This webinar is for journalists who want to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of violence against women from diverse backgrounds, including how media narratives can either exacerbate or counteract these effects.
[Sarah Malik] Hi, everyone. I'd like to begin the session by acknowledging the First Peoples on the land on which we meet today. The Dharawal people. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and I acknowledge the ongoing impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And that sovereignty was never ceded. It was and always will be Aboriginal land. I also want to begin by acknowledging women and girls from all backgrounds, both in Australia and abroad, who have lost their lives to violence, both in the family and through state violence. This seminar is dedicated to you. We gather as writers and journalists dedicated to changing the narrative. Honouring and making sure that no woman's life is lost in vain. I'd also like to direct participants to a panel featuring all First Nations women and moderators hosted by Our Watch earlier this year for a deeper understanding of how intersectional experiences, strategies and solutions of First Nations women in this space responding to historical state and family violence. So a bit of housekeeping. So panelists will have their cameras on and will be the only people seen or recorded today.
[Sarah Malik] And apart from support lines, for accessibility reasons, we'll be limiting links to resources that I drop into the chat and Our Watch will follow up afterwards with these in an email. Accessibility. We have a number of accessibility features for this event. If you have any questions or require assistance, please use the chat function to send a message to our webinar support person, Rebekah. And just some support lines. So today obviously we'll be discussing some pretty heavy themes and so I acknowledge that the content discussed today might be emotionally challenging. So if you need to reach out, here are some support numbers. If you know someone is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT via phone. You can also use their webchat which is available 24 hours a day, www.chat.1800respect.org.au. Qlife also provides support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people at 1800 184 527. And if you're a man concerned about your behaviour, please reach out to the Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
[Sarah Malik] So we'll also place these support details in the chat. We'll also have some time after this presentation for questions. If you have a question, please just put it into the chat feature and I’ll condense the common threads and bring the questions to our panelists. So our panelists for today, very proud and excited to host them. We have Amao Leota Lu. So Amao Lu is a proud Samoan trans woman of colour and Elder who has worked extensively as a trans and gender diverse advocate and consultant. So she's worked in the fields of community health, education, employment, the arts and radio. We also have Mariam Veiszadeh, and Mariam Veiszadeh is an award winning human rights advocate, lawyer, diversity and inclusion practitioner, contributing author and media commentator.
[Sarah Malik] Mariam was appointed the inaugural CEO of Media Diversity Australia in late 2021, an organisation that seeks to ensure Australian media looks and sounds like Australia. She's also the founder and chair of the Islamophobia Register Australia and has been involved in the anti-racism space for over a decade. Our third panelist is Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez. Dr. Rodriguez is an adjunct Professor of Communication at Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India, and she's also an adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Charleston University. She's an experienced journalist and academic. She's published widely on digital transformation of journalism practices, social media and representation of cultural diversity in the media. So thank you so much to all our panelists for being here. Really appreciate it. And so this panel is really all about the intersectional challenges faced by women of colour and how they compound the kind of violence that women of colour experience and looking at ways in which reporting can be more nuanced and strength-based to kind of highlight some of these challenges.
[Sarah Malik] And so hopefully these panelists can inform your work and inform thinking around how these issues are presented in the media and in the wider sphere. So thank you so much for being here. And I guess I wanted to begin the panel by asking you all, what are the challenges faced by women in your community to go through what you see are the challenges? And we'll start with you, Mariam. You know, as the founder of Islamophobia Register Australia, what are some of the specific challenges facing Muslim women?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] Yeah, thanks, Sarah. It's great to be here with you. I think in terms of some of the specific challenges faced by, if we can focus on Australian Muslim women, for example, there's very much an intersectional identity there and so the impact can be compounded depending on what they intersectional identities are. The Islamophobia Register puts out research and the last, the fourth report we put out earlier this year speaks about... Islamophobia is very much gendered, which probably doesn't surprise anyone. So 78% the victims of Islamophobic attacks are women, 70% of the perpetrators are men. So two out of three women are harassed by a male perpetrator. So I think there's always been a very gendered aspect to Islamophobia. In the case of Australian Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab or Muslim men who are visible in other ways, it does mean that they come under greater scrutiny.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] They're more easily identifiable, more likely to be subjected to physical and verbal incidents of Islamophobia. And of course, I think it's also maybe just worth mentioning that at the moment, given the current climate that we're facing, Islamophobic attacks have increased 13 fold. We're talking about 270 something incidents, post 7th of October. And the people that are bearing the brunt of that are visible Muslims and again, Muslim women. And I think Amani Haydar describes this idea of a double bind very beautifully in her book, where in the case of Muslim women, they’re facing this double bind, which is this idea of that they are seeing social issues like any community faces it. But speaking out means that they risk perpetuating Islamophobia and other forms of racism. And this certainly does become front of mind and does play an important consideration as to whether they speak out. As an example, working in the not-for-profit spaces, no nine to five, right? So as an example, last night we were on getting WhatsApp messages about an incident. A muslim woman wearing hijab was physically attacked, we're still waiting to get details, in Perth and usually when these incidents happen, we try and provide immediate support. And one of the other factors is that because there was some footage, there was video filmed, then the conversation that we have is, is this the kind of incident that you go of the media with to try and raise awareness about it?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] And of course, every time we've had these conversations with victims of Islamophobia in the past, there's usually hesitation to go forward and speak to media about it. And of course, that goes to the under-reporting of it. That goes to the fact that if you don't speak up about these issues and provide real case studies, then the assumption is that it doesn't happen. And I think, you know, I guess it's a very specific example, but it speaks to the broader issue, which is that marginalised communities, be it the Australian Muslim community or other marginalised communities with intersectional identities, often based this double bind. Do I come forward, raise awareness, provide an evidence base to this social issue? And if I do that, what is the cost of that? And sometimes the cost is too significant. And so they’ve had people continue to suffer in silence, you know, and it's great that organisations like Our Watch and what we're doing right now is helping change and shift that narrative a little bit.
