Black mark for white man's justice

The Sydney Morning Herald
SMH, 2006, 18 December 2006
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Background Over eight months in 2000, Lani Brennan's then husband repeatedly raped, bashed and stabbed her. Finally, Brennan had the courage to provide sufficient evidence for NSW police to charge him. Nevertheless, it took three years for police to act. In 2007, after he was convicted, Lani Brennan took the unusual step of asking the judge to lift the suppression order on her name and contacted the author to tell her story. The Sydney Morning Herald article, Black Mark for White man's justice was the result. Contribution and Significance My approach to practice-based journalism research is to build a relationship between my professional journalism work and scholarly investigation. My case study of twenty years of coverage of indigenous deaths in custody published by the Pacific Journalism Review in 2005 the coverage of indigenous issues following the 1991 Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody was spasmodic and superficial. I argued that interventions by alternative voices and independent journalism can have impact. Although instigated by Ms Brennan, the information upon which this story is based needed to be verified by in-depth research including interviews with Brennan, witnesses and lawyers, independent searches and analysis of court records. The result gave Brennan a public voice, allowing her to step out of the role of victim to speak of the failings of the criminal justice system and encourage other indigenous women to come forward. This is an example of how journalism research can be used to provide fresh perspectives and insight into systemic failure.
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