Speech to Australian Media Literacy Summit
Thank you, Annabel for your introduction, and to the Australian Media Literacy Alliance for inviting me to speak
Acknowledgement of country
I begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation - the traditional owners of the lands we are meeting on.
And I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and to First Nations people here, and those joining digitally, around Australia and beyond.
We see the importance of Barangaroo and First Nations’ culture reflected in the names used throughout this landmark urban space.
This year is the year of the voice – and I am so proud to be a member of a government committed to the Uluru Statement from the heart, in full.
The Australian Media Literacy Alliance and its members are working together to develop and promote media literacy skills across our community.
Many of you joining the Media Literacy Summit today are educators.
In the classroom and online, teaching and training requires a level of commitment and energy that many of us could not muster on a daily basis. I take my hat off to you all.
As a parent, a former student, and Member of Parliament, and now a Minister, I thank you for your public service.
Every Australian has the right to a world-class education. In today’s media-saturated world, media literacy is an essential part of this.
Ten months ago, the Albanese Government was elected on a platform to progress A Better Future, with no-one held back and no-one left behind.
Labor’s promise to change Australia for the better.
Today, as Federal Communications Minister, I want to share with you some of the ways we are working to ensure a more inclusive society and a more prosperous democracy.
In particular, the media reform agenda that I am leading to support a strong, sustainable and diverse media landscape; one that is trusted, representative and, importantly, accessible to all.
But first I want to speak about some of the measures we are taking to enable young Australians to be smart, safe and responsible digital citizens.
What we are doing to combat harmful misinformation campaigns on digital platforms.
And how we are making media literacy a national priority.
Why media literacy?
Rapid changes in the media and communications technologies spaces have transformed the ways that we connect, communicate, work, learn and play.
From news and information to entertainment, education, sports and culture - most of us access media content on a daily basis, if not a constant one
We are also unlikely to leave the home or office without our portable electronics.
This connectivity brings benefits to our daily lives, but of course it also brings risks.
The misuse of personal data, for example, cyber bullying and scams.
We may unwillingly access harmful or offensive content, or be misled by manipulated information campaigns that are difficult to spot.
If we accept that digital media is integral to modern society, we must ensure that we have the skills to engage with it critically, safely and with confidence.
The vision of the Australian Media Literacy Alliance is to enable a media-literate society, one that is equipped to face the challenges and seize the opportunities of our digital world.
This resonates with me, as Minister and with the Albanese Government as a whole.
Research by the Alliance shows that strong media literacy promotes meaningful participation, connection and mental wellbeing.
Media literacy skills support education, training and employment outcomes.
It can also help to restore public trust in governments and institutions.
For these reasons, a more media-literate Australia is essential to ensuring a Better Future for all.
Promoting media literacy
The Australian Government is improving media literacy in schools and addressing harmful misinformation on digital platforms.
These measures – that I will come to – are a positive start, but we are acutely aware that more needs to be done.
We simply cannot afford the social or economic costs of media illiteracy.
That’s why I have directed my department to work across Government departments and agencies to align objectives, principles and priority focus areas linked to media literacy.
Media Literacy overlaps with Digital Literacy and Information Literacy – all of which have a distinct focus with complementary skills and competencies.
And of course, media literacy must be lifelong.
We need to better understand who in our society needs additional support, and what that support will look like – be it for older Australians, people living with a disability and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
We need to be able to track media literacy levels and ensure a consistent world-class approach to our efforts.
To this end, I acknowledge the important work of the Alliance to make Media Literacy a national priority.
This is an important conversation – indeed one that is becoming increasingly important.
And I look forward to continuing to engage with you, and all interested stakeholders, on measures to strengthen media literacy.
Digital and media literacy starts in school
Turning to digital and media literacy, starting in our schools.
Young people are digital natives. They engage in a wide range of activities online.
They learn, play, connect with friends and access news, information and entertainment, through social media.
And the way that they engage with this media is constantly evolving.
Research by the eSafety Commissioner shows many young people are also unfortunately having negative experiences online, including harassment and cyberbullying, exploitation and exposure to harmful content.
As part of the Digital Platforms Inquiry, the ACCC considered the impact of digital platforms on the consumption of news and journalism, noting that they are fundamentally altering the way that many users find and interact with news.
In its final report, delivered in 2019, the ACCC recommended measures to improve digital media literacy across the community and in schools, particularly to ensure all Australians are well equipped to identify and appropriately scrutinise low quality or unreliable news encountered through the platforms.
This is why, in the lead-up to the Federal Election, we promised to equip students with the skills and tools they need to stay safe, adapt and thrive online.
We made a $6 million commitment to make digital and media literacy learning tools freely available to all schools, not just those who can afford them.
We have delivered on our election commitment.
From July, all secondary-schools across Australia will be able to access the Media Literacy Lab, developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation in partnerships with leading experts, educators and young people.
The Media Literacy Lab is an online learning tool for secondary students aged 12-16 years, designed to help them to develop and apply critical thinking skills to their media and online civic engagement.
Funding will also allow the Alannah and Madeline Foundation to develop a brand-new product – the eSmart Junior Digital Licence Plus – which will be made available to every school in Australia from July.
AMF’s digital licence products will help school students aged five to 14 learn how to meet the demands and challenges of the digital world through a gamified experience of content, stories and reflections.
The skills they develop will empower our young people to think critically, create responsibly, be effective voices and active citizens online.
Teachers can implement these expertly designed programs easily, and with confidence that they are aligned with the Australian curriculum.
I do encourage any educators that are interested in these products – made freely available to all schools due to our Government’s commitment – to register their interest with the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation by visiting eSmart.org.au.
Advancing digital inclusion
Digital inclusion is not a privilege; it is a necessity. And it is a priority of the Albanese Government.
