The need to enhance communications in remote communities

In early October, ACCAN attended the 15th annual Remote Indigenous Media Festival held in Ntaria, NT. The festival brought together some of the country’s most remote media organisations with funding bodies and policy makers for 7 days of technology workshops and policy discussion.

Sound recording for indginous media project

Why was ACCAN there?

ACCAN has been working closely with the festival’s co-host, the Indigenous Remote Communications Association (IRCA) to advocate for better communications access across remote Australia. Their work includes involvement with the Broadband for the Bush Alliance, which comprises 13 organisations and aims to provide practical advice on improving digital literacy and telecommunications services for remote Australia. Some of the alliance’s key policies include:


Why does remote Indigenous media need improved communications?

Indiginous media producers learning to use iPads for filming

While the majority of remote Indigenous media have traditionally focused on radio broadcasting, Australia’s smartphone and tablet obsession hasn’t missed the bush, with a flood of video and animated movies being produced in recent years. Even standard radio content is being streamed online to reach new audiences. This shift toward data-rich content has sparked huge interest among youth (and even many elderly) to tell their community stories in innovative and engaging ways.

However, uploading and accessing this wealth of new content is often stalled by the severe lack of telecommunications infrastructure in these communities.

In fact for most of the delegates, mobile coverage and internet access is simply non-existent in their communities, including many who don’t even own a landline phone. Noel Heenan, board director and radio broadcaster for PAW Media in Yuelamu, NT said, “Living without mobile coverage and internet access is so hard. If I record a mini-documentary, I need to get picked up and driven 50km to neighbouring Yuendumu just so I can edit and upload my file. This is unacceptable in the 21st century.”


Filming animation

Where to from here?

ACCAN has written to the new government to state their position regarding the importance of communications, particularly mobiles, for remote Australia. ACCAN is looking forward to participating in discussions surrounding the government’s pre-election promise to inject $100m into expanding mobile coverage and fixing mobile black spots around the country. They intend to continue their work with organisations such as IRCA to produce high-quality and evidence-based policies on rural telecommunications.