[Sarah Malik] Oh gosh, that sounds like, what I'm hearing is that the safety is just the biggest concern. Basic safety on the street and a basic safety to be able to feel like you can disclose the issues as well. So that's something that, does that resonate with you, Amao? Can you tell me as a Samoan, trans woman of colour, what are some of the challenges faced by a trans woman?
[Amao Leota Lu] There's quite a few similarities in what was just said with my own experience with trans women of colour. There's not enough reporting that's done for us in a positive light. A lot of the times, we seen as taboo, that we're almost like the forbidden conversation and when we are, a lot of that the commentary or what we see in social media pokes fun at us or makes fun of who we are and it’s usually sexualised and quite negatively. And the fact that, you know, our voices don't get heard a lot of times. You know, in terms of the deaths globally of trans women of colour, it’s quite huge. So that speaks volumes in terms of what is actually being done for trans women? Our issues are quite complex as well. If we're talking about people that are going through transitional periods, going into those relationships can be quite dangerous for us.
[Amao Leota Lu] And so, yes, the conversations need to be had. You know, people to stop treating it like taboo. It puts our lives in danger in terms of just going out there, doing what we need to do. And when I've been doing research here in Australia to see what specific organisations or what is out there in terms of our community, there's been very little done. And that is quite alarming. A lot of my trans women of colour, they don't speak up for the fear of persecution. Culturally wise, religion, and the challenge that religion poses to us. But the fact that even to be in relationships is, you know, is either non existent or seen as taboo. You don't talk about it.
[Amao Leota Lu] And that sets a precedent for a lot of my trans sisters to be in those kind of relationships, they go, well there’s misogyny, there’s someone quite demanding in the relationship that's quite powerful and our trans women of colour are scared to speak to speak out. Organisations out there don't really cater for us. We have specific needs, we have specific cultural needs and you know, all the negativity that's out there or the way that, you know, generally being reported amplifies the fact that trans women are constantly under the microscope and are constantly under attack. There still needs to be a lot done for us in terms of going into organisational spaces that are supposed to help us, to feel safe. Otherwise we're not going to open up. And these are, I feel there needs to be a lot of work there because there actually are no resources that really cater for trans women of colour. We’re like the add on, you know, and there's quite a danger in that.
[Sarah Malik] Yep. I mean, I think listening to you and Mariam, it just makes me realise the conversation around Muslim women and trans women, especially in relation to feminism, is very similar, like they’re posited as somehow threats or undesirable or not deserving of feminist protection, where as add on’s and it's almost like you have to prove that you belong, even though these groups are most in need of help and basic safety in the street, so there’s this really hidden epidemic in terms of this violence that's occurring. And it's not really being reported, it's not really being emphasised or seen in the stats. So thank you both for that. And Dr. Usha, you've done a lot of reporting in this, you’ve done a lot of reporting and research in this area about some of the issues faced by women of diverse backgrounds and the magnified violence they experience. Could you, I guess, talk about, you know, what are some of those issues faced by women of colour in terms that those intersectional experiences?