We understand that more needs to be done to ensure all Australians can take advantage of the digital economy with no-one left behind.
Every Australian child should feel safe online and have access to the opportunities that the digital economy presents.
This is why we are providing up to 30,000 families across Australia with, for whatever reason) no internet at home a free NBN service for 12 months, part of our broader $2.4 billion investment to deliver all Australians a better NBN.
We are also working to close the digital divide for First Nations’ communities, through the newly established First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group, which was also funded in the October Budget.
In January, I was privileged to join the Advisory Group in Adelaide for their inaugural meeting on the lands of the Kaurna people.
The Advisory Group will advise the Government on how we tackle the gap in digital inclusion, with a comprehensive focus across telecommunications, broadcasting and media, and all three aspects of digital inclusion: access, affordability and ability.
Because we know digital ability – in the form of digital and media literacy – is critical when it comes to navigating the digital world and using technology and media in a meaningful way.
A more respectful and inclusive online space
When we connect online, we all deserve to do so in environments that are safe, inclusive and free from harm.
Australia’s world-leading online safety regulator is working to ensure this.
It is eSafety’s job to handle complaints, provide a safety net, and share free resources, including support for children, parents and carers.
When a child is sent abusive content or experiences cyber bullying, for example, parents and carers can report it to the eSafety Commissioner to have it removed.
We are providing a $5 million extension of the National Online Safety Awareness Campaign to further promote these tools and services.
So, do watch this digital space!
The rise of mis and disinformation presents another serious threat to our safety and wellbeing – both online and offline.
Propaganda is not a digital-age phenomenon, but online platforms enable it to spread at scale, and with speed – and it cannot go unchecked.
Our Government wants to place Australia at the forefront of tackling harmful mis and disinformation.
This is why we have announced that we will legislate to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) new powers to hold digital platforms to account.
Under the proposed changes, the ACMA will be able to monitor and compel digital platforms to respond to misinformation and disinformation on their services.
New information-gathering and record-keeping powers will create transparency around the efforts of digital platforms to respond to mis and dis information on their services.
The ACMA will also be empowered to register an enforceable industry code and make a standard, should self-regulatory measures prove insufficient.
The powers will be focused on addressing and understanding systemic issues.
Digital platforms will continue to be responsible for the content they host and promote to users.
In balancing freedom of expression with the need to address online harm, the code and standard-making powers will not apply to professional news and authorised electoral content, nor will the ACMA have a role in determining what is considered truthful.
These powers are consistent with the key recommendations in the ACMA’s June 2021 Report to government on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures.
We will undertake further public consultation before legislation is introduced later this year.
Democracy is protected when public institutions are strong, transparent and held to account by a free media.
Increasingly, at home and abroad, we are seeing elections interfered by targeted disinformation, spread widely through social media.
Our electoral system has an enviable reputation for integrity, which contributes to trust in our public institutions.
But with mis and dis-information on the rise, it is paramount to protect and uphold our electoral integrity.
A strong independent media sector, and strong media literacy skills, are key.
Strong public broadcasters
The measures I have outlined so far complement our broad and substantial media reform agenda to support a sustainable, diverse and free media landscape.
And our national broadcasters have an important role to play.
The ABC and SBS deliver trusted, independent news, entertainment, education, sport and culture for all Australians.
They produce public-interest journalism that holds those in power to account and exposes corruption and injustice.
And I think it is important to stress that our public broadcasters, not State broadcasters.
It is a function of the ABC, under its Charter, to broadcast programs of an educational nature.
The ABC has long provided media literacy education.
For over five decades, Behind the News has been explaining complex news stories to children.
I myself learnt media literacy through BTN and my young daughters are now doing exactly the same.
Nowadays, under the ABC Education banner, there are interactive games, lessons and puzzles to help children understand the news-making process.
From programs like Question Everything to in-language news, our national broadcasters are champions of critical thinking.
In the October 2022 Budget the Albanese Government provided $83.7 million to the ABC to reinstate the funding cut by the previous Government.
The ABC announced it would apply to increased investment in ABC Education and media literacy, amongst other things.
I should also note the ABC and SBS are both valued members of the Australian Media Literacy Alliance.
The ABC and SBS strengthen our cultural, social and democratic fabric.
And, from July, both the both the ABC and SBS will commence five-year funding terms to better safeguard against ideological cuts and, by taking their funding cycles out of the electoral cycle, guard against political interference.
This financial stability will help our public broadcasters to innovate, anticipate and plan a wide range of programming for audiences in Australia, and beyond.
Our national broadcasters and the media industry more broadly are already actively working to improve media literacy.
We recognise the leadership and progress that industry is making through programming and fact-checking initiatives run by Meta, Google and AAP, including in-language translations and resources.
As well as Media Literacy Week awareness and advocacy campaigns, training-the-teacher programs, and, of course, the development of education and media literacy resources.
I also particularly acknowledge the researchers who are increasing our understanding of best-practice approaches.
This research - happening in Australia - is invaluable to informing how we can best improve media literacy levels in this country.
The conduct of the first Australian national media literacy survey in 2021, alongside recommendations on improving media literacy in Australia, helps establish the evidence-base that we need to inform policy.
A strong, sustainable and diverse media industry, with informed and engaged citizens, is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.
This cannot be achieved without strong media literacy in every stage of life.
We can learn from, and contribute to, growing international momentum to improve media literacy and make it a core competency in our media-saturated world.
Just last month, the European Commission published its media literacy guidelines, to enable citizens of all ages to navigate the modern news environment and take informed decisions.
I look forward to progressing Australia’s contribution to the global dialogue on media literacy, in a joined-up manner across a range of initiatives in the Communications Portfolio.
I commit to working with stakeholders, like your good selves, to make media literacy a national priority and, in turn, create a Better Future for all.