Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association

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The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) is an organisation founded in 1980 to expose Aboriginal music and culture to the rest of Australia. Based in Alice Springs, the organisation is particularly focused on the involvement of the local Indigenous community in its production. CAAMA is involved in radio, television and recorded music.


Origins and Imparja[edit]

In 1980, CAAMA originally established itself as a public radio station by two Aboriginal people and one ‘whitefella’, Freda Glynn, Phillip Batty and John Macumba.[1]

The success of the station quickly grew, leading its content to extend into music (country-western and Aboriginal rock), call-ins, discussion, and news and current affairs. Broadcasts were made in six different languages, alongside English, and operated about fifteen hours every day. Later expansions saw the station move into AM and shortwave broadcasts with educational programmes, live recordings of Aboriginal bands, and commercials for local Aboriginal products and services. In 1984, CAAMA started to produce a video newsletter to circulate to those communities without easy access to radio facilities.

CAAMA obtained its Regional Commercial Television Services license in 1986 after concern was raised that Australia’s first satellite (AUSSAT), which was set to bring commercial television to regional and remote sections of Australia, would have a detrimental impact on Aboriginal languages and cultures in Central Australia.[2] CAAMA made a bid to obtain the licence being offered in 1985 via the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Central Zone RCTS licence hearings process. CAAMA's bid was a symbolic act that was then taken seriously, as “the tribunal provided the arena for the articulation of national media policies at least nominally in support of the concerns of remote-living Aboriginal people.”[3] In January, 1988 the private commercial television station CAAMA owned, Imparja, began broadcasting, servicing at least 100,000 viewers in Central Australia.[4]

Imparja had contributed to a visible increase of Aboriginal identity in the Australian media landscape. The station was crucial in developing content which attempted to maintain and sustain Aboriginal culture. One example included Nganampa-Anwernekenbe [Ours], the first entirely indigenous language television programme sub-titled in English produced in Australia, which reflected Aboriginal culture through story telling and unique performing and visual arts content. Another were the "Bath Time Good Time" cleanliness and "Cus Congress" anti alcohol community service advertisements which aimed to promote better life style and health in a culturally appropriate and effective manner. 1991 saw a turn to independently created films about, or created by, Aboriginal people. The series of films lasted several months and aired every Saturday during its production season.

During the first few years of Imparja, CAAMA faced growing concerns from media activists that commercial programming would consume local content (Michaels 1984). Other concerns were raised of the lack of Aboriginal presence in Imparja’s programming (Batty 1992) that, although Imparja was the largest television enterprise owned by Aboriginal people in Australia, only 10% its staff were Aboriginal (Ginsburg 1993); that some broadcasts reflected a lack of sufficient Aboriginal programming content; and others raised issues of broadcast quality.[5] In saying this, the importance of CAAMA’s multi-media based approached has ensured that Aboriginal media is an important part to the Australian media landscape and to the social, cultural, and economic development of Aboriginal people in remote parts of Australia, as seen by CAAMA’s recent employment policies. American anthropologist Faye Ginsburg who has written extensively on Indigenous/Aboriginal media in Australia writes:

"Aboriginal media products are as various as Aboriginal life itself, ranging from low-budget videos made by community-based media associations for both traditional people in remote settlements and groups throughout Central Australia by organisations such as the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA); to legal or instructional videos (often quite creative) made by land councils as well as health and other service groups; to documentaries and current affairs for national broadcasting; to independent features directed by cosmopolitan Aboriginal artists such as Tracey Moffatt whose first feature film, Bedevil, premiered at Cannes in 1993." (1994:366)[6]

CAAMA works in a broader landscape of Aboriginal/Indigenous media organisations based in Australia. Some other organisations include Gadigal Information Service, Goolarri Media Enterprise/Broome Aboriginal Media Association, Top End Aboriginal Bush Broadcasting Association, and the National Indigenous Times.

Recent History and Employment Initiatives[edit]

In 2005 CAAMA submitted a report to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs’ inquiry into Indigenous employment.[7] The report outlined several ways government leaders could access future policy in regards to Indigenous employment, using CAAMA as a case study. Some key issues CAAMA raised included: skills training; funding; recruitment; increase in Indigenous population; youth employment; strengthening links between education and training; establish and sustain networks between the private and public sectors, alongside the community; and collaborate with pre-existing organisations in training Aboriginal people.

The second section of the report outlined how CAAMA has contributed to the training and employment of Aboriginal people in Central Australia. In their twenty-five years of operations CAAMA has an active ‘aboriginalisation policy,’ which means 65% of employees are Aboriginal. CAAMA has also assisted in the education of over 100 Indigenous people, of whom a majority of their trainees were part of the Major Indigenous Employment Strategy (1988–1993). CAAMA suggest that their success has been afforded by the commitment of government; implementation of the Major Indigenous Employment Strategy; an understanding of social, cultural, and economic issues impacting Aboriginal people; and their flexible learning environment.

Since 2009 CAAMA has development a business plan to identity ways to enhance their viability and sustainability with less reliance on government funding, and to increase new opportunities in New Media products and other related services and products.