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] We know that Australia is a multicultural society. We also know that 30% of Australians are born overseas. We know that 21% of Australians speak a language other than English at home. And increasingly, if you look at stats, immigrants that are coming to Australia, they're coming from non-English speaking background. So one of the first barriers that women from culturally diverse background face is the language barrier. Even if they can speak in English, they either are not very fluent or they speak with a heavy accent. So that again, that basically restricts them a little bit, which we talk about later, that is getting jobs outside the home. Then they have lack of community support. As new immigrants, you know that it takes time to build a community around you. They do not have knowledge of Australian laws and systems, which again, they don't know.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] Okay, yes, they can go out there and talk about some of the issues they face at home. There are cultural differences in their attitudes towards the gender roles that they occupy. And in addition to that, many of the new immigrants, they may come on spouse visa or on temporary visa. So they are very much dependent on their partner for their economic security or for even just staying in a country. And then in early years, they are unable to go out there and get employment because either they have carers responsibilities or they have other, you know, their qualifications may not be recognised because they are from overseas or they have other, you know, cultural reasons. So this number of factors that come into play for women from diverse background, especially the immigrants who are coming into the country. Now, my own research, what we did was we looked at how the media covers violence against women from diverse backgrounds, and we looked at three prominent news sites, which is The Age, the ABC and the Herald Sun, and we focused on stories in which a person from culturally diverse backgrounds was present those news stories.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] And what we found was that there were only about 190 or so stories covered in a period of four months in these three papers. Now, what do I mean by that? Let's just keep that in context. In the same period, if you recall, during COVID years, there was an increase, a spike in domestic violence cases. And in fact, Victorian police recorded 90,000 domestic violence offenses during that period. So compared to the problem out there, the kind of reporting that is happening is minuscule. And so that's one thing. Secondly, so looking at the data that at least we could find, it was that two thirds of these stories, they identified women as victims. A variety of sources were quoted in these stories, which is a plus now, because reporting of these violence against women has improved a little bit since, you know, when decades of activism by women and others.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] So they are now talking to not just the courts and the police reports and they are also talking to experts, advocates, government representatives, victims and perpetrators, which is a good thing. But three fourths of these stories had a very neutral tone. Only about a quarter of them actually tried to contextualize the story in the sense of being part of a bigger or larger social ill that we have in our society, or talking about the solutions that could be found or the services that are needed to help these victims survivors. Then nearly 70% of these stories were written by journalists from non-diverse backgrounds. Now, I'm not saying that every story needs to be reported by a person from the same community. What we are trying to say is we need enough diversity in the newsrooms for people who can then understand or understand the nuance of covering news stories about victims survivors from diverse backgrounds.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] And for that you need some level of lived experience. Yes. And that's why you can see that reporters do play a bit safe, either they will not report issues around violence against women from diverse backgrounds because they think they don't want to make a mistake. They don't want to offend a community or when they report, they will report in a very he said/she said kind of or based on police report kind of reports. But these kind of reporting doesn't really help in the end. So yeah, that's some of the issues.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, perfect. Thank you so much all, because I think identifying those problems is a great place to start. And now as you kind of identified, like the reporting, the gaps in the reporting are also things to think about. Because just because you are scared to do something doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. And if it needs to be done, it needs to be done well. So it's vitally important and that's why we're here today. So I guess going to reporting, you know, which is what this seminar is about and strength-based reporting. Yeah, it's a problem when we get erased from the narrative, but it's also a problem when your community is foregrounded in stereotypical ways or in ways that could be more harm than good. So I guess, Mariam, I want to go to you because I don't think there's any group more reported on than Muslim women [laughs] in the media. So what do you, I guess, dislike most about some of the reporting on Muslim women and sexism? What do you think is done wrong or badly?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] How long have we got?
[Sarah Malik] [laughs] I know, right?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] Yeah, look, I think look, there's so much, there's absolutely so much. I think a couple of points I want to make is this idea that Muslim women... I do think there's synergies here across a lot of marginalised groups, so while I focus on Muslim women being my personal identity, I do like I said, I think it's across the board. It's this idea that we’re often viewed through a deficit lens. The same group of people that, you know, there's these great images that I've seen do the rounds on the Internet. Muslim women's dress is often the subject of so much conversation. And I think remove the word Muslim and just say women's dress, the subject of controversy all the time, whether you know, whether you choose to cover, whether you choose not to cover, about how much you wear, you know, you’re not wearing enough, you're wearing too much.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] There is always, the way that women dress is always the subject of controversy in a way that simply doesn't apply everywhere else. And I think when it comes to feminism in particular, you know, there's this saying about one size doesn't fit all when it comes to feminism. There's very much this white savour lens that is applied. And so when it comes to Muslim women, for example, you know, and we kind of saw how this played out and there's more to unpack here, but just very briefly, might just mention how it played out in the case of the very horrific things that happened to Iranian woman Mahsa Amini and the, you know, the global attention that got in terms of, you know, very rightly needed the global attention around hijab mandates. But of course, you never get any kind of attention of that scale when it comes to hijab bans. And so when it comes to feminism, it should be about, you know, advocating for a person's right to choose, about their agency, about their sovereignty. But we do find feminism, media coverage, public attention, public sympathy tends to follow the line of what seems to suit a Western lens or a Western agenda, which is we are, you know, against people being forced to wear hijab as an example, but we will not speak up if equally women want to cover and they can't, there is ban.