Sunday, 21 December 2014

9 Posts Before Christmas...Tips for interviewing children in trauma #Cairns

The public's interest in the unfolding tragic events around the deaths of eight children earlier this week in Cairns is reflected in the trending topics and expressions of disbelief and shock on social media. 

Yesterday was another shocking installment when news spread that the mother of seven and aunt of one was expected to be charged with having caused the death of all eight children.

I've seen the annual notices of the need for self care and reminders that for many people, the Christmas period is a difficult time of the year. For many of us however, we still can't understand and want to know how and why this dreadful event occured.  

I had decided not to watch TV over the past 24 hours because there is a limit to what I want to see while I process this overwhelmingly sad and horrifying incident.

But I was not prepared - and was quickly deeply concerned -  to see photos appear in the media, of the neighbourhood children, some of whom it's not unreasonable to expect could be related to the victims. 

I have personal reasons to pay attention to my own mental and emotional needs following a recent tragic death in my own family. I am sure I am not the only one who is also dealing with painful loss and grief in their own families. I am Indigenous so our suffering is more acute in this regard. 
I make this disclosure, not to insert myself into a story that has left us shocked and heartbroken, but as a reminder that statistics around Indigenous psychological distress and mental illness impact on every family in some measure.
The proportion of adults reporting high/very high levels of psychological distress increased from 27 per cent in 2004-05 to 30 per cent in 2012-13, and hospitalisations for intentional self-harm increased by 48 per cent over this period.     
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report 2014
On it's own terms, no event warrants the type of media intrusion and risk to further trauma for the kids who are sitting in a park being closely supervised by people who should not be pressed into deciding on informed consent for their children to appear in what must now be international news. 

This event is so grave and newsworthy, the images can be expected to be widely distributed and viewed for years to come. These kids will now grow up being closely associated - if only in their own minds - with these awful events. The deceased children were still being attended to inside the property by forensic teams while the children were outside in the park.

It should be noted the kids had not yet received any counselling or attention from professional support workers when the media descended on them in a nearby park to take photos of them while they were painting memorial cards for the victims of this overwhelmingly awful incident in the week leading up to Christmas.

I posed the question on Twitter and was gratified by the response - no, it is not ok to treat the children as part of the story. 

See the link below for the Twitter conversation.

I think ABC has demonstrated a commitment to ethical reporting of Indigenous issues. Anyone who was around on Twitter when Dr Yunupingu died in June 2013 witnessed ABC journalists taking the lead in following Twitter recommendations to follow name avoidance practices as per traditional Yolgnu custom. 
I readily acknowledge and appreciate their responsiveness to viewers' queries and complaints.

Full Twitter conversation is here

ABC Editorial Policies: Principles & Standards is here

Cultural protocols relating to deaths in Indigenous communities is here

Interviewing Children: Guidelines for Journalists is here


Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report 2014 is here

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