Elizabeth Wright Welcome everyone to the Our Watch webinar on deepening reporting practice to prevent violence against girls and women with disabilities. I'm your host today Elizabeth Wright. I have had the honour of being the ABC's National Disability Affairs Reporter over the past year, and I'm a white woman with brown hair and brown eyes. I am limb different, and I'm missing half my right arm and half my right leg, and I wear a prosthetic leg and I'm wearing a green top today.
Elizabeth Wright I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which I speak to you today, the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, as well as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which you are all coming from today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Elizabeth Wright I would like to acknowledge any victim-survivors that are here today and also acknowledge the power and importance of lived experience in the prevention of family and sexual violence and how victim-survivor advocates are using their lived expertise and voice to take back their power, rights and bring powerful change to Australia. Today, we will be discussing violence against women.
Elizabeth Wright We acknowledge that the content discussed today may be emotionally challenging for you. If you need to reach out, here are some numbers for support and they will be put into the chat box as well. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
Elizabeth Wright You can also contact 1800RESPECT via the National Relay Service. Contact the relevant number listed within the chat box and ask for 1800 737 732. For speak and listen, dial 1300 555 727. For TTY dial 133 677. For an SMS relay number, dial 0423 677 767. Alternatively, you can use webchat which is available 24 hours a day at www.chat.1800respect.org.au.
Elizabeth Wright We will place these support details again in the chat box for you to access. You can also contact Sunny, which is 1800RESPECT‚Äôs app for women with disability who have experienced violence and abuse. The National Counselling and Referral Service run by Blue Knot Foundation supports people with disability who have experienced abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation. You can contact them on 1800 421 468.
Elizabeth Wright QLife provides support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and you can contact them on 1800 184 527. And if you are a man concerned about your behaviour, please reach out to the Men's Referral Service. I would like to now officially welcome you again to this webinar that is taking a deep dive into the reporting practices around violence and sexual assault of girls and women with disabilities.
Elizabeth Wright Today, we want to challenge the acceptance of the normalisation of violence against girls and women with disability, address the underlying social context and look at how we can improve the narratives and attitudes towards the 17% of girls and women with disabilities who live in Australia to improve their safety in society. I'm sure many of you are aware that the Disability Royal Commission has recently held its last hearing.
Elizabeth Wright In fact, it was less than two weeks ago that they had their last hearing. And what I found interesting during that hearing was the chair Ronald Sackville spoke about his disappointment in the media around the lack of coverage the Commission received. In case of today's webinar, this speaks to the poor reporting of or even lack of coverage of violence and sexual assault experienced by disabled women and girls.
Elizabeth Wright This needs to improve. We need to redefine the way that we report on these issues. Today, we will hear from lived experienced experts to explore how journalists and media organisations can do better on their reporting on this issue. I'm going to introduce you to our panellists now.
Elizabeth Wright First, we have Kristy Hill. Her pronouns are she/her. Kristy is a lived experience disability advocate and public speaker who works with the lived experienced Resound group at Brisbane Domestic Violence Service to raise awareness about the lived experience of people who are constructed as having intellectual learning and cognitive disabilities.
Elizabeth Wright Next, we have Kat Reed whose pronouns are they/them. Kat is an intersectionality advocate and the current CEO of Women with Disabilities ACT, and a board director of Women with Disabilities Australia and the Youth Coalition of the ACT. Kat has been a local queer and disability advocate in the ACT for the last ten years. And finally we have Tess Moodie, whose pronouns are they/them. Tess is a proud, queer, non-binary First Nations person who is currently the National Program Coordinator for the Experience into Expertise program at Illawarra Women's Trauma Recovery Centre and also the Youth Engagement Lead at Laurel House Sexual Assault Services.
Elizabeth Wright They are also a Victim-Survivor Expert Advisor for Safe and Equal, which is Victoria's peak family violence organisation. You will all have time at the end of the, well, not all of you. We will have time, sorry, at the end of the presentation for questions. So if you do have any questions throughout the webinar, please type them into the chat, the chat box and indicate who the question is for and we will try our hardest to get to as many of your questions as possible.
Elizabeth Wright So, thank you so much for attending the webinar and I really hope that you will learn a lot over the next 20 to 30 minutes or so from our wonderful panelists who I know will generously share their expertise with you. So, let's start off with our first question, which is to give the panellists themselves an opportunity to introduce themselves to you a little bit further than how I introduce them.
Elizabeth Wright So, I'm going to throw to Kristy first and for a minute or two, Kristy, can you just tell us a little bit about your story and why you are here today on this panel?