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] So it's very selective feminism, it's very selective empathy. And I think the point made earlier about needing to contextualise issues and recognise with these issues are not black and white, and this is where I think having diversity in newsrooms is so important because it provides that context, it provides those insights. But we also know those insights and that context is not welcomed necessarily, because, of course, this idea is that this concept of bias comes into play when it comes to media, where its assumed that the default non biased position is that of perhaps a white lens, that that comes with no bias, that's the assumption, that's the default starting point and we're seeing that play out at the moment with journalists speaking up about the coverage of what is happening in Israel and Gaza. We have seen this play out, and I'm just providing broader examples, we've seen this play out in the context of coverage in Australia of the referendum, where journalists of Indigenous backgrounds have been accused of advocacy and bias.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] We see these play out time and time again, be it the plebiscite, be it, you know, whatever the current issue of the day is, there's this assumption that the diversity that one brings to journalism is advocacy, or that its bias, not that it provides deep-reach insights. So I think that is something important to discuss and unpack further. And I do think that while we continue to look at these issues from that lens, it continues to be a problem when we don't get the richness of the perspectives that these issues that is so, you know, live issues with deep complexities that we you know, we really do need to lean into journalists in newsrooms that have those deep insights from those impacted communities and can present this to public in a way that actually helps shift the dial.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, 100% and going to that diversity question, people with lived-experiences or people who bring an insight into these issues, that is actually something that should be valued. And I think we saw, you need to, a lot of that coverage around these experiences in, you know, sexual harassment in politics. And issues around pay parity like, journalists were attacked as being somehow biased in bringing to the fore issues in our own newsrooms. So there's that really ,that tension of like, well, newsrooms are also guilty of the inequalities that they're actually trying to expose. So it's a really tricky area. Now, Amao, going to you, Mariam talked a lot about like this emphasis on women's appearance and sexualisation and how that's kind of weaponised against them. And it's quite anti-feminist, but it seems to be this real, this real kind of obsession. And I guess going to you, what is something that you, what are issues that you dislike around reporting of trans women and trans issues in the media? What are some of the things that you've thought, that's actually quite wrong, or I'm really, that's quite harmful?
[Amao Leota Lu] When reporters emphasise the gender like emphasise she’s trans, when at the end of the day, ‘she’ is fine with a lot of my community members or ‘he’ is fine with a lot of my community members. There seems to be this constant thing about just being, just using the word trans. It kind of amplifies us in a negative way. When people see that word reported in, you know, some such publications as was mentioned before. Some of those publications, you know, continue to this day to keep referring to some of my community members, as what they were born, what they were originally born as, or deadnamed us. Deadnaming refers to calling somebody as their former birth or sex name, which they choose not to be named at this present situation. So such things as those cause quite a bit of harm, it only encourages people to have a go at us. You know, you're speaking about someone's former gender, you're speaking about someone's name, which they choose not to, and that's quite harmful. I think of the mental health of trans woman, period. Or the trans community, period.
[Amao Leota Lu] You know, we still have laws and regulations and policies that don't protect us in the working environment or just in the general environment. You know, we have states that have different law systems pertaining to people who identify, you know, you know, we have a law here in New South Wales that challenges, can be quite challenging for my trans community, whereas in Melbourne they have quite a few laws there that do protect us. So, things like that, and you know, when we look at Australia, why, what is the view of Australia as a community is probably still seen negatively and that doesn't, you know, that doesn't favour our issues to be addressed the way that they should be. But looking at, you know, like just the gender in itself, you know, the more visibility we ask for, it’s like a double-edged sword. So, working on those things like policies or regulations that will protect us, state wide but also in organisational spaces that like to see it, you know, come within, you know, publications as well that when they did reporting.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah and Amao, you mentioned earlier, something about there was the reporting of a murder in Queensland of a woman and the way that she was depicted was, was quite horrific. Can you tell us a bit about this case and how it was reported and why it was harmful?
[Amao Leota Lu] Yes, it was a good friend of mine, Maya Presario, it happened about six, eight years ago and the way that story was reported from certain publications, but also TV media was horrific. The focus was on her being the trans person and they named her in a derogatory term using the word ‘tranny’ and just they made her, they make her out as this monster. But, you know, in reality, it was her partner that caused the death. The fact that she was murdered the way she was murdered, the way that there was nothing there that protected her. And the fact that they chose to highlight that she was trans. They wrote it as trans and referred to her as quote unquote like ‘tranny monster’. You know, that is so offensive on so many levels. When my community see that kind of reporting, why would we want to come forward with our issues or why would we want to be... So things like that, getting that reporting corrected and having some kind of procedure that they have when reporting that will safeguard us trans woman especially.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, thank you so much. And I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. And I hope these kinds of workshops help ensure those things don't happen ever again. So humanity and safety are the two common things I'm hearing from you panelists here. So I’ll take this question now to Dr. Usha. From your research, how do we change the narrative to ensure strength-based reporting fact that emphasises humanity and safety?
