront of an actual crowd. Personally i am not friends with any indigenous people, hence why i am missing out with all this issues online.

I would like to invite you over to my paper where i did also discuss the use of Facebook page where Asians from around the world come together to embrace our culture and share experiences of racism towards us. As an Asian, we also find social media platform to voice out our opinions with notable individuals such as Wong Fu Productions, Ali Wong, Lily Singh finding success in their field of profession in representing Asian in what is seem as a white dominated field.
https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/18/cyber-racism-and-misrepresentations-of-asians-on-the-internet/#comment-1770

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