Written by Bond University journalism student, Kimberley Bernard
Caroline Jones AO has been awarded the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) Gold Honour Badge to recognise her time in the media as one of Australia’s most prominent journalists.
She is one of only twenty people to have received the honour, which was bestowed at the third national Women in Media conference at Bond University last Friday evening.
“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.”
Hundreds of WiM delegates from across Australia and the South Pacific gathered at Bond for the conference, including Sandra Sully, Michelle Gunn, Jenny Brockie and Sarrah Le Marquand. Recipients of the Caroline Jones Women in Media Young Journalist’s Award were also in attendance.
This year’s conference theme ‘Equip, Elevate, Empower’ included panel discussions covering influencer culture, confidence, racism and sexism in the industry, and press freedom.
News Corp’s national Sunday political editor Annika Smethurst, who is facing potential jail time in the wake of AFP raids on her house, 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,” said Kathy McLeish.
“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,” said Cath Webber.
Living Black host Karla Grant spoke of the hardships 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.
However, she pushed reporters from diverse backgrounds to continue to challenge racism and sexism and fight to find a voice within the media landscape.
Chief Editor of BoardAgenda, Virginia Haussegger AM, spoke of the gender imbalance and bias in the media, encouraging 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,” she said.
“They are there, we just need to look.”
Youth advocate and filmmaker Regina Lepping from the Solomon Islands said that the female media professionals in the Pacific Islands 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.
But across all sectors of the media, there was a call for women and minority voices 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,” Mahlab founder, owner, and managing director, Bobbi Mahlab said.