The BBC has issued an apology after scenes in a documentary about aboriginal communities in the Australian town of Wilcannia were deemed "misleading".
The documentary aired on BBC Three on 16 January as part of Reggie Yates' two-part series Hidden Australia. The first episode, entitled Black in the Outback, is described on the BBC website as focusing on an Aboriginal community "ravaged by alcohol addiction, trying to find its place in modern Australia". It is no longer available for viewing.
Indigenous residents filmed in the documentary, most of whom were Barkindji, accused Yates and the production crew of misleading and unethical behaviour during the filming.
Central to the residents' claims, as reported by ABC Australia, is that the funeral wake of a prominent member of the community was portrayed by the documentary as a party.
Barkindji man Owen Whyman told ABC Australia: "It was just like, 'oh, we're going into this drunken party again, it's always here, let's just go in and video them again'." He added: "We like to have a beer because we don't know when we're going to see each other again, and we were all in mourning, and he never said anything about that in the documentary." Whyman also said the producers brought a case of beer for consumption at the wake.
A BBC spokesperson did not address specific questions from IBTimes UK, but shared a statement taking the claims seriously and apologising for the misleading scenes. "We now understand that the scene which includes footage from a wake has been edited in a way which is misleading. This clearly falls below the standards we expect of programme makers and for this we would like to apologise. We are speaking with everyone from Sundog involved in the filming and editing of the scene to find out what happened and remind them of the BBC's editorial standards."
The episode received mostly positive reviews on social media, with only a few expressing disappointment in the documentary on Twitter.
Yates described, in a voiceover, the community's alcohol consumption: "The people of Wilcannia are trying to hang on to their traditions, but sometimes they are hard to keep sight of, through a haze of alcohol". Viewers only got an explanation of the reason behind the drinking more than 30 minutes into the hour-long documentary, when Yates meets a woman called Monica.
In a moving speech, she talks about the discrimination the community suffered for years at the hands of the Australian government, from land grabs to forced education in English-speaking schools. "Alcohol and drugs are just a band-aid. You look at the loss that people had and are still having today. A lot of loss went through this community, not just lives, but a lot of people's identity," she said.
Speaking to the camera after meeting Monica, Yates admitted there was more to what he was seeing. He said: "It became clear to me that the issue that exist within this community and the problems that people have faced for generations is playing out in some of the things that I am seeing".
Wilcannia's residents thought the documentary painted a biased picture of the town, where a number of community-run initiatives were launched after it was named one of New South Wales' most disadvantaged communities in 2015.
The BBC statement said: "The programme aimed to show what life is like for the local community and whilst we can't include everything we film, the programme did feature the work of the youth centre and a traditional hunt".
But according to Jenny Thwaites, chief executive of the Wilcannia Aboriginal Land Council, that was not enough, as the show could have included the local men's group, women's safe house, or indigenous -run business ventures. "Yes, we recognise that the town has a problem with alcohol but there's a lot of really positive things happening," she told The Guardian. "Yates didn't go to any of the areas where positive things are happening. I thought: that's the sort of thing that 20 years ago got the media totally barred from the town. It makes it sound like nothing's change, but I know it has."