Kristy Hill Pretty much, I am Kristy and I have been through domestic violence when I was young kid and I have been through a lot and now I want to get it out there, get the words out there to stop this violence from happening to anyone.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you, Kristy, for sharing. I’ll throw it over to Kat now. Would you be able to tell us a little bit more about yourself and the reason why you are here on the panel today?
Kat Reed Thanks, Liz. Absolutely. So, my name is Kat. I am a mixed-race person of colour. I have brown hair, brown eyes, and I am wearing an olive green shirt and a checked jacket today. So, as you said in my introduction, I am the CEO of Women with Disabilities ACT, and I have been for the last three years. So, our organisation is a disabled persons organisation, which means we are owned and run by women, girls and non-binary people with disabilities, and we represent them here in the ACT. So for us, the biggest issue affecting women with disabilities is violence, and it is incredibly heartbreaking how many of our members and our community have experienced violence in some form. We've existed for nearly 30 years, and we've been advocating for the elimination of violence against women with disabilities for that entire time. So, being here on the panel today is a great honour of mine, and I'm very keen and excited to talk about the issue.
Kat Reed On a personal level, I have been an activist for a range of different issues. I've been in the queer space. I've done a bit of anti-racism work as well. I identify as neurodivergent and I'm also a survivor of violence. But for me I did not connect the two as being connected and interrelated until I actually started working in the disability space. So yeah, I think I'll leave it there, but that's a bit about me. Thank you.
Elizabeth Wright Thanks, Kat. I'll throw it over to you now, Tess, if you can just introduce yourself a little bit further and tell us why you're here on the panel today.
Tess Moodie Thanks, Liz. Hi, everyone. I’m Tess, my pronouns are they/them. Today I am wearing a black jacket with some gold snake earrings, and I’ve got long black hair with a black cut fringe like Wednesday Addams and I wearing glasses that have a clear frame. And I've got, I think, purple lipstick on. I'd just like to acknowledge that I'm on the lands of the Palawa people of Lutruwita, also known as Tasmania today, and also acknowledge other victim/survivors that are in the room with us. Like Liz said in the introduction, I'm a victim/survivor of multiple forms of domestic, family and sexual violence across my life span from childhood and beyond.
Tess Moodie I'm also a proud Palawa person. I'm also queer and I have multiple forms of disability, including neurodivergence. And I'm also a carer of multiple family members with disability. I've worked for almost a decade using my own lived experience or platforming others with lived experience to bring change, mostly through the use of media, media advocacy, public speaking, or systemic advocacy.
Tess Moodie And I'm really passionate about ensuring that the voices of more marginalised people have a seat at the table, including people with disability, people from low socio-economic backgrounds where I grew up, criminalised women, children and young people and sex workers. I'm here today because I see the media as a really powerful way to platform voices of victim/survivors, but also at the deeper level...
Tess Moodie From my experience, I've seen how media can raise really great awareness about domestic, family and sexual violence, but be used on that deeper level, in advocacy for bringing change. So, yeah, that's why I'm here. My sausage dog‚ who’s on the floor here next to me, so if there's a random bark or something that's what it is, I’ll just keep the heads up that my little support person is there.
Elizabeth Wright Thanks, Tess. I think that's great. I love support dogs. I think they're just wonderful, I know a few of them. I'm going to move on to our first official question, I guess you might say, to start to move the discussion ahead. We know that violence against girls and women with disabilities is an ongoing issue that is often impacted by either a lack of reporting on in the media or a misrepresentation of the narrative.
Elizabeth Wright I'm going to throw this to Kat to begin this discussion, but my question to you, Kat, is what is the responsibility of journalists and media in general to report on these experiences and sorry, excuse me, in writing this question, my thinking was about the coverage or lack of coverage of the Disability Royal Commission and how disappointing that really was for the commissioners as well as the broader disability community.
Kat Reed Absolutely. Thank you for this question. I think it's a really fantastic question. And look, I think as advocates, we rely on media and we rely on reporting and we partner with reporters to get the issues out there and to speak about the issues. And I think what was incredibly disappointing was with the Disability Royal Commission, the lack of coverage compared to other royal commissions was really quite disappointing for us because, you know, we've worked in the disability space for a long time.
Kat Reed We know about these issues, but I'm frequently coming across people every day in in our sector even who aren't aware of how prevalent and how common it is for a lot of people with disabilities to experience violence. And the lack of awareness leads to the situation where, you know, if people aren't aware, they don't know what the signs are, they don't know what to look out for.
