Dear MDA Supporters,

In our December issue, we reflect on the early stages of success of the Disability Reporting Handbook and share our DRH post-launch video. We also put the spotlight on MDA’s Disability Affairs Officers, Lisa Cox (Queensland Chapter) and Briana Blackett (NSW Chapter). And as the Community Voices Sydney participants graduate, we look at their achievements and more than 100 media engagements. Oh! And there are some photos from the MDA End of Year Celebration where we had the chance to thank our sponsors, news partners, and Advisory Board and raise a glass to Mariam Veiszadeh, our new CEO as she takes the reins from Director Antoinette Lattouf.

In this issue:

  • Spotlight On: MDA’s Disability Affairs Officers, Briana Blackett (NSW Chapter) and Lisa Cox (Queensland Chapter)
  • Disability Reporting Handbook: Post-Launch details
  • Community Voices Program: Wrap up on Sydney Community Voices Program
  • MDA End of Year Celebration: Photos and company updates
  • Donate Now: MDA’s Impact 2021

Spotlight on: MDA’s Disability Affairs Officers, Briana Blackett (NSW Chapter) and Lisa Cox (Queensland Chapter)

MDA's Disability Affairs Officers - Briana Blackett (left), Lisa Cox (right)

Q) Why is it imperative that resources such as the Disability Reporting Handbook exist?

Lisa Cox – Because the media plays such an important role in shaping social attitudes and reinforcing stereotypes about people with a disability – nearly one-quarter of our population. It’s important that resources such as this help people with a disability feel better understood and can assist people without a disability better understand. 

Briana Blackett – There has always been a huge disconnect about the way disability is portrayed by the world and the actual reality of living with it – at least, that’s what I’ve learned raising two kids with disability.  To this day, centuries of negative assumptions, stereotypes and stigma can deeply impact a person’s ability to do basic things like go to school or get a job.  There are typically more complaints to the Human Rights Commission about disability discrimination than any other kind (like sex or race discrimination) and the stories coming out of the Disability Royal Commission make it painfully clear that change needs to happen.  Who better to lead that charge than the people who play a huge role in shaping culture – the media.  If we can change the narrative around disability – by helping those who write it – then we can start to address the systemic problems that make it difficult for people with disability to go about their regular lives.

Q) What was the most challenging part of developing the Disability Reporting Handbook?

Lisa Cox – Limited resources did make it difficult at times. We wanted to include as many voices as possible (this was achieved) but we didn’t always have as many hands. I’m proud of the team’s hard work and long hours. 

Briana Blackett – The most difficult part of producing the handbook was keeping it tight.  There is so much to be said about living with disability that we could still be writing today.  But, as the whole point of the guide is to be quick and easy to use, we worked hard to keep it succinct and practical for time-poor journalists who need simple advice.  We hope to update the handbook regularly so I expect we’ll squeeze in some extra tips in future versions.  Another challenge was that the disability community is hugely diverse and so there are, naturally, differing viewpoints on what is or isn’t the right way to say or do something.  We’ve tried to incorporate them all but also wanted to make it clear to journalists that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to reporting on disability.  Throughout the handbook we frequently give guidance on how to incorporate identity and diversity when interviewing people with disability and reporting on issues that affect them. 

Q) Could you tell us about some of your favourite parts of the Handbook (DRH)?

Lisa Cox – My favourite part of almost any work I do is about the outcome. In this particular case, it has been a couple of times since launching the handbook, when journalists have either been interviewing me for a story or just told me about another of their stories and how they had read the Disability Reporting Handbook. As a result of understanding the content they were enacting a particular change to the way they worked. That to me is the ultimate highlight and the ultimate tick of approval to know that the DRH is doing its job in the real world.

Briana Blackett – It was a real privilege connecting with so many people and gaining their insights.  I’ve learned so much from them all.  It was also wonderful seeing so many passionate and energetic people working hard to bring about change in this space.  If we weren’t in a pandemic and we had been able to attend the launch in person, I would have brought my kids along and said to them “see, all of these people are paving the way for you” – it’s an amazing thing. 

Q) What is your personal experience with disability and/or media surrounding it?

Lisa Cox – My academic and professional background is in media, advertising and marketing. After working in corporate for several years I acquired multiple disabilities and have since found a way to fuse my professional background with my lived experience.

I’ve returned to work in various facets of media and now I am the inaugural Disability Affairs Officer at MDA and have been thrilled to see the team grow. I’m a proud disabled woman and my attitude to advocacy is to educate and collaborate. I’ve been that non-disabled writer who is scared of saying the wrong thing, so I understand how daunting it can be and that’s why I’m so glad the DRH is here to help journalists and other media professionals navigate the nuances of disability language.

