AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATION
The Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA) is the third incarnation of an Indigenous media producers’ peak national representative body. Set up in 2003, AICA has a broad brief that includes coordinating policy development activities relevant to a wide range of media—radio, television, print, online and film—produced by Indigenous people.
The AICA had its genesis in the first peak body formed to service the needs of Indigenous broadcasters in Australia, the National Aboriginal and Islander Broadcasting Association (NAIBA), which operated as a lobbying entity for Indigenous broadcasters between 1982 and 1985. The NAIBA folded, largely due to a lack of federal departmental funding, in turn, stemming from continuing federal government disinterest in Indigenous media development.
Following a seven-year gap in representation for the emerging Indigenous media sector, the formation of the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia (NIMAA) in 1992 represented a major new force in Indigenous media policy development. It had a broad membership of urban, regional and remote community broadcasters and multimedia producers around Australia. Like AICA, NIMAA was responsible for Indigenous media policy relating to film, advertising, print, radio and television. By 1994, NIMAA had seven full-time staff working with around 80 remote Indigenous communities involved in some way with broadcasting, as well as around 50 additional Indigenous community groups broadcasting on local radio around Australia.
Under the auspices of NIMAA, Indigenous broadcasters were encouraged to embrace new digital production technologies such as video-conferencing and digital video editing, aligned with their own cultural protocols. The aim was that the communities themselves must be the driving force behind any form of media production. Although often fraught, regular meetings of NIMAA’s vocal and varied membership enabled discussion and debate around major issues confronting the Indigenous media sector. By contrast, when the national native title legislation was negotiated at this time, just seven Indigenous representatives were involved.
When NIMAA was disbanded in 2001, an Indigenous Communication Consultative Committee was set up to enable participation in the sensitive lobbying process for a national Indigenous broadcasting service under consideration at the time. A month later, in October 2001, the Indigenous Remote Communication Association (IRCA) was set up to ensure ‘bush’ communities retained a voice in the discussions. The formation of the AICA in 2003 coincided with a federal government decision to split the powers of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and a major push by Indigenous broadcasters for a national Indigenous broadcasting service. The association has struggled to mediate the continuing divisions between urban and bush communities’ needs, resulting in the launch in 2004 of the independent Indigenous Community Television (ICTV) service for remote Indigenous community audiences. In July 2007, reflecting the continuing dispute between Indigenous urban and ‘bush’ community media needs, ICTV was taken off the air following a federal government policy decision to make way for a new National Indigenous Television (NITV) service.
REFs: H. Molnar and M. Meadows, Songlines to Satellites (2002) and ‘Bridging the Gaps: Towards a History of Indigenous Media in Australia’, Media History, 8(1) (2002).