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] So I guess first thing first, why? Why do we need the media? I mean, it's an obvious question, but the media plays a significant role in not only raising the awareness but also factualising violence against women. When things get reported, people know. And then there's made focus on that issue. The framing of that violence and the presentation of the violence is also important. And all of that feeds then into the kind of services that are available to women victim survivors, and as well as changing people's attitudes. Now, even in 2023, we are talking about people's attitude because survey after survey, all the things have improved, attitudes have improved. But still there are people out there who believe that domestic violence is equally committed by men and women. Who believe that a quarter of the correspondence in this annual survey said that a woman who does not leave an abusive partner is partly responsible for the abuse to continue.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] That means there is a total lack of understanding of why women do not leave violent relationships. There could be a number of reasons, and that's where intersectional factors come into play as well. And there are psychological factors in all those things. So our statistics actually says that 95% of all victims of violence, whether it's men, or women, experienced violence from a male perpetrator. So let's just stop pretending that, you know, we are making this a gendered issue. It is a gendered issue. That's it. So there are many such misconceptions. And this is where we think that the media can play a role. Now, media here means the traditional media, the mainstream media, community media and also social media for that matter. We've already seeing the power of #MeToo movement on social media.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] So to improve the reporting of violence against diverse women, we actually need more reporters from diverse backgrounds. We’ve already talked about that. We need journalists to get trauma training, which is because when they are reporting violence, they also need to be able to, I guess, absorb and present it in such a way. And they need training to offer dignity to victim survivors. So the way they present victim survivors in these stories. Journalists, have, in an episodic way, in the few reports that we found, have started questioning some of the legal restrictions within which they work and how they cannot report many things. And that is a good thing because there is a dialog, there is an awareness. Let's change some of the settings where the government needs to play a role.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to give an example of one of the media organisations taking this issue on in New Zealand. So just to very briefly mention that I, and Andrea Baker, we edited a book last year on sexual violence, reporting of sexual violence in the media, especially in reference to the #MeToo movement. And we had about ten different case studies in it, and one of them was from New Zealand. And in the book what we actually advocate is what's called campaign style of journalism, which is and you, Mariam, refer to the advocacy part of it and how people blame journalists. Some of the journalists from diverse background taking the stand. Well, media is about social change. Media is not just about reporting things in a neutral way, he said/she said. Media is about also changing some of the social ills that we have to raise that awareness and to make the change. Which means we are not saying that media should go about and become totally biased in the way they report, their reporting in that sense still needs to be objective.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] But we need to highlight more stories of violence against women so that people are aware that what is the extent of the violence that is happening at home and outside homes. So in this case in New Zealand, there is an online news organisation called Stuff. It has the largest online readership. They launched a campaign to report on the cases of violence against women, but encouraging victim survivors to tell their stories, similar to the one how people were doing when the hashtag movement took off. And this meant they had to hire more journalists because there are so many people coming forward. They provided these victim survivors safe spaces to tell their stories, which meant even if they were anonymous, they took legal advice to make sure that they were not naming anyone. I know everything was done safely, but many more such stories were published during that campaign period. And as a result, more people read these stories and more journalists got the training and expertise they needed to report this, and they built contacts in various communities. So we need some something like that kind of solution focused journalism where we go, okay, a media organisation, a couple of media organisations in the country can take this up and say that like, okay, let's do something about this.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, and that was interesting, I think that you had mentioned this before, that those stories were first person stories, women's accounts. So that was quite drastically different than the authorial voice. So, can you tell us about the nature of these stories that were used in this campaign?