Kat Reed And it means that a lot of people are falling through the cracks when it's other people... if bystanders had been aware, if people had been aware of the signs, they perhaps could have stepped in. So, look, I think it's incredibly important for media to actually talk about the issues, show the issues and also represent it in a respectful and authentic way as well.
Kat Reed You know, attitudes are changed by narratives. And I think it's incredibly important for reporters to know how they're framing an issue and understand how framing can really either lean into current negative stereotypes or start to actually move people away from them as well. So, you know, I mean, I think this issue is so important.
Kat Reed We have currently two in five women with disabilities have experienced violence of some kind in comparison to women without disabilities, which is incredibly high. Two in five. And yeah, like I said, it's the responsibility of the entire community, but especially on reporters to report, you know, to get the word out there.
Tess Moodie I just also want to say how I agree about the lack of coverage with the Disability Royal Commission. As the Disability Royal Commission was unfolding, there was a whole week down in Lutruwita in Hobart, where there was a hearing for women and girls with disability. And I was working for a disability persons organisation at that time supporting people who gave evidence at that hearing.
Tess Moodie So, I was there across the whole week and I really watched the media across that whole week and I can almost count on one hand the amount of articles that I saw that covered that week. So that was something that I was really disappointed in. It was like, you know, historical moment where we had the Disability Royal Commission.
Tess Moodie There was a whole week there dedicated for women and girls and non-binary people with disability, and the coverage was so minimal, it was such a missed opportunity that was there. I also, on the back of Kat's comments, I would like to just talk a little bit about the misrepresentation of the narrative for women and girls with disability. And like Kat said, how the story is framed is so important.
Tess Moodie The media play this really powerful role in that they are the go-between between people's life experiences and how the community hears about those experiences. So, media sits in this really important position of, I guess, getting that right. So those stories are communicated in a way that centre victim/survivors, but also report on them in a non-ableist way as well.
Tess Moodie So, I guess, you know, it's so important that media don't misrepresent by reinforcing stereotypes about women and girls with disability. Things like that they are vulnerable or infantilising them into helpless beings that don't even have relationships or have sex or enjoy sex. I think it's also important for the media when representing women and girls withdisability is to make sure they have the actual voices of people with disability, not just interviewing someone that's talking about them.
Tess Moodie So, a parent or a carer or a guardian. Just make sure that you're always centring that actual person with disability. The other thing that's really interesting for women and girls with disability is there can be that public perception that justice for women and girls with disability that experience violence, justice looks like reporting to police, going through the court system, getting a conviction and media reports heavily on court processes and outcomes.
Tess Moodie But it's important to, I think, to consider and talk about how justice isn't always the court process, and justice can look different for women with disabilities and capture those stories in there, we don't see a lot reported on that outside of the court system. I think the other thing to think about is, aside from the words or the narrative that you're using, is the pictures that you're using.
Tess Moodie The photos. Classically we’ll see in articles about women and girls with disability, a wheelchair, or a person in a wheelchair and, you know, stock standard images that are used. And we need to also consider that that's not the only form of disability. Some disabilities are invisible as well. And one last thing I would add is really put some thought into covering that we are an intersectional bunch.
Tess Moodie Like it's not just disability. We can be queer, we can be First Nations, we can be culturally and linguistically diverse and give more coverage to that diversity of who we are within our experience of disability or violence as well.
Elizabeth Wright Thanks, Tess, for sharing your thoughts. We might have a few more questions off the back of what you’ve just said to come to, but I’m now going to throw to Kristy. Kristy, would you be able to share with us your thoughts about the responsibility of journalists in reporting about domestic violence?
Kristy Hill Yes, pretty much lack of support for us. Like, we go through so much and they don’t believe us. Like, you can’t go in a courtroom or go to a police station and say we’ve been sexually abused because they don’t believe us. They always think people with disability are the problems. But we are not the problem, we don't lie about… we tell the truth and it's so bad and we don't know half the time where to get help. And nobody used to help us. We always get pushed away, and it's not right. Something's got to change in the system. We need help.
Kristy Hill It's not always us. Yeah, we've got disability, but it's not because of that. We just got something extra special. We just want to be treated like anyone else and get believed and don't get pushed away anymore.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you for your answer there, Kristy. That’s very powerful. I completely agree. And I could see the other panelists nodding. It’s a very important thing, we need to be taken seriously and not be pushed away. I'm going to move on to our next question, which I'll throw to Tess to begin with. What are some of the good ways and some of the bad ways that we have seen these experiences reported on? And in that context, how can journos do better and extending on from that again, what should they avoid in reporting on violence against girls and women?