Briana Blackett –  My children have disabilities and we’ve had to fight hard for them to have access to basic things that most people don’t think twice about, like going to school, joining a club or seeing a doctor.  We were facing barriers that just didn’t need to be there – and yet, I saw these perpetuated in the way we talk about disability in the media.  As a journalist of 20 years, I know that reporters don’t deliberately get it wrong.  Mistakes and misrepresentations get made, typically because people don’t have the right information to begin with.  So, the solution seemed simple.  Create a resource jam-packed with tips on how to get it right – and, with any luck – we’ll start to see a media, and a world, that better represents and includes, people with disability.  A world without barriers that my kids can fully and freely be part of.

Media Diversity Australia (MDA) in partnership with the disability organization Hireup, Griffith University, and Getty Images launched a latest newsroom must-have –  the Disability Reporting Handbook. 

Since its launch on the 23rd of November 2021, the handbook has already been downloaded over 1500 times and is currently the most searched resource on MDA’s web page. 

This vital and informative journalism resource to guide better reporting of people with disability is available free to everyone and can be downloaded on MDA’s website. 

Watch the post-launch video starring MDA’s Disability Affairs Officer, Lisa Cox, and Australian doctor and Griffith University lecturer Dinesh Palipana.

DRH post-launch video starring Lisa Cox and Dinesh Palipana

Wrap up on Sydney Community Voices Program

Community Voices Sydney Graduation

The Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas and MDA Community Voices pilot program came to a close in December with a celebration for our 12 participants.

They were joined by family and friends, JNI and MDA colleagues, and supporters at JNI’s Chippendale headquarters. The federal member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek was invited as a special guest and handed out the graduation certificates to the participants. was also a guest.

JNI’s Executive Director Mark Ryan said the program’s first year was a resounding success.

 “We started Community Voices because we wanted to give people from diverse backgrounds the skills, experience and the support they need to engage effectively and articulately with the news media,” he said. 

“Our participants are now far better equipped as advocates, and they are now known to many newsrooms and journalists and our hope is that they will continue to contribute to our national discussion for a long time to come.”

So far the 2021 Community Voices have made more than 110 media appearances this year alone –  across television, radio, print and digital platforms. They have appeared in small and large publications including the SMH and Canberra Times op-ed pages, on The Project (Network 10), Q&A (ABC), Insight (SBS), Channel Nine news, FBi and 2SER radio, and many more.

2021 participant Basim Al-Ansari said his community’s views towards the media have changed as a result of Community Voices. “We felt like we were singled out,” he said. “We felt that the media was an enemy in several ways.” Basim said the program has helped him engage with the media and give his community a greater voice, as well as encouraging them to view the media in a positive light.

Tanya Plibersek said the program has given the participants an “enormous gift”, which would also benefit the wider community. “Australian public discourse is given a great gift by your empowerment within it,” she said.

JNI will again fund the Sydney Community Voices program in 2022 to help participants prepare pitches to the media and get ready for interviews. And Community Voices training will start up in Melbourne in 2022 – which is very exciting. 

If you’d like to add the 2021 Community Voices to your newsroom’s contact list, please contact: 

MDA End of Year Celebration

MDA End of Year event

On December 14th,  MDA  celebrated the end of a very successful year with our brilliant advisory board members, dedicated staff, passionate state chapter representatives and industry partners. 

Co-founder Antoinette Lattouf is moving to the role of non-executive director but will still be on the Advisory Board. MDA’s inaugural CEO Mariam Veiszadeh will take over operational leadership and handle the process of hiring and expanding our not-for-profit. 

“After 5 years the little side hustle – Media Diversity Australia, I started with Isabel Lo got big. It’s time for it to take some steps on its own” said co-founder Antoinette Lattouf.

Donate now: MDA's Impact so far

As the year draws to a close, we reflect on some of the things we’ve achieved since our launch.

  • 2018: no permanent Indigenous host on breakfast TV versus 2021: 4/5 networks have Indigenous co-hosts
  • 2018: All 5 TV News Directors were Anglo-Celtic men versus 2021: 2 out of 5 News Directors are women, 1 out of whom is a cultural diverse woman

Help MDA continue to have impact & diversify our media landscape. Donate now.

Want to help create a media that looks and sounds like Australia?

As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on the help of our incredible volunteers. With your financial and volunteer support, we can continue to run programs to support culturally and linguistically diverse journalists, conduct agenda-setting research, run networking events, provide practical solutions for the media industry, and much more. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the vital work we do, please click here.

About us

Media Diversity Australia (MDA) is a national not-for-profit organisation led by journalists and media professionals. Australia is culturally and linguistically diverse, and our media should be too. Established in 2017, MDA has a unique role as a champion of cultural diversity in Australian journalism and news media. We have a vision for a media industry with full and equal participation for culturally diverse people at all levels.

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