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AFL and music give Strong Choices to digital-savvy Indigenous youth
"Many Aboriginal people have progressed from being 'bush mechanics' to 'digital mechanics' in recent years, but with these communication advantages come many challenges."
The powers of music and sport have combined with the Australian Federal Police as Skinnyfish Music and AFL Northern Territory launch Strong Choices at Milikapiti on Melville Island. The innovative campaign aims to strengthen Indigenous communities by reducing the growing incidence of cyber-bullying, cyber-payback, ‘sexting’ and the distribution of inappropriate images through emerging technologies.
Lauren Ganley, Telstra’s General Manager Indigenous Directorate, says that Telstra has been connecting Australian communities for over a hundred years.
The campaign, funded by the Federal Government and supported by Telstra, is a series of video clips that will be distributed through Indigenous communities via a technology-driven distribution strategy using social media, chat rooms, mobile phones, advertising and Bluetooth.
The distribution strategy of the Strong Choices videoclip utilises key networks and social cohorts headed by the Tiwi Island’s hottest band, B2M, who will spread the word with the assistance of AFLNT Regional Development Managers who are living and working in communities across the Northern Territory.
Managing Director of Skinnyfish Music, Mark Grose, believes in the powerful combination of football and music to deliver outcomes: “Football and music in many communities are life-savers, and one of the few combinations that will engage an entire community and give a sense of purpose to young people in particular.
“Nowhere else in Australia are we using Bluetooth technology to fight social issues. The Strong Choices program is unique as it utilises the technology itself to combat the problems it can cause.
“Aboriginal people in remote areas are progressively becoming more tech-savvy than people in the mainstream, as they take up new technology as fast as it is developed.”
B2M singer and role model Yellow, says the campaign is about teaching people to respect themselves, their countrymen and their culture when they’re on the phone or online.
“Young Tiwi people love new technologies and we get into them as soon as they’re released, but until now there hasn’t been enough thought about the harm some of our messages and posts might cause,” Yellow says.
“I’ve seen it myself, the pain that can come from someone being bullied online and on the phone; it’s something that’s alien to our culture and our traditional way of life up here. We do need these new technologies—we just need to learn how to use them better and safer.”
AFLNT has Regional Development Managers in nine remote locations across the NT along with staff in all the major centres who will assist with the Strong Choices Bluetooth seeding program.
“This unique fusion of AFL football and music combines two of the Indigenous population’s passions into one, delivering a key message. Through this partnership we will be able to reach out directly to remote Indigenous communities with much more effectiveness,” says the Tiwi Islands AFL NT Regional Development Manager, Ian Brown.
Federal Agent James Braithwaite, the Team Leader of the High-tech Crime Prevention Unit of the Australian Federal Police is acutely aware of the negative impacts that cyber-bullying and ‘payback’ has in Indigenous communities around the nation.
"The abuse of mobile phone technologies is a problem right across Australia. The high uptake of new technologies amongst Indigenous youth makes this an issue of particular importance for them,” James says.
"Strong Choices is about educating, protecting and making individuals aware that using technology to circulate harmful and offensive material can hurt individuals, can hurt families and can hurt communities. You never know where this material can end up.
“People need to remember that once you’ve made an inappropriate post or sent an offensive message online then you may never be able to delete it. It can be copied, forwarded, saved or cached. Like a digital footprint, it can stay out there for everyone to see.”
John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), says the strength of Strong Choices comes from community involvement and a willingness to face up to social problems that are caused by new technology.
“A few years ago no one could have conceived of problems with cyber-payback or ‘sexting’ but now everyone—young and old—have realised that we’ve got to tackle these new issues before they get out of hand and cause more division within communities.”
“We know that today, more than ever, modern communications technologies are essential for social and economic participation, and having the skills to stay safe online is critical.”