As many may be aware there have been new complaints about Michael Noonan’s film work.
I have been reluctant to publish them until now but since Noonan has now publically responded to the allegations I am re-opening the discussion.
Background to the controversy here
Aboriginal Elder Ted Watson, acting on Behalf of May Dunne, the Aboriginal woman in Noonan’s Boulia Pub scene has accused Noonan of not seeking permission to use the footage of May and her husband, of fabricating permission forms and breaching research protocols.
The accusations can be found here – Laughing at Aborigines
Michael Noonan’s response to the allegations are at the end of this post.
As I have said before I do not believe the footage is a negative image of May or Aboriginal women. I reached this conclusion after talking to my Partner Baganan, a Kalkadoon and Pitta Pitta woman about her perception of it. She has also offered her perspective on the “An Aboriginal Woman’s perspective”/thread.
However our perceptions of the footage is indeed a different matter to whether May and her husband’s involvement was based on informed consent or not, a question that is now to be played out in various courts and committees it seems.
There are some very serious issues relating to the representation of Aboriginal people by non-Aboriginal media workers as well as protocols for negotiaiting involvement in film projects, all of them very relevant to this situation.
The academic ethical framework that QUT film research uses, and Noonan is being judged by, is a template for health and medical research which is generalised in principle but not specifics to other disciplines of research.
There are also protocols produced by indigenous academics that concentrate on anthropological research involving traditional knowledge and intellectual property which, like health protocols, are inadequate to cover issues faced media workers, in particular documentary makers except for when they do represent traditional knowledge.
Part of the problem with this latest controversy, it seems to me, is inappropriate academic research guidelines for media studies and research.
Outside of academia there are protocols and guidelines produced by indigenous media workers, for example SBS’s indigenous protocol. http://www.sbs.com.au/sbsi/documentary.html?type=6
This protocol has the same essential principles as the health and anthropology protocols but has specifics directly relevent to media workers.
I fear however that the clarification of these issues will now be sidelined by the sensation of another high profile QUT scandal. The focus of the sensation will become the question of whether Noonan’s signed permission forms are real or fabricated.
If Noonan’s documents are authenticated the ambiguities of the present protocols will be exploited by both sides of the dispute in adversarial courts and little will be resolved in anybody’s interest.
Here is Michael Noonan’s response to the allegations……..
This is Michael Noonan.
The video “Laughing at Aboriginies” contains many errors of fact:
my comments here are to set the record straight about the most significant – in particular, the allegations that the research approval regimes I implemented were flawed and corrupt. My study was approved by the QUT Ethics Committee before any filming was undertaken.
Subsequently, and in response to the concerns raised by John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, my study was subjected to a full ethics audit by a committee of review, which included one expert member external to QUT.
That committee found I had not breached the relevant ethics guidelines.
All documentation was shared with the audit committee, including the appropriate consent and release forms. I have this documentation for all 33 people who participated in the film production. The accusations that appropriate consent was not gathered or was gathered under duress or fabricated after the event are not true and will not stand informed scrutiny.
There are many other errors of fact in this video – my film crew was not even in Boulia 18 months ago as claimed and there was no hostility to us at any time from Boulia residents.
Reluctantly but proudly, I made my film rushes available for public review to counter the innuendoes and untruths maliciously propagated over the depiction of disability in my film and also to set the record straight about the scene in the hotel at Boulia.
It had been obnoxiously misrepresented from the beginning and was hysterically reported in The London Times that James had been ‘severely beaten’ by an aboriginal woman – a vile and unsubstantiated slur.
I hoped that releasing my footage would destroy the negative stereotypes invoked by so many uninformed commentators. I am distressed to hear of the claim that May feels ‘hurt and shamed’ by that footage. Acknowledging this may be the case, and out of respect for her, I have written to the media outlets hosting my film rushes and asked them to remove those rushes from their websites.
I am happy to be held to account for my actions and my study in any properly-constituted space but I do not recognise Youtube, which has no means of testing gossip, innuendo and lies, as the forum in which to deal with these serious matters. I am prepared to discuss my study and its impact in any properly-constituted place and with any person of good faith – if this applies to you and you have genuine concerns, please send me an email.