Several of our Impact Fund partners have been making headlines this month, including Economic Media Centre, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Public Interest Journalism Initiative and Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.
Update from our Impact Fund partners: April 2021
Find out how these organisations are advancing social and cultural justice in Australia in our Impact Fund Partner Update for April.
THE AUSTRALASIAN CENTRE FOR CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY
STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY PARTNER
The world has changed significantly since Australian Communities Foundation first supported the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) in 2018. The ACCR enables regular Australians to have a say about what large, Australian-listed companies do on social and environmental issues. It uses responsible investment tools, research, high impact media, corporation law and advocacy to improve the behaviour of companies.
Early work focusing on raising the stakes for airlines’ complicity in human rights abuses perpetrated through the Australian Government’s immigration policies, saw ACCR garner a tripling of shareholder support (from 6.4% to 23.6%) for its human rights shareholder resolution submitted to the Qantas AGM. It was the largest ever vote against a board on a human rights issue in Australian corporate history and represented over $2 billion dollars of Qantas share capital. With COVID-19, the work on this campaign subsided as the airline industry was grounded, essentially shutting down the forced removal and deportation of refugees and asylum seekers.
At the same time, ACCR’s work to ensure that Aboriginal and Traditional Owner communities in the Northern Territory were better able to exercise their right to informed consent, grew in volume and significance after the devastating destruction of the Juukan Gorge. Responding to a spike in investor demand for information directly from affected communities, ACCR, working closely alongside Indigenous campaigners, established a cultural heritage program that aims to support Indigenous leadership and facilitates their access to powerful corporate engagement and shareholder strategies.
This collaborative work has hit a nerve with Australia’s major iron ore mining companies and their investors. For the first time in memory, Australian institutional investors have spoken out publicly and extensively about the impacts of the iron ore sector on First Nations communities. Major funds HESTA and Aberdeen Standard both made new statements or commitments about their approach to First Nations Issues.
With so many opportunities and threats in the landscape, there is still much work to be done. There is a pressing need to build more coordinated activist shareholder action on human rights globally, as so many Australian companies operate beyond our borders.
Don’t forget to join ACCR’s Shareholder Hub where you can register your investments and support shareholder resolutions on issues like climate change, political lobbying, decent work and human rights.
PUBLIC INTEREST JOURNALISM INITIATIVE
STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY PARTNER
Since receiving seed funding from the Impact Fund in 2018, the Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI) has been busy in its efforts to inform policy development and public discussion on independent public interest journalism in Australia. Over the past year, PIJI has played a key role in negotiating the introduction of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) News Media Bargaining Code – a world-first law that sees digital platforms pay local news publishers for content.
Since the Government’s decision to develop the Code in April 2020, PIJI has been the only organisation consulting all key stakeholders and has become a respected voice in media coverage of the Code.
Google and Facebook’s widely-publicised response to the Code brought the issue into public discourse, reaching a peak in late February 2021 when Facebook blocked Australian users from sharing and accessing news on its platform. A few days later, Facebook and the Australian Government reached an agreement and news was restored to the platform. The legislation of the code was passed on 24 February.
“Several key concerns repeatedly emerged during our extensive industry engagement on the Code’s development, namely:
- Gaps in peak representation for small to medium public interest journalism producers
- A lack of sufficient expertise in complex negotiations with digital platforms
- Concern around likely immediate negative impact arising from the market withdrawal of either (or both) digital platforms in response to the Code
PIJI is therefore recommending immediate complementary action to maximise the participation of [small and medium-sized enterprises] SME news producers under the Code.”
PIJI continues to engage closely with the issue, including undertaking further extensive industry consultations, providing research evidence as needed, and making further submissions to inform policy.
Australian Communities Foundation and co-funders recently supported PIJI with an additional $10,000 to support its work on the News Media Bargaining Code.
ECONOMIC MEDIA CENTRE
STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY PARTNER
The Economic Media Centre (EMC) exists to amplify, empower, and support grassroots community spokespeople of different cultural, racial, class and gender backgrounds to share their expertise in the mainstream news stories about the Australian economy. By providing media training to the voices of lived experience and bright economic thinkers EMC plans to transform public debate and create political pressure for more inclusive economic policies.
Since launching in August 2020 and receiving funding through the Impact Fund’s 2020 Reimagining Australia program, EMC has trained more than 65 diverse spokespeople, secured 100+ major news stories on these issues, supported organisations and movements to shift the economic narrative through guidance specific to the Covid-19 economic recovery, and provided advice at key moments, such as the Federal Budget.
EMC now plans to scale the impact of the Centre, starting with media training in late April 2021. Designed for grassroots community leaders advocating on economic justice issues and people with lived experience, the training covers everything from an overview of the Australian media landscape to key message delivery, best practice interview techniques, body language, pitching and more.
Aliya Ahmad, Associate Director at EMC recently shared an update to supporters: “Media stories set public agendas and heavily influence political decisions and policy outcomes. Yet economic media coverage does not always reflect the diverse array of views and experiences of all Australians.
Australia is beginning a long road to economic recovery after the intersecting crises of 2020. This is a critical moment to make sure diverse perspectives are heard in our mainstream media because the policy decisions made now will shape our country for decades.”
ASYLUM SEEKER RESOURCE CENTRE
TACKLING INEQUALITY PARTNER
In less than 48 hours, our community gave $75,000 in co-funding to the Medevac Group to ensure that critically ill people could be flown to Australia for urgent medical attention. From March to December 2019 (when Australia’s short-lived medical evacuation law was repealed), 135 refugees and asylum seekers were transferred under this process.
“While we welcome freedom for people after eight years of harm in indefinite detention, these releases have been arbitrary, with people who are in an identical legal situation to those being released, being left behind in detention centres across Australia” said ASRC in a statement to supporters.
ASRC is also turning its attention to the people who have been released with little support: the recently launched Preventing Homelessness Fund will support people transferred under Medevac when they are released from detention facilities.
“People will need support and time to recover, but what people will most need is a certain future and a permanent home.” Nina Field, ASRC Detention Advocacy Caseworker
By providing people with the option of working with state-based housing service providers or obtaining immediate financial support to arrange their own accommodation through their already established relationships, the Preventing Homelessness Fund aims to provide equitable and fair support to people in a dignified way that offers a level of choice and certainty into the future.
Australian Communities Foundation funders recently supported ASRC with an additional donation of $12,000 to the Preventing Homelessness Fund.