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Sense of Belonging: UC study shows news can foster community

Elly Mackay

1 May 2023: Researchers from the University of Canberra have released the findings of a report produced in partnership with public broadcaster SBS, focused on understanding the role of the news media in fostering a sense of belonging among multilingual audiences.

The study, titled Sense of Belonging among Multilingual Audiences, found that news representation, trust in news, and confidence to participate in society are strong levers in building a sense of belonging among these audiences.

Lead author of the report, Professor Sora Park from the University’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) said that the more audiences feel represented in the news, the more likely they are to trust it.

“This is because trust and representation in the news can help people be informed and gain confidence in their ability to participate in discussions about issues facing Australia,” Professor Park said.

“As migrants from different cultural backgrounds adapt to Australian society, the efficacy to participate in social or political issues plays important roles in building a sense of belonging.”

The report was conducted through a survey of 1,084 multilingual respondents, and developed using a first-of-its-kind inclusive research design that ensured a balanced and inclusive sample was represented.

The survey was offered in six languages: Arabic, Cantonese, Italian, Mandarin, Vietnamese and English, and conducted via three different methods – online, in person and via telephone interviews.

Professor Park said the findings indicated that many multilingual audiences do not feel their language and cultural communities are fairly represented in the news.

“They don’t feel that they see enough reporters and journalists representing their community, and we also found that there are gaps in the provision of relevant and quality news and information at the local and cultural community levels,” she said.

“These findings suggest there is room for improved recruitment and reporting practices in the news industry.”

Less than half (42 per cent) of respondents said news coverage is fair, and only 33 per cent said reporters and journalists in news represent people from their language or cultural community.

The report also found that the length of time a migrant spends in Australia is relevant to how connected they feel to society.

Those who migrated to Australia more than ten years ago are more likely to feel at home in Australia (76 per cent) than those who have been here fewer than ten years (65 per cent).

“We found that time spent living in Australia is related to confidence and willingness to participate; migrants who have lived here for more than ten years reported higher confidence in their understanding of issues facing Australia,” Professor Park said.

“63 per cent of those who have been here longer-term feel well-informed to participate in social and political discussions, compared to more recent migrants.”

Based on the report findings, the research team from the N&MRC have proposed three key areas of prioritisation to improve the sense of belonging among multilingual audiences.

These are accelerating the settlement process, accelerating English language confