“ The group alleges that by using the footage in conjunction with the discussion on child abuse, Sunrise implied they abused or neglected children.
They also claim Seven breached their confidence and privacy in using the footage, originally filmed for the promotion of Aboriginal health, for its unintended purpose; and that the network breached Australian consumer laws by acting unconscionably.
Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr and 14 others filed the lawsuit in February, claiming they had been defamed after blurred footage of them was broadcast in the background of the panel discussion.
Watch CEO Pat Turner , Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba and James Ward appear on #Sunrise to respond to Indigenous child protection issues #wehavethesolutions March 2018
Aboriginal children shown in footage that accompanied a breakfast television segment on child abuse in Indigenous communities could be seen by some in the community as “damaged goods”, a judge has said.
A group of Aboriginal people from a remote community in the Northern Territory is suing Channel Seven over the Sunrise “Hot Topics” panel discussion hosted by Samantha Armytage on March 13 last year.
The segment followed public commentary by then-Assistant Minister for Children David Gillespie on non-Indigenous families adopting at-risk Aboriginal children and featured commentator Prue MacSween, who said a “fabricated PC outlook” was preventing white Australians from adopting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“Don’t worry about the people that would cry and hand-wring and say this would be another Stolen Generation. Just like the first Stolen Generation where a lot of people were taken because it was for their wellbeing … we need to do it again, perhaps,” MacSween said during the discussion, which also featured Brisbane radio host Ben Davis.
The segment sparked an intense backlash, including protests outside the Sunrise studios at Sydney’s Martin Place and condemnation from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
During a strike-out application brought by Seven on Wednesday, Seven’s barrister, Kieran Smark, SC, said there were issues with claiming those in the footage could be identified.
But Justice Steven Rares said Aboriginal communities in remote parts of Australia, particularly the Northern Territory, were “much more integrated than the suburbs of this country”.
“You’ve got a whole community up there, most of whom will be able to recognise each other, some of whom watch Sunrise,” Justice Rares said.
The group from the Yirrkala community allege the children in the footage were also defamed, but Mr Smark said a reasonable person would not shun and avoid a person they perceived to be a child victim of assault.
Mr Smark said ordinary people would react to victims of abuse with sympathy and it would be “counter-intuitive” to avoid them.
But Justice Rares said members of the community “might not be as sympathetic as you say”.
“The fact is imputations of abuse reflect on, as I understand it as a member of the community, whether you want to associate with people who are victims of abuse, because they are going to be disturbed by that abuse,” Justice Rares said.
“People are not going to associate with people they feel are damaged goods.”
Justice Rares said Aboriginal people had “by far” the highest rates of incarceration in Australia and many of those imprisoned came from traumatised backgrounds.
He dismissed Seven’s application to strike out the group’s pleadings.
Barrister Louise Goodchild, representing the group, said interpreters would need to be brought down for the trial and foreshadowed expert evidence in relation to cultural shame being heard.