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] Yeah. So basically it was the victim survivors coming forward and saying that, okay, yes, I was, I had, I was a victim of domestic violence for such a long time. And I never said anything to anyone because I didn't know where to go. And then there were other stories of sexual harassment, there were other stories of sexual violence. And you already know I come from the university sector and we already know there is a quite a bit of pressure now coming on the government to do something about getting universities to take note of how many sexual assaults happen on university campuses. So we're not saying the universities are responsible, but something needs to change.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah. Thank you so much for that, Dr. Usha, because you know, I guess everyone in this panel are people who are coming from, how can we be better? They are actually committed to this issue and they want to change our newsrooms. So obviously, everyone in this panel are on the side of doing more. So I really appreciate those solutions and looking at ways in which places have done good work. And what I'm hearing is more culturally diverse reporters, greater dignity in reporting, maybe being creative, you know, thinking about first-person accounts, using multimedia, trying things that are maybe outside of the box. And from Mariam I’m also hearing this idea of like interrogating what does violence or bias mean? What is the role of journalism? Is it, you know, to take power to account, to interrogate. So, I mean, I think I read something somewhere about, you know, I think the journalism objectivity should be really in the method and in your methodology, the objectivity needs to come in there. But once you use that method in terms of interrogating the evidence, the outcomes should be, you should use all of that evidence, and treat it with objectivity. But the results of that evidence actually use your, interrogate that, you know. And so I think that that's actually all really good points that you’ve all made. So, Mariam, I'm going to you I guess what do you want to see change in terms of the reporting of violence against women in your community? What are the things that you wish could be done better or could be framed differently?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] Yeah, I think just more nuanced coverage that speaks to and sometimes this is hard in the news cycle. And I think the broader issue here is about why it's not happening. Like, I think we can get suggestions and advice as to what to do better or how to improve things, but I think it's worth noting as to why it's so hard to shift the dial on this. And part of that reason is that we're in a 24-hour news cycle, and like it or not, media outlets, depending on who you work for, do have particular slants on certain issues. And so to me, this is a systemic issue. It's not one or two journalists that can potentially fix this and provide more nuanced coverage. It's very much a broad systemic issue, which is why the work we do at Media Diversity Australia is industry wide. It's about speaking to the industry, taking them on a journey around all of these issues.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] But I think in terms of, you know, I think this might be stating the obvious, but let's not paint individuals or groups as caricatures. Provide nuanced coverage. And I've often said throughout the years of media commentary that I’ve done, don't just call me up because there's been a, and this is quite literally, don’t just contact me to provide commentary because there’s been a terrorist attack somewhere. I have a skill set outside of being an Australian Muslim woman. I've also got a skill set outside of being an Afghan Australians, so don't just call me, when the Taliban has taken over. And I think it's about humanising and normalising difference, if I can put it that way. And saying, if you call upon Jane Smith to provide you commentary about interest rates and Jane Smith happens to be qualified to provide that, well, it actually is useful to know that, you know, it's not just Jane that is impacted by interest rate rises. That's something you can speak to other people. I think it's just normalising difference as well.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] And I think the other issue is, something that comes into play is this, I was trying to mention it earlier and kept forgetting the word, but racial objectivity and bias is what I was trying to say, that’s, I think, really important. One of the things that also comes into play is this, we've heard about this idea of both sideism, that you have to cover both sides. And I think there's that wonderful saying about if one expert's telling you it's raining and other experts telling you it's not raining, your job is not just to report on both. You know, your job is to actually open the window and check if it is raining, assuming you have access. You know so I think that in order to do that, it does require more nuanced, you know, insights into impacted communities, understanding what is actually impacting, what are some of the challenges holding them back from maybe wanting to speak to media? Another really practical thing is that given the 24-hour news cycle, journalists quickly want to find case studies, right? And they're up against the clock. They've got a lot of pressure on them. They need to get certain things out there. And when they're trying to find case studies, it's hard for impacted communities to trust certain segments of the media.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] If that trust is not there, you're unlikely to get someone to come on camera or, you know, put their name to providing you a case study because you've not invested in developing those relationships with those impacted communities. It doesn't happen overnight. You know, there is a lot of complexities there. So it is about recognising that you need to put in the work, develop those relationships with impacted communities, try to understand them in a nuanced way. And that's not going to happen, at quarter to five, when you're calling people going can you do X, Y, Z by this time? So it does require having these conversations beforehand, nurturing those relationships and developing trust and then, you know, seeking to provide nuanced coverage.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, I mean, there's some great takeaways there, you know, from Usha, A: not making these issues just an individual sporadic case, it's part of a pattern. So let's give it context. And Mariam, talking about building trust. So if you want to engage with, historically, communities who have felt deeply unfair and mistrustful of institutions, be a safe person, and that means putting in the work, you know, putting in the trust, putting in the hours before those things happen. Why do you deserve that story. And so I think that's really key to, in terms of just the specific nuanced things that you can start doing right now and build those relationships, listen and be someone that people think, okay, yeah, that person is someone who is going to treat me fairly, and I think I can feel safe in telling them my story. So Amao, going to you, what are things that you wish to see change, in terms of reporting around trans women, because we've seen some really harmful debates around trans women, and they're framed as these theoretical debates, that happened with Muslim women to, that like there's this idea that these debates are like intellectual exercises, but they’re quite harmful, because it's almost like you have to prove that you’re worthy or that your identity is real. These are things that are like quite, quite harmful, but they're framed as debates in the media. I mean, are there things that you see that really need to change when it comes to how we talk about and report on issues relating to your community?
