Channel Seven, Sunrise host Samantha Armytage and commentator Prue MacSween are being sued for racial vilification over a 2018 discussion on the network’s breakfast program.
The decision to take the complaint to Federal Court was made after settlement discussions at the Australian Human Rights Commission crumbled.
The court case stems from a segment on Sunrise in March 2018 where the panel – which including Armytage, MacSween and radio host Ben Davis – suggested a second stolen generation was needed to help Aboriginal children.
“Just like the first stolen generation where a lot of kids were taken for their wellbeing, we need to do it again,” MacSween said on the program.
The discrimination case is being led by legal firm Susan Moriarty and Associates, which in a statement said the eight Aboriginal complainants were “forced” to take their case to the Federal Court after settlement discussions collapsed.
Indigenous elder Aunty Rhonda, who is leading the complaint, said the group just wanted “accountability and equality”.
“This nationwide broadcast by Channel Seven in March 2018 was another symbol of national shame and another appalling example of the deeply entrenched virus of racism that still plagues white platforms of privilege in this country,” she said.
“Channel Seven’s subsequent disingenuous downcast eyes and ‘we’re so sorry’ murmurs, after we protested and their racism was called out, mean nothing to us when they refuse all reasonable requests for proper repatriation of the pulverising hate, humiliation and distress we feel every day of our lives.”
Dozens of protesters chanted outside Sunrise’s Sydney studio in March 2018 in the days after the segment.
The breakfast show was also hit by protests a month after the segment when Sunrise filmed its show on the Gold Coast during the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The Sunrise set on Surfers Paradise beach was completely open, allowing dozens of protesters to gather behind, forcing the hosts to address the criticism.
“We support and respect anyone being able to protest and get their view. Happy to have them here, and to express their view, but we have to be a bit careful with language and aggression,” host David Koch explained as the protest grew louder behind him.
“As regular viewers would know, we have lots of families and kids here. It’s school holidays in Queensland, it’s the Commonwealth Games, and while we respect everybody’s right to protest … there are a lot of families on holidays.”
“We have to be very careful with some of the language going to air. I do want to point out that the original segment that sparked this was that children are at risk, not about land rights … just keep that in mind,” Armytage added.
The Australian Communication and Media Authority also found the segment to be in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code Of Practice.
The ACMA forced Channel Seven to independently audit the production process behind Sunrise and all editorial staff were required to undertake training on racism and Aboriginal affairs.