Tess Moodie Thanks, Liz. Something that I see in the media a bit is how women and girls with disability are positioned as “vulnerable”. Like, that language about, “we are vulnerable”. You know, that's why this happens to us, because we as a human are vulnerable due to our disability. But I very rarely see it positioned as “we are vulnerable because this is due to systemic obstacles that we have to education, housing, safety and justice, not just the very fact that we have a disability, that makes that happen for us”.
Tess Moodie So I think when constructing stories within media, it can be important to place that focus on that system and the gaps in the system and where that system is not being accessible or supportive to us, or being a system that's creating and condoning violence against us rather than just saying, it's just because they're a person with disability, you know, talking around how people with disability can be really stressful to care for.
Tess Moodie And that's why people, you know, use violence against them because of that pressure. So really centring that system that marginalises us instead of just saying it is us. Something, too, I think that's interesting to think about is that Kristy, you just briefly touched on this before, too, when you were saying, “believe us”. Absolutely. Reporting should never have any victim blaming undertones to that.
Tess Moodie It should always be centred that the perpetrator’s to blame, not us and to believe us as well. So, no victim blaming, no slut shaming, just keeps centring around where that responsibility lies and believing victims. And Kristy was absolutely right in saying that we can be brought into question because of our disability around, “do we even know what really happened to us if we have, you know, a cognitive disability?”
Tess Moodie So, yeah, not using the disability as an excuse to be doing victim blaming or slut shaming. I think something else that's interesting to think about is don't use inspiration porn. So, whilst it is absolutely vital that we have some feel good stories out there about us, you know, because we have strengths and there's positive stories about how we've navigated the world despite experiences of violence, but never position it as that inspiration porn or we’re courageous or brave just because we're doing ordinary things in the world where we’ve experienced violence or have disability.
Tess Moodie So, I think there's a fine line there between reporting the positive and going to the inspiration porn because you know, that makes everybody feel good. One last thing is that I think that journalists should be really conscious of providing context when reporting on “challenging behaviours” or “behaviours of concern”, because that again, makes the person with disability look like the problem, so where possible within the reporting include or investigate reasons for the behaviour.
Tess Moodie You know, pain, fear, confusion, being marginalised, not having the supports that they need. And I think this is really important when it's being used as a reason to use a restrictive practice or use violence against people with disability.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you, Tess, for your thoughts there. I'm going to throw the same question to Kristy. Are you able to share with us some of the good ways and bad ways that you've seen these experiences reported? And how do you think journalists can do better?
Kristy Hill Pretty much, to do better is believe us, be there for us. Don't judge us for who are because we've got disability. Help us. Don't make fun of us because you don't know what we go through. People with disability go through violence, it’s high. A lot. They go through 90% and that's a lot.
Kristy Hill And it's pretty much just be there for them. And just don't do anything like make rumours up or say, “I'm not going to help her, I'm not going to put that up. She's got disability, she's just crazy or she's not telling the truth”. It's not that. We do tell the truth. We wouldn’t make things up for that, so it’s more important if we can get help…
Kristy Hill with a lot of service and be there with us, just like we wouldn't judge you, people with not disability. You don't judge people by the book of the cover. You'll get to know us. You spend time with us. You know we can do things, but we're doing things in a different way. So yeah, just don’t push us away, we’re like anyone else, we’re all human, we‚re all people.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you, Kristy, you're absolutely right. We're all people. We're all full, whole human beings who deserve to be heard, 100%. Kat, I'm going to throw the question to you. Are there any good ways or bad ways you've seen these experiences reported? And how do you think journos can do better? And maybe what should they avoid when reporting on violence against girls and women?
Kat Reed Yeah, of course. Look, Tess, I think you stole a lot of my points. But look, I completely agree with a lot of what Tess has said, but I want to share an example of a time where I think it wasn't a time where I think it was reported badly necessarily, but when there was an opportunity for journalists in the room to call out someone else who'd been speaking about violence in a bad way.
Kat Reed And that opportunity just sailed past. So last year there was a Q&A session talking about violence against women, and I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a question specifically about women with disabilities. And the person who responded to the question called for urgent action to be taken to address violence against women with disabilities. But they said something that was very troubling to me, which was they said that women with disabilities can trigger violence in their partners.
Kat Reed And to me, this is, you know, going on what Tess said, this is coming from that place of victim blaming. It's that whole narrative that you hear about, you know, a person with disabilities being a burden. You know, it's so understandable that this person, you know, finally snapped, and ended up, you know, hurting this person because, oh, my gosh, it would have been so hard to be a carer for that person who has a disability in this strong, like deficit model type thinking.