[Amao Leota Lu] Similarities to the last speaker, the nuances, especially for trans woman as well. It would be so much that we're up against and you know, it'd be nice to have some positivity or positive stories for us. A lot of it is quite negative. If it's nothing to do with someone’s death and some legal stuff, a lot of the stuff that's reported on trans women is quite negative. And so I'd like to see some fair reporting in terms of having an equal balance in the reporting for reporters to thoroughly do proper research. You know, we've had a story from a TV network the other day regarding de-transitioning to do with trans children. And it was horrific. So, you know, reporters to definitely do their research, go to community and build a relationship with our trans woman, especially colour community. They rely on certain individuals and generally they don't speak with trans women of culture. There’s no cultural element. A lot of us are, you know, a challenge with our own cultural backgrounds, maybe religion wise. So taking those things into account and showing a lot more sensitivity. Like I said, we are human beings and we just want to be treated like everybody, have the same rights as everybody. But I'd like to see a bit more, you know, nuance in terms of having a bit more balance. There’s much negativity that's out there regarding trans in the media. It would be nice to just back off or allow for us to thrive like everybody else. Allow for us to have some peace, or a bit of grace, you know? Yeah, I'd just like to see a bit more fair reporting. And with regards to that reporting to really thoroughly check the information and really look at the experiences of trans people. You know, the way that what is being reported in the past, you know, that's something I feel they can learn from. But yeah, I'd just like to see a bit more thorough reporting and fact checking and trying to build a relationship with our community in terms of the way they go about reporting.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, I mean, I think it's just like being there in the good times and the bad, just like with a friend, you know, you don't deserve, you know, you have to be there through all of those things. And yeah, I think that's a great takeaway that reporting on violence against women is not just about the intense and distressing stories. It's also about the celebration. You know, it's a celebration of the successes, it's the stories of resilience and of strength and overcoming, they are as much stories that support, you know, preventing violence against women as the reporting on the actual violence. So that's actually a really, really great point.
[Sarah Malik] Thank you for bringing that to our attention. But we don't have that much time left. But I do want to make sure the participants get a say as well. So if you have a question, please drop it in our chat box because I think our participants would love to engage with you. So I'm just having one eye on that. So please feel free to drop your question in there. I do have one other question for you, Mariam, because I think you touched on this earlier and I think it would be remiss of us not to touch on this issue because it's such a global issue right now, what's happening in Gaza, what's happening in our news cycle, journalists feeling besieged and, you know, this idea of like the state violence is very similar to family violence, like they kind of operate in similar ways. And, you know, you see this idea of like coercive control where there's like not only physical violence against a group, but, you know, controlling their movements. This idea of DARVO, which we’ve heard of, which is like defend, attack, and reverse victim and offender, and gaslighting, you know, like denying someone's experience. So you arrived as a refugee from Afghanistan as a young girl, in a country not only governed by the brutal Taliban, which ruthlessly repressed women's rights, but also was occupied by various foreign forces who claimed to save Afghan women. Could you speak about the impact of, I guess, war and conflict as an intersectionality?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] Yeah, thanks Sarah, I remember going on Q&A and speaking to this very issue of the backward Taliban 2.0 returning to Afghanistan and bringing up the issue of women and children and mentioning it was very much the guise under which, you know, the Western world went to war. Not once, but a multitude of times throughout history. And that the care factor of women and children in Afghanistan at that point when I was speaking about it just seemed non-existent. It seemed that the politics very much unwrote that. So yeah, there's a lot to say, I think, on this issue. But I do think, you know, you talked about gaslighting and we've talked about media framing. I think all of this absolutely comes into play. I think this idea, you know, I mean, I know this very vividly. At Media Diversity Australia, we know that the power that Australian media hold, particularly legacy media, but also digital media that have substantial reach, the language that they use, the framing that they use, the words that they choose to omit, the perspectives that they choose to include.
[Mariam Veiszadeh] And by extension whose voices are therefore excluded. It absolutely plays a role in the public's perception of an issue. You know, I think no, no single community has a monopoly when it comes to domestic and family violence. And yet, depending on who's telling the story, who's framing the story, whose perspectives are put forward, how it can be portrayed in mainstream media can have huge, broader implications. And having sat on the board of Our Watch many years ago, I'm very familiar intimately with the incredible work that they're doing to actually help shift the dial on this and working directly in this webinar as an example, but also working directly with journalists through Fellowship programs and other things that they do is so important and I think has had a very obvious impact to the rhetoric that we are seeing and the way that journalists and media are now starting to frame these issues and have more nuanced coverage. But this is ongoing. It needs to continue and I think there’s some great learnings from this space for other spaces as well.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah. I mean, what upset you most about the way in which Afghan women were framed in those conversations that you had to take part in?