CAAMA Radio[edit]

CAAMA Radio provides twenty-four hours Indigenous radio programming to over 600,000 people in Australia. It is the largest Aboriginal media organisation in the country since 1981, with the second largest audience reach in Australia. CAAMA broadcast through 12 Remote Aboriginal Communities Services (RIBS)and a mobile outside broadcasting truck, providing radio to several remote Aboriginal communities in over 30 different languages, including Papunya, Ntaria (Hermansbug), Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), and Areyonga.

Film and Television Production[edit]

CAAMA Productions Pty Ltd is the largest Indigenous owned production house in Australia, with programming based on Indigenous cultures, lifestyle, and issues.

Some of CAAMA's award-winning productions include:

  • My Colour Your Kind (1998): Written and Directed by Danielle Maclean. My Colour Your Kind is a short film which explores the journey of a young Aboriginal albino girl.[8]
  • Cold Turkey (2003): Written and directed by Steven McGregor, Cold Turkey is a film which portrays the lives of brothers Shane and Robby and explores the changing nature of their relationship.[9]
  • Green Bush (2005): Written and directed by Warwick Thornton. Green Bush is the story of local radio DJ Kenny and his audience - the local prison inmates.[10]
  • Double Trouble (Australian TV series) (2007): The first Aboriginal produced for children. Double Trouble aired on Australia's National Nine Network and the Disney Channel.[11]
  • Samson and Delilah (Co-production with Scarlett Pictures): The Australian drama film directed by Warwick Thornton and starring Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, both young first time actors. The film competed at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Caméra d'Or ('Gold Camera Award' for best first feature film) at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The film also won the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Film in 2009.


CAAMA Music is a record label which produces 90% of its recordings in Indigenous languages. Performances organised by CAAMA have been popular with audiences, with people travelling from across the area to attend. One recent event, the Yeperenye Festival, drew a crowd of 30,000.[12] Musicians like Gawurra and Alice Skye, who are recorded by CAAMA are also seen on the Imparja, SBS and ABC television networks. In conjunction with CAAMA Radio, CAAMA Music transmits outside broadcasts of performances by Aboriginal musicians.[12]

Technical Services[edit]

CAAMA Technical Services works with CAAMA and local communities to ensure technical equipment in Aboriginal communities is in working order, alongside providing information and technological services to these communities.


Imparja Television Pty Ltd is a commercial television station operative from Alice Springs.


CAAMA Shops Pty Ltd is a retail and wholesale outlet and distributes products (videos, music, literature, craft, etc.) created by Aboriginal people in the local area.

Former trainees from CAAMA[edit]

Successful CAAMA Indigenous trainees include Rachel Perkins (AFI award-winning Writer/Director), Beck Cole (Writer/Director, official Sundance selection), Allan Collins (Director/Cinematographer, AFI awarding winning Cinematographer), Daniele McLean (AFI awarding winning Writer/Director), Warwick Thornton (Director/Cinematographer, winner of Berlin Film Festival), Erica Glynn (Writer/Director, AFI nominee), Priscilla Collins (Executive Producer, AFI nominee), Peter Clarke (Online Editor, Imparja Television), and Angela Bates (Journalist, SBS Television).

Effects on society[edit]

It has been argued that the establishment of CAAMA and the spread of communications technology could threaten the relationship between generations and the respect for traditional knowledge.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lemon, Barbara. "Freda Glynn". National Foundation for Australian Women. Australian Women's Archives Project. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  2. ^ Bell, Wendy (May 2008). "2". A Remote Possibility: The Battle for Imparja Television. Alice Springs: IAD Press. ISBN 978-1-86465-097-6.
  3. ^ Ginsburg, Faye (1993) Embedded Aesthetics: Creating A Discursive Space for Indigenous Media," Cultural Anthropology 9(2)
  4. ^ Batty, Philip (1992). "Singing the Electric: Aboriginal Television in Australia." Unpublished Manuscript
  5. ^ Molnar, Helen (1989). "Aboriginal Broadcasting in Australia: Challenges and Promises." Paper presented at the International Communication Association Conference, March 1989
  6. ^ Ginsburg, Faye (1991). "Indigenous Media: Faustian Contract or Global Village?" Cultural Anthropology, 6(1): 92–112. [1994] reprinted in Rereading Cultural Anthropology. G. Marcus, ed.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "CAAMA My Colour Your Kind 1998". Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. CAAMA. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  9. ^ "CAAMA Cold Turkey 2003". Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. CAAMA. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  10. ^ "CAAMA Green Bush 2005". Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. CAAMA. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  11. ^ "CAAMA Double Trouble 2007". Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. CAAMA. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  12. ^ a b "CAAMA Music". Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. CAAMA. Archived from the original on 12 September 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  13. ^ Ginsburg, F: "Aboriginal media and the Australian imaginary",page 96. Duke University Press, 1993.

Further reading[edit]

  • Julie Wells, "Interview with Freda Glynn." Lilith (1986), Issue 3, pp 26-44

External links[edit]