Kat Reed And no one, you know, it completely went unchallenged. No one called it out. This was on Q&A, a public forum. A lot of people would have absorbed the message that women with disabilities deserve it or have invited the violence in some way, and that's just not true. So, I think that, you know, as well as, you know, the responsibility we all have to report it.
Kat Reed I think we also have a responsibility to call out people who have those negative attitudes or who have phrased something in a way that could be misunderstood by people. Yeah, and look, I think with the Disability Royal Commission and with some of the NDIS review things that are going right now, you know, a lot of the instances where people have experienced violence occurs in institutions and it occurs from support workers, from carers.
Kat Reed And I think framing and being aware of how we talk about that scenario and if we're victim blaming in that scenario, for example, how much the article talks about or focuses on the experience of the carer in that situation, who may have perpetrated the violence as opposed to the person who experienced the violence.
Kat Reed Yeah, we've heard that the “mercy killing” kind of thing that comes up sometimes with the idea that, you know, this person has suffered with their disability for so long, maybe it was good for them that this happened to them. Those kinds of things. It's really awful to say, but they can come across very subtly through the way that you've framed it.
Kat Reed The word to use, the pictures you use, music as well. You know, I think about if it's a video, what are the kinds of music that you're using in conjunction with the story, is it kind of a sad, sombre tone? Are we using, you know, stock photos? You know, there's the classic... I think everyone in the disability rolls their eyes when we see the classic dark, you know, grimly lit shadow of a person in a wheelchair at a window looking very sombre and sad, like things like that, like just being aware of, you know, what are the images you're drawing on?
Kat Reed How are you framing this? What are the subtle messages that you're saying with how you covered this and how much weight you've given to whose side of everything and being trauma-informed as well. A lot of people with disabilities have not just trauma from, you know, possibly experiencing violence, but also trauma from trying to access a system that is not built for us constantly.
Kat Reed So being aware that the way that we react and the way that we might feel, you know, we might feel very passionate about things or, you know, something that might seem very normal to someone without a disability is actually very triggering for us because we’ve spent our whole life trying to advocate for ourselves and not being listened to and not being heard. So having that trauma-informed lens I think is really important when it comes to reporting on these issues.
Elizabeth Wright Thanks, Kat, so much for your thoughts. All really great responses from all of the panelists there. Thank you very much. I'm now going to, I guess, move the panel on to looking a little bit more at a solutions-based approach for journalists out there.
Elizabeth Wright And a number of journalists might not understand how they can support survivors in telling their stories. I'm going to throw this to Kristy to begin with. What would you suggest journalists do to be able to support disabled women and girls who they are interviewing or doing a story on? And I guess, in terms of this question for you, Kristy, would be how would you feel supported in being able to tell your story?
Kristy Hill Pretty much for them to be there with us and be there for us, like don’t judge us, just help us and just talk to us and they’ll get to know us a lot more. So yeah, and that’s the only way they could help and believe us. Don’t just pretend you believe us either and then say an hour later, “oh we're not pulling that up because we don't believe her”. Spend time with us. You get to know us because every human’s different, everyone’s got different thinking and different saying and stuff. So just pretty much get to know us.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you, Kristy. I'm going to throw the question next to Tess. What would you say to the journalists out listening in the audience about how they can support survivors in telling their stories? What would you suggest they do?
Tess Moodie I fully support what Kristy said about just sitting there and getting to know us. Women and girls with disability, we are a diverse bunch. We're not just like copy and paste. So just to spending some time there just getting to know us before you start interviewing and landing some questions. And that is actually also great trauma-informed practice, building some trust and safety around those conversations to begin with before anything.
Tess Moodie Journalists should know, well journalists do know this, that victim/survivors have experienced profound trauma. And for us to tell our stories, we need compassion and empathy, but also then understanding that victim/survivors, we may have been silenced or ignored or not believed, like what Kristy said. And we still may be feeling like that even when we get to the media engagement stage.
Tess Moodie So, for some of us, you know, we can sense that there's a power difference between media and us when we go into that interview, sort of process there. So, it's important that when we're working with media that we don't feel like that's getting replicated because then that does not feel safe for us to interview. Also work with us around what do we need to feel safe?
Tess Moodie Where do we want to do the interview? Do we want to do that at our kitchen table, or do we prefer to sit in the park? What do we need accommodation-wise around disability? Do we want to remain anonymous? What photo do we want, and do we want a support person there with us as well? Also, just something that's really obvious, but I just feel the need to say it and that is that some women with disability won't feel safe talking to male journalists because of the nature of gender-based violence there.
