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6 min read

Elevating the voices of people facing economic injustice

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 13/12/2022

The surging cost of living is having a devastating impact for people across Australia.

As ACOSS and partners continue to call on the Government to lift income support, elevating the voices of people with lived experience into the public debate has been an increasingly central focus of the campaign.

Supporting this approach is the Economic Media Centre – a joint project between ACOSS and Australian Progress, led by Co-Directors Aliya Ahmad and Jess Kendall. Established in 2020, the Centre identifies and equips diverse spokespeople on economic issues and connects them with journalists.

“The Economic Media Centre has a simple theory of change,” says Kirsty Albion, Australian Progress Executive Director. “By increasing the diversity of voices represented on economic issues in mainstream media, we generate more inclusive economic policies.”

In this Q&A, Kirsty shares the story of establishing the Economic Media Centre, some of its impact highlights so far, and what support from the Impact Fund community has meant for this important work.

Watch: Q&A with Australian Progress Executive Director, Kirsty Albion

Tell us about Australian Progress and the partnership with ACOSS to establish the Economic Media Centre.

Australian Progress builds the capacity of the sector to create sustainable change through advocacy. We know advocacy is one of the most powerful ways you can create long-lasting change on social and environmental issues.

Australian Progress partnered with ACOSS to establish the Economic Media Centre because we both saw the need to build the capacity of diverse spokespeople and small organisations, and get their stories into mainstream media.

The Impact Fund supported the establishment of the Economic Media Centre at the outset of the pandemic. Why was this a crucial time for this work?

When the pandemic and recession hit and governments were rethinking how to distribute billions of dollars in economic policy, civil society leaders around the country told us a lack of media advocacy skills were holding them back from engaging in important economic debates.

We were inundated with requests from small organisations that had the policy solutions to these complex issues but lacked the media capacity to secure them.

We fill a critical capacity gap, delivering media training, strategy and messaging support to make it possible for social change advocates to get their campaign stories in newspapers

We looked at best-practice models from around the world and piloted the Economic Media Centre. It was a roaring success – we tapped into huge community need, so we came to you with a plan to scale up the Centre and turn this into a keystone resource to capacity-build the sector.

We fill a critical capacity gap, delivering media training, strategy and messaging support to make it possible for social change advocates to get their campaign stories in newspapers, broadcast and digital outlets and set news agendas.

What are some of the outcomes the EMC has achieved so far?

The Centre has trained more than 629 diverse spokespeople across a huge range of issues – migrant rights, housing, gender, LGBTQIA+, First Nations justice, and many more.

We have worked with more than 315 small organisations to get their policy solutions into the mainstream media, securing over 10,000 media syndications, and both narrative shifts and policy change on more than 14 issues.

One example of the long-term narrative shift and policy change projects we have been a part of is working with gender equity advocates to shift the public narrative around gender. We trained more than 25 gender advocates with 15 organisations and worked consistently to get their stories in the media between the 2020 Budget and the 2021 Budget, resulting in more than $3.4 billion in new funding for gender equity.

Over the past year the Economic Media Centre has been running a campaign to elevate the issue of housing affordability in the national media. We helped get Australia’s housing crisis on the 2022 federal election agenda by securing  more than 300 unique stories across print, digital and broadcast including high-profile media spots for The Drum, The Project, and full-page spreads in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

We also established a National Housing Spokesperson Bureau with 16 advocates who generated media coverage about many angles including the impact of rising interest rates, developer land banking, price increases in regional areas and housing market regulation. One of the spokespeople we supported is Mariam Mohammed, who did a series of high profile media interviews on how the housing crisis uniquely impacts young migrant women. We provided media training and messaging advice that resulted in Mariam doing numerous interviews with Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Australian Financial Review, Domain and across broadcast outlets including ABC’s The Drum.

How important is the ongoing support you receive from funders like Australian Communities Foundation and the Impact Fund community?

At Australian Progress, we absolutely love our partnership with Australian Communities Foundation because we’re a community of more than a thousand social change organisations, and when we partner up with Australian Communities Foundation, which is a community of donors, we can multiply our impact many times over.

The Impact Fund has been absolutely pivotal in helping the Economic Media Centre go from a pilot project to a long-term piece of infrastructure

What makes the Impact Fund so wonderful is that it attracts progressive donors who understand that we need to have really strong organisations and people paid within them to do the hard work of building movements, making the most of strategic moments when they happen, and protecting the progressive gains we’ve already won.

The Impact Fund has been absolutely pivotal in helping the Economic Media Centre go from a pilot project to a long-term piece of infrastructure, meeting huge community need and getting people with lived experience into mainstream media, shifting economic policy debates and economic policy.