Newscorp used photo of indigenous dance group in story about child sexual abuse, prompting apology

Three Newscorp outlets were forced to apologise after they published the photograph without consent in October of 2023.

The apology was posted on the outlet's website and various social media pages on Friday evening. Credit: Paul Miller/AAP Image

Newscorp has apologised to an Indigenous youth dance group after using their photo in a story about child sexual abuse.

In October of 2023, the company published an article reporting Country Liberal Party Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s comments that opposition to a royal commission into sexual abuse of Indigenous children was “real racism”.

Three Newscorp outlets (Sky News Australia, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph) published an unrelated photograph of Miriki Performing Arts dancers alongside the article.

All three published the image without the consent of the dance group.

The photograph, taken in 2019, featured dance group members wearing body paint by Mandingalbay elder David Mundraby and performing at the Cairns Children’s Festival.

On Friday evening, the apologies were posted on the outlet’s websites, Sky News Facebook and X, formerly Twitter.

“The report was not related to the children in the image in any way, and we understand the image had originally been taken to promote a performance of Miriki performing Aats in the Cairns Children’s Festival,” it reads.

“We did not have the consent of the children or their parents, Miriki or Mundraby to use the image and we unreservedly apologise to them for the hurt and harm that using the image in this way has caused.”

It’s been reported a confidential settlement was reached between the involved parties.

‘No place in responsible journalism’

In a statement, Miriki director Pauline Lampton, said seeing the photograph used in that context left the dancers and their families feeling “ashamed and angry”.

“These children’s images were used nationally in a story about the sexual abuse of children,” Lampton said in a statement.

‘I cannot remember there ever being a time that this occurred with white children.

“It makes us feel like the country places less value on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”

The ABC reported that solicitor Stewart O’Connell represented Miriki Performing Arts.

He said this conduct had “no place in responsible journalism”.

“This incident illustrates how media outlets often approach the depiction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: with no respect for context or the real people behind the pictures.”

O’Connell shared his disappointment with the outlet’s decision to post the apology on the eve of a long weekend.

It’s believed requests had been made for the apologies to be issued earlier of Friday, or the following week.

“We hope that the public apologies will serve as a reminder to all media outlets to think twice as to how they use images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their reporting, and put media outlets on notice that there will be consequences if they use such images in a manner that is disrespectful and deplorable,” he said.