Tess Moodie Also just meeting some of the deadlines that media needs for stories can be difficult. I know I've had calls where media has said, “we want to run this at 3:00 this afternoon. We need you to do this right now”. So just being aware that more lead time and providing questions beforehand can make that more accessible for us as well.
Tess Moodie Also, just making sure that a victim/survivor is not treated just like the story of the moment or the grab of the moment. We're humans. We will have emotions when you interview us. And those emotions don't just surface when we're being interviewed. They can also land after a piece goes live as well. So, give some consideration to checking in with the person that you've interviewed afterwards, just to see how they might be feeling after they've seen their story go live.
Tess Moodie Also, I think importantly is have a list of support services on hand. Just have a one-page document that you give to people with disability that you're interviewing as well. One last thing that I would just mention is just remember when addressing disability that First Nations people might use different terminology as well and therefore may not be familiar with the terms that you're using as a journalist, which you might need to just give some consideration there around language can be different also for culture and linguistically diverse people, or even people with different forms of disability, the way that they express or communicate there as well. Yeah, they’re top of my head, but first line, trauma-informed practice. Most journalists that I speak to I recommend to them if you haven’t done any training around that go and do some, just some generic trauma-informed practice training as well, yeah.
Elizabeth Wright Thanks Tess, for sharing those ideas. We’ve got a few more minutes for this part of the webinar. So, Kat, I'm going to throw to another question. Telling positive stories is also important. For example, stories about restorative justice, stories about or stories that centre the disabled girl and women's voices. Why do we have to ensure that positive stories do get told?
Kat Reed Well, we have to remember that people with disabilities are also engaging with media and reading these stories, too. And for us, being in the disability space, we see a lot of very heavy content, we see a lot of negative content, we see our stories being told and, you know, over and over. And for us it can be very overwhelming.
Kat Reed So, I think it's important to report and to talk about positives, to actually instil some hope and to show to people with disabilities that there are ways that you can access justice and you can recover from trauma. And, you know, I think as well, you know, many people with disabilities don't know that that's possible for us, and especially if we've been stuck in this system of advocating for ourselves, not being believed, not being heard, seeing a story where we can see that someone has been heard and they have been able to access justice, that felt right and good and restorative for them is so important for us to all feel like we…
Kat Reed have a sense of control and empowerment over our own, you know, autonomy and what happens to our story and what happens with our life following trauma. So, you know, I think it's incredibly important for us to report on those positive stories and to keep in mind, you know, if you've had lots of stories recently about, you know, some very traumatic, heavy things, what are some really uplifting things we can talk about? But talk about it in an authentic way.
Kat Reed I think we want to avoid inspiration porn type of content where we're showcasing someone and saying, “isn't it incredible what they've been able to achieve considering their disability?” We want to say something genuine and authentic. So, I think content by people with disabilities or people with disabilities would probably be the gold standard of that. But yeah, just being aware that people with disabilities are people too.
Kat Reed We engage with the media, we want to see positive stories as well and we want to see, you know, stories that inspire and uplift us to see what we can do to recover from trauma and have some more autonomy and empowerment in our lives.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you, Kat, so much. I am going to move on now to the Q&A section of the webinar because we’ve had some really interesting questions come through from the audience. So, I might start off by throwing this first one to Tess to
Elizabeth Wright Should reporters include trigger warnings at the start of their article, or could this actually trigger readers and/or victim/survivors more?
Tess Moodie I absolutely believe that the content warning should be at the beginning of the articles for a couple of reasons. One is that other people who've had an experience of violence, it then flags to them, there's going to be some content that could be distressing ahead. So, you choose if you want to read on or not. Also, I think too, it's just, well, that's trauma-informed practice, having the content warning there, people can continue to read as well.
Tess Moodie But also, I think having a content warning there also just acknowledges to everyone in general that this is something that could be distressing. And I think sometimes like with content warnings, it's not as deep as what it should be. So, a content warning can just say, “Content warning. This article may discuss experiences of violence”, but then it fails to name other specific triggering bits that are underneath that, you know, like suicide or loss of life. Just a bit more than the generic as well because then that's like informed consent. People then know what they’re getting and can choose to continue on, yeah.
Elizabeth Wright Kristy And Kat, do either of you have anything to add about the question about trigger warnings?
Kristy Hill No, I pretty much agree to all. She has what she said, I agree to all. They need to be up so everyone knows where to be warned, to read or watch it.
Kat Reed Yeah, I have to agree as well. I think it's a misunderstanding that reading a content warning might inadvertently trigger someone because accidentally reading content that you weren't prepared for emotionally and physically or even, you know, circumstantially is even more harmful. And I think everyone has sort of... content warnings are pretty common nowadays as well and we also do them for all sorts of other things.
