The ABC has apologised after editing footage of a dance troupe to make it seem like they were performing in front of some of Australia’s top dignitaries.
In a statement to news.com.au earlier today, members from the Sydney dance troupe, 101 Doll Squadron, said they had been under personal attack and left fearing for the lives after the video went viral.
A peculiar edit from the ABC’s coverage spliced footage of the performance alongside videos of Governor-General David Hurley, ADF chief Angus Campbell and Navy chief Michael Noonan sitting in the audience, making it appear as though the high-level officials were there for the dancing.
“We are very disappointed at the ABC’s deceptive editing of their video piece which cut to guests and dignitaries who were not in attendance and shooting from angles which could not be seen by the audience,’’ the group said in a statement.
“We found this very creepy and reflects more on the ABC’s camera operator and their need to sexualise these women and their dance piece for their own gratification.
“These are the images appearing in the media and the ABC have a lot to answer for in making us feel threatened and exploited.”
The prime minister weighed in on the video at a press conference in Perth this afternoon, labelling the ABC’s edit as “wrong, false and misleading”.
“I am disappointed that this event was so misreported. I think that was disrespectful to the performers to suggest there the Governor-General or others were in attendance in that way,” Mr Morrison said.
“I think standards have failed and so I think obviously Defence will look at these matters and make what changes they wish to in the future. I will leave that to them. It is disappointing that Australians were so misled on that issue.”
Mr Morrison said the ABC should be “reflecting” on its reporting.
ABC Media Watch took to Twitter this afternoon to explain the video had been updated and the Governor-General and the Navy chief had arrived “minutes” after the dance finished.
“Our reporting team initially believed they were present both because they were shown in footage of the event and because a Government MP had said that they were present,” the ABC said.
“The video should not have been edited in that way and the ABC apologises to the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy, and to viewers, for this error.
“After the Defence Department confirmed the Governor-General and Chief of Navy had arrived at the event after the performance, the reporting was amended.
“The report that went to air on the 7pm News bulletin on Wednesday night did not include the footage. The online story has also been updated to make this clear.”
However the national broadcaster hit back at claims the cameraman shot the women in a “creepy” manner.
“The ABC’s footage of the dance performance was shot in a standard manner, from the same position as other parts of the ceremony,” a spokesperson said.
Dance troupe ‘saddened and disappointed’ by the situation
The 101 Doll Squadron, a Sydney dance squad that specialises in dancehall and hip hop, was forced to delete its social media pages after footage from its performance at the event went viral.
In their statement, the 101 Doll Squadron said they were booked as a diverse group of dancers and were proud to participate.
“With Indigenous and multi-racial members from a community-based dance group, the dance itself was made up of choreographic and musical elements that included referencing blessings, the waves of the ocean and our geographical location of where the fresh water meets the sea, to name a few,” the dancers said.
“It was meant to bring an informal sense of celebration; a gift from one of our community groups to open a modern ship, with a modern dance form.”
The group said the ABC edit was a “short piece taken out of context in what was a very long day performed before the official ceremony and before the arrival of dignitaries and not part of it”.
“It was in no way meant to be disrespectful and we are hurt and disappointed it has been misconstrued to appear that way,” the group said.
“We perform regularly at festivals, cultural, and community events including The Woolloomoolivin’ Festival and NAIDOC locally. We’re very popular with all age audiences attending and have never been the target of abuse or complaints.
“This performance was one small part of a longer term partnering with the Navy and our community for pathway opportunities and ongoing programs, including a recent community BBQ and basketball tournament between Supply crew and local youth.”
The group said the captain and the crew of the ship had also been in contact saying the troupe had been “unfairly targeted”.
The group said they felt very “saddened and disappointed” by the situation and asked for privacy.
“We have been made fearful by all this media attention harassment and ongoing abuse,” the troupe ended, signing the letter, “sincerely The 101 Doll Squadron”.
The group, which describes itself as a “squadron of dancehall women facilitating a movement to unite and collaborate unique projects inna (sic) dancehall”, was booked to perform for a number of songs at the commissioning of HMAS Supply on Saturday.
The commissioning of the new vessel, held at Garden Island in Sydney, was filmed by the ABC, with high-profile people such as the Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell and Governor-General David Hurley attending.
Despite the dignitaries in attendance, the ADF insisted Mr Hurley or Mr Campbell were not in the audience when the dance troupe performed.
“The dance was performed prior to the commencement of the commissioning formalities and prior to the arrival of His Excellency the Governor General, Chief of Navy and Commander Australian Fleet,” a Defence spokesperson told news.com.au.
The ADF has been in defence mode since the footage went viral on social media, insisting it booked the group to support local businesses and to reflect the Woolloomooloo community, the inner city suburb where the Navy’s Fleet Base East is based.
“Ahead of her commissioning, …. HMAS Supply engaged with the local community of Woolloomooloo — one of her home ports – to build positive relationships,” a Defence spokesperson said.
“HMAS Supply and the Royal Australian Navy are committed to working with Australians from all backgrounds in actively supporting local charities and community groups.”
Before the group deleted its social media, its page was full of the dancers performing at community events, multicultural festivals and supporting women of colour.
‘The ADF’s core business will always be the application of lethal violence’
Despite some critics unfairly targeting the dance group, most Australians are calling on the ADF to provide an explanation.
Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie, who served in the elite Special Air Service Regiment for five years, said it was time the military returned to its “core business” — the “application of lethal violence”.
“Our military serves a vital role across Australian society, whether during pandemic, flood or fire,” Mr Hastie wrote in his most recent electorate newsletter, sent to his constituents in the West Australian seat of Canning.
“But the ADF’s core business will always be the application of lethal violence in the defence of our values, sovereignty and interests. We should never forget that.”
Mr Hastie said it was important the ADF maintained “mission clarity”.
“Without it, confusion grows — confusion about role, identity and purpose. And confusion is deadly on the battlefield, at sea or in an aerial dogfight,” he said.
“Mission focus is the foundation of victory. It keeps everyone driving towards a singular purpose.”
Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has taken over the defence portfolio after Linda Reynolds’s former staffer Brittany Higgins went public with rape allegations.
Liberal backbencher Phillip Thompson, another former soldier, told the ABC Mr Dutton would bring back the ADF’s “core values”.
“Having Minister Dutton at the helm and leading our Australian Defence Force, we’re bringing back our core values — we’ve gone a little bit woke over the past few years and we can’t afford to be doing that,” he said.
“Our ADF shouldn’t be left or right, they should be straight down the middle of what their job is, and their job is to defend our nation, our interests, our values, our sovereignty, but also when we go on operations, have an unapologetic aggression and violence to get the mission done.”
Mr Thompson has been in hot water himself in the past posting on social media that he wanted to shoot Muslim extremists back in 2012.