Media constructions of Indigenous women in sexual assault cases: Reflections from Australia and Canada

Dr Kyllie Cripps1

1Faculty Of Law, Univeristy of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia

In 2011, on opposite sides of the world in Australia and Canada, two Aboriginal women – Lynette Daley and Cindy Gladue – died in suspicious circumstances suggestive of sexual homicide. At the time of their deaths little media attention was given to their cases. However, years later as their cases progressed through the criminal justice system several years later and the media were to uncover details about the crime and the victim’s backgrounds, the resultant news stories demonstrated that ‘when the terrain is sexual violence, [colonialism], racism and sexism interlock in particularly nasty ways’ (Razack 1988 p59). This paper reports on findings from a research project that examined print and online media from 2011-2018 as these cases traversed the criminal court system. It illustrates that when taken together the colonialism, racism and sexism prevalent in the news reporting  serve to characterise the victims as ‘hopeless and helpless’ (Jiwani 2009 p9) and unworthy of the public’s sympathy. The paper also provides a reflection on what it might take to reform the media’s engagement in cases such as these to achieve a reimagined justice.


Kyllie Cripps is an Indigenous scholar and Scientia Fellow with the Faculty of Law at The University of New South Wales. She has worked extensively over the past twenty years in the areas of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse with Indigenous communities, defining areas of need and considering intervention options at multiple levels.


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