Kat Reed So, I actually think that everyone has sort of gotten to the point where they really understand what a content warning is when they read one and can take that personal responsibility on, you know, checking in with themselves and making sure it's content they want to read. And it's beneficial for everyone, not just for people with lived experience.
Elizabeth Wright Great, I'll move on to the next question now, and I'll leave this open to the panel so you can decide who you would like to respond first. So, another question from the audience is, do you feel as though people often don't respond to or cover the issue of violence against disabled people because they see it as being too hard or because our lives are seen as less important due to persistent ableism?
Kat Reed I'm happy to answer this question. Yeah, absolutely. I think too often the awkwardness around not knowing, wanting to portray it in a really great way, but not knowing how to do that, I think causes a lot of people to avoid topics altogether. But, you know, women with disabilities are quite invisible compared to a lot of other groups that are out there.
Kat Reed So, we actually all do need to talk about it. And I think educating yourself about disability, disability issues, violence, and all of this stuff, being at this webinar, is the way to make yourself feel a little bit more confident when it comes to reporting these issues. I think it's quite sad that it means that we're not getting coverage if it is just because people are awkward and unsure because yeah, like it's very you know, nowadays it's quite easy to find the information you need. And the Internet has a lot of fantastic resources on how to cover disability, how to think about disability. So yeah, I absolutely think that that is a barrier, and I don’t think it should be.
Elizabeth Wright I think off the back of what you just said there, Kat, this next question I guess is a bit of a practical way of how we would apply what you were just talking about in terms of the narrative and representing disability within the news round. The question that's come through is and this is again, thrown open to everyone on the panel, what can newsrooms do to reposition and restructure language, imagery, and terminology when their journalists are assigned to report on stories relating to violence against girls and women with and without disabilities? So, I guess it’s looking at that bigger systemic structure of what can the newsroom actually do?
Tess Moodie I might add to that one, it's Tess speaking. Gosh, that's a big question. I think what the newsroom can do, where there's an opportunity there for some deeper learning is newsrooms and journalists starting to connect with, become members of, look at the work that disability peak organisations are doing in Australia, particularly having a look at the submissions that they write in their calls for advocacy and what needs to be addressed at that higher systemic level, what are the systemic issues?
Tess Moodie And I know that that can sound like a big job given that, you know, media and journalists are also working full time mostly, but I think that's the key way to getting an understanding is actually listen to the voices of people with disability and see what they're calling for to change. And what are the drivers of violence for women and girls with disability?
Tess Moodie A very basic, well not basic, but a comprehensive example of one document is the Our Watch Changing the Landscape resource that talks about the drivers of violence against women and girls with disability and the systemic issues in marginalisation like documents and resources that exist. And there’s lots out there, that's only one that I’ve named that would be really helpful.
Tess Moodie There's also resources out there on how to report about women with disabilities and women with disabilities who experience violence in general. So yeah, there's a learning piece there. And I think there's, you know, some of that more formal learning to be had, but also just through working with women and girls with disability, when you start hearing about our lives and what the issues are, you get that greater understanding. So like back to what Kristy said before, get to know us as a person and hear what we face, and you’ll soon start to learn about some of that.
Elizabeth Wright I think we have time for maybe one more question from the audience. So again, I'll throw it out to the panelists. One of the challenges we have is getting media to invest in their own capacity building outside of any reportable events. And hang on, I’ve just lost the question. Let me find it again... any reportable event, any suggestions to engage them at a foundational level? Any thoughts on that one?
Kat Reed I can answer if none of the other panelists are interested. Okay. So, look, I think like all systemic issues, part of the problem when it comes to reporting may be systemic in your organisation itself.
Kat Reed And I think the reality is that learning and upskilling yourself does take time. And we do need people to champion that and to carve out the time. I think things like having more people with disability actually in your newsroom and actually part of your organization is one way to get that. You know, potentially looking at doing a Disability Action Inclusion Plan.
Kat Reed I have mixed thoughts about that, but it's a great way to start. But I think there does need to be a recognition that it does take time. And I do recognise that carving out the time can be difficult for journalists. But you do need to find someone to champion that someone at a high level to decide, “okay, we are going to actually put in the time, we're going to find this training. We're going to, you know, hire experts, advocates to actually cover the issue themselves, people with disability, to actually be part of that team because, yeah, it needs to be a priority”. Yeah.
