Professionals working at all levels in the Aboriginal health sector and the media have a complex relationship. Advocates for Aboriginal health look for opportunities to mobilise the media in support of health-related political, economic, policy and welfare reform. However, their concern about the misrepresentation of Aboriginal affairs in the news continues to stifle their engagement.
To change this, people working in the Aboriginal health sector in Western Australia formed the view that to strengthen the Aboriginal health profile and influence public opinion, it was critical to improve their media engagement skills.
Over the course of a year, 23 Aboriginal and 17 non-Aboriginal health and media professionals were interviewed at intervals for their views on how the mainstream news media could be used more effectively to increase awareness and understanding in the general population about Aboriginal people and their health. Information from the consultation interviews was used to develop a workshop and mentoring program in media management and advocacy skills training for Aboriginal professionals working in Aboriginal health and related areas.
Through exposure to journalists and other media professionals, the participating Aboriginal professionals working in the Aboriginal health and related sectors, improved their understanding of and interest in, the way the mainstream news media works, whilst developing their strategic media management skills. The participation of Aboriginal health and media professionals throughout the Aboriginal Health Communication Project (AHCP) resulted in two practical toolkits being produced.
One is Aboriginal Health and the Mainstream News Media – A toolkit for journalists, and was developed to guide journalists as they navigate the Aboriginal health sector in the course of newsgathering and reporting. It provides practical advice from participating Aboriginal health professionals. Not addressed are topics that journalists will already be exposed to through in-house orientation and training, reporting style guidelines and engagement protocols, through adherence to the journalist‘s code of ethics, and through the self-regulating codes of practice administered through the Australian Press Council, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the respective peak bodies for commercial television and radio.
The other, Changing the News – A Media Engagement Toolkit for Aboriginal Health Professionals, was designed for Aboriginal professionals working in Aboriginal health and related sectors. It provides advice given by participating journalists to the Aboriginal health professionals and substantial information on managing media resources and developing strategies.
It is beyond the scope of this toolkit to offer extensive advice rather than general tips. If you or your organisation requires assistance on a difficult story, you are advised to seek support from NACCHO, AHCWA, OXFAM, Reconciliation Australia, or even the Australian Medical Association. If you have funding it would be advisable to find a public relations consultant, media strategist or media trainer for advice that is specific to your situation and needs. Similarly it is not the intention of this toolkit to address the use of online media such as internet sites, or social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Project Manager: Verity Leach
Investigators: Winthrop Professor Sandra Thompson, Professor Alexandra McManus and Adjunct
Professor Ross James