Using documentaries for Development: Interventions in combating Human Exploitation

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Downman, Scott
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Trevor Cullen

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Perth, Australia


The ability of the media to influence people, communities, culture and human behaviour is immense. The negative influences of media in these areas are well documented and have been widely researched. However, media can also serve as a powerful tool in educating and raising awareness in communities. This research focuses on the positive impacts media, and particularly the use of documentaries, in promoting social justice, preserving culture and combating current scourges such as human trafficking and labour exploitation. The research focuses predominantly on the power of documentaries and story-telling, as a mean of educating vulnerable and marginalised communities in their mother tongue or first language (L1). This research will focus on the use of documentaries as an educational tool in the Mekong Sub-Region (MSR) during the past six years. The research has involved extensive interviewing with both the direct and indirect victims of trafficking and those who advocate on behalf of those who have been trafficked or who are at risk of exploitation. The six-year research phase of this project has involved three years of living among at-risk communities in Thailand's northern provinces and has culminated in a project which will see two documentaries made during the next two years on issues related to the impacts of cultural degradation and the practice of pre-teen marriage. The research aims to highlight that the role of the media in a non-commercial environment is not just about the outsider (reporter) recording a story. But if done collectively and inclusively can be an empowering and healing process that can build the capacity of those on the other side of the camera, while giving them the opportunity to have a voice and some in instances the capability to establish income generation activities to alleviate poverty.

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Journalism Education Association of Australia Proceedings

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Journalism Studies

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