Tess Moodie It’s Tess here. Can I just add a little bit on to that as well? I was thinking as Kat was speaking, I was thinking, this is probably high-level wish list, but I don’t think it’s un-doable. If major media outlets had like an advisory group or an advisory committee that existed of women with disabilities or even people with disabilities that were there that they could learn from, you know, one on one amongst their work. I imagine, like in the chat as I as journalists go along and do their work, they have questions and they’d like to bounce off someone that might be a person with a disability around, “Hey, how can I report that and be respectful?”
Tess Moodie Yeah. So, I think this being there for people with disability as a resource to be working, collaborating with media outlet as well around respectful reporting rather than it just being a learning place where journalists go away and read resources and do training or yeah, have lived experience embedded across that somewhere.
Kat Reed I think as well… Sorry, Tess, you've also given me an idea creating partnerships and creating relationships with peak disability advocacy bodies. You know, we're already out here trying to do this kind of work anyway, we can all be more effective if we work together and partner together. So, I really do think, you know, there's a huge opportunity there for partnerships like that to come across as well. Again, super high level, but I think definitely possible.
Elizabeth Wright And Kristy, do you have anything to add before we finish up?
Kristy Hill Yeah, pretty much I think, I believe, yes, I do agree with the other two ladies and also, I agree, I think for them to make more comfortable working with people disability and by helping them, hire someone who's got disability, have them work beside you, and you can learn so much on how to help others. So pretty much working with us and let us have a job with them and they’ll learn so much.
Elizabeth Wright Thank you, Kristy, thank you to Tess and Kat as well for an absolutely wonderful panel. It was a tough conversation to have but was much needed. But we're going to have to wrap up now, we're at time. Just before I make some closing comments, I would just like to direct you to the slide on your screen. We ask that you take out your phones and scan this QR code to take a quick 60 second survey on the session so far.
Elizabeth Wright The link will also be dropped in the chat if that is easier for you to access. The survey is entirely voluntary, but we do really appreciate your feedback. It helps us get a sense of the effectiveness of the content for our evaluation and ongoing work in this space. So, the data collection policy will also be dropped into the chat as well, if you would like to take a look at that.
Elizabeth Wright I'm now just going to make a few closing comments. I think it's been an absolutely crucial and important webinar. The thing that really popped out to me the most and this is coming towards this webinar as someone who is a journalist as well as someone who has that lived experience with disability, is about being believed and actually having the authenticity of our experience spoken about within the context of stories being told around violence and sexual assault against girls and women with disability.
Elizabeth Wright I think we have to take care with the way that we report these stories and also really centre those disabled voices, which is a point that Kat, Tess and Kristy really got across, which is just, you know, it's just such a crucial element. I would really like to extend my warmest thanks to Kat, Tess, and Kristy for coming on and talking about a topic which is very personal to them and very important to them.
Elizabeth Wright You've all three have done an amazing and fantastic job. I also want to thank Our Watch as well as Rebekah and Dan for setting this up. You've done a fantastic job as well. And I also want to say a big thank you to Sue, our Digital Moderator for making sure that this webinar went as smoothly as it did.
Elizabeth Wright It went absolutely so smoothly. No, no hitches at all. I just finally want to remind you about the support lines. If anything, during today's webinar has triggered you in any way or it's been emotionally challenging, do please reach out to the numbers seen in the slide below. Contact 1800RESPECT and make sure that you get the support that you need.
Elizabeth Wright Again, those support lines and links are in the chat as well. I just want to thank you, the audience, as well for attending and being open to learning about how you can support girls and women with disability who have experienced violence and sexual assault. And you know, to ensure that we can get their stories out there and that we can make a difference and improve their safety. So, thank you very much for attending.
This one-hour webinar offers journalists and media professionals the opportunity to deepen reporting practice on women and girls with disabilities through respectful and accurate representation and better understanding the drivers of violence.
The upcoming publication of the Disability Royal Commission report and the final review of the NDIS will inevitably highlight the discrimination and violence that women and girls with disabilities continue to face in their daily lives. In Australia, women with disabilities are more than twice as likely to have experienced physical or sexual violence than women without disabilities. With around 17% of Australian women and girls having disabilities, media professionals have a role in shaping public discourse and narratives, and a responsibility to ensure that these reports get the exposure they deserve.
Moderated by ABC Disability Affairs Reporter, Elizabeth Wright, the panel of lived experience experts emphasises the importance of platforming case studies that incorporate lived experiences and the power of authentic storytelling to challenge stereotypes and promote understanding.
This webinar aligns with Our Watch’s resource, Changing the landscape. By watching, you will learn how to help redefine the media’s coverage on violence against women and girls with disabilities, promoting accountability and ensuring that media coverage avoids perpetuating the harmful narratives that can lead to violence.
This webinar has Auslan interpreting and closed captions.