[Mariam Veiszadeh] I think just being viewed through a deficit lens, this idea that they absolutely lacked agency. And as I said, there’s synergies across other diverse minority groups and how they are framed. But it's just the lack of agency that if they made a particular choice, pitying them for that. And I think that's been largely the lens that has applied to so many issues where there is this superiority that the West knows better, that we can do things better and just, you know, so I think that's the framing that has always been problematic. I know that it's something I've tackled myself in trying to provide, humanise myself. You know, having done lots of media commentary for many, many years, I found that the way that I could bypass traditional media was to go on the socials and provide perspectives there, because it's not edited. I was able to reach masses directly, and I've spoken about how that's been a very empowering process for me. But of course, not everybody has that luxury or that privilege, being able to provide their perspective.
[Sarah Malik] Yeah, and you know, that deficit lens and that white saviourism, it’s something that people are not even aware of, you know, that unconscious bias. So going back to balance, we’ve got a question from the chat, which is great question and Usha maybe you could speak to it. Does this kind of interrogation of balance need to start at universities? Like is there something wrong with the way we're teaching journalism like that? You know, it's this kind of rigid, both sideism that is not taking into account power disparities, it’s not taking into account, you know, the social change that journalism has always historically been a part of. What do you think needs to change in terms of how we teach these concepts of balance straight out of journalism school?
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] Well, I have actually taught at four different universities in Australia.
[Sarah Malik] Perfect person [laughs]
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] And I can tell you that that is actually not true. We do try and teach journalism the way it needs to practiced. However, we also take note of the fact that what kind of commercial market that is out there, you know what is the limits of the media industry that we have in Australia? At the end of the day, there is a little bit, well not a little bit, quite a bit of concentration of ownership of the media. And then the other side you also have media newsrooms headed by generally men, white men. And so a lot of decision making in the media is not with individual journalists. So what happens is, when our students go into the newsrooms where they need a job and they get a job, but then they have to unlearn all of the good things that we teach them about ethics, about being fair, about being balanced. Yes. Perhaps we could talk a bit more. We could teach a bit more around social change and advocacy and make our journalism students, I guess, more enterprising and also believing that they can make a change. Because I also come from India, so it’s a different country where the reputation of journalism used to be totally different. I'm not talking about today, but it used to be totally different where people respected journalists because journalists believed that they were agents of change. Yeah. When they were, 20 or 30 years ago. So I don't think I see that in the Australian universities or in the Australian media where they actually believe that yes, they can actually make a change with their reporting. With the way they frame things, they have power, but the issue we have is that our young journalists, they go into the newsroom and they have to adapt.
[Dr. Usha Manchanda Rodriguez] And the second point I wanted to make about diversity was that just having one or two reporters in the newsroom who are from diverse backgrounds is not going to change anything. You actually need a critical mass in the newsroom, that is people from different backgrounds, enough number of journalists from different backgrounds, enough number of bosses, executive producers, editors of different backgrounds to actually shift the dial. So that makes the media is powerful even today when it's all dispersed between traditional and social. But we do need the power to shift from certain people's hands.
[Sarah Malik] Yes, I think that's hundred percent right. And that's a great point to Tom's question, is that sometimes the education is great in the universities, but the practical realities of being a leading journalist, dealing with your bosses, dealing with corporate agenda, dealing with pressures that you get and that might be when universities step in and actually teach students less of the beautiful theory. But maybe they need to equip students on what do you do if your boss tells you to do X, Y, Z? It's uncomfortable for you and you actually, how do you navigate that as a junior journalist with not very much power. So thank you for that. That's a beautiful ending, I think. So, it's 1:30. We had one more question about a white woman. How can I be the best ally to Muslim women and CALD communities. I think being here is really the answer and listening. So I appreciate all of you being here.
[Sarah Malik] Before we go, I ask you to take out your phones and scan this QR code. Please do a sixty second survey on how you enjoyed the session so we can keep doing more. Our digital moderator Jess will drop the link into the chat. It's entirely voluntary, but we really appreciate your feedback just to see the effectiveness of the content. And Jess will also drop some information about the data collection in the chat. Thank you so much to our panelists. You were brilliant. Thank you to Jess, our digital moderator and for Our Watch for hosting this event. And just a reminder that we have our support line available if you need to reach out and if you want to continue the conversation, please follow Our Watch on Instagram or Twitter. Thank you so much for being with us today.
Balancing the pursuit of a compelling story with the safety of those involved can be challenging. In an era where media plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion, it’s imperative that journalists embrace their responsibility to report with sensitivity, accuracy, and a commitment to diversity.
Led by Sarah Malik, a Walkley-award winning Australian investigative journalist, author, television presenter, and Our Watch Fellow, panellists will discuss the power of strength-based reporting and provide journalists with practical strategies to enhance their reporting and ensure the safety of those they cover.
Don’t miss this opportunity to transform your journalistic approach and respectfully amplify diverse voices.