By Kimberley Bernard
Media legend Caroline Jones AO has been awarded the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Gold Honour Badge for her outstanding contribution to the industry.
Jones joined the union – then the Australian Journalists’ Association – 50 years ago. She is one of only 20 people to have received the honour, which was presented at the third Women in Media national conference at Bond University.
“Her courage and determination, her pioneering spirit as a woman who achieved so many firsts in this profession, have paved the way for so many of us who have followed her,” said MEAA vice president Karen Percy who presented the award.
“She has championed women, indigenous Australians, and saw the need for diversity in our industry long before so many others.”
About 300 delegates from across Australia and the Pacific – including Sandra Sully, Michelle Gunn, Karla Grant, Jenny Brockie, Patricia Karvelas, Jan Fran, and Sarrah Le Marquand – gathered for the conference, including recipients of the Caroline Jones Women In Media Young Journalist’s Award.
Freelancer Virginia Tapscott took out the award for up-and-coming regional reporters. ABC Kununurra reporter Courtney Fowler was runner up, and ABC Cairns reporter Anna Hartley was highly commended.
This year’s conference theme ‘Equip, Elevate, Empower’ included panel discussions covering the influencer culture, confidence, personal branding, social media scene, representation of women in the media, multi-tasking, financial literacy and legal issues.
One focus was press freedom. News Corp’s Sunday political editor Annika Smethurst, who is facing potential jail time in the wake of an AFP raid on her home, said it was important her experience didn’t silence a strong and courageous media.
“I wish it hadn’t happened but I am now the poster girl for press freedom,” she said.
“It has prompted an important conversation about journalism and if it had to be my house raided to do that, so be it.”
Women in Media national co-chairs Kathy McLeish and Cath Webber said the conference was thought-provoking and inspiring.
“We are thrilled that so many women came together to share their expertise and experiences,” McLeish said.
“We know that it strengthens the industry for everyone.”
One highlight was the number of delegates from regional and rural areas.
“It’s the first time we have committee convenors and members from every single state and territory in one room together.”
Living Black executive producer and host Karla Grant spoke of the challenges faced by Indigenous women in the newsroom.
“When I first started out, people said ‘she looks pretty, but will she be able to communicate’?” she told the audience.
She encouraged reporters from diverse backgrounds to continue to challenge racism and sexism and fight to find a voice within the media landscape.
BoardAgenda Chief Editor Virginia Haussegger AM – who is also Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra – spoke of the gender imbalance and bias in the media, pushing for reporters to include female experts in their coverage.
“We all over, across all media platforms, all media outlets, need to work much harder to seek out women’s voices.”
“They are there, we just need to look.”
Youth advocate and filmmaker Regina Lepping, from the Solomon Islands, said the female media professionals in the Pacific face gender bias, trolling and under-representation.
“Women are under-represented in the media [in the Pacific islands] and it impacts the future generation of women,” she said.
Regina, her twin sister Georgianna, Pacific Media Network senior reporter Lisa Williams were special guests at the conference as part of Women in Media’s plan to launch the Pacific Program.
Across all sectors of the media, there was a call for women to face challenges and fight to be heard.
“To elevate you need to have a voice. If you’re given a microphone, take it. If you’re not, seek it out.”
Kimberley Bernard is a Bond University journalism student involved in the pop-up newsroom at the Women in Media national conference. You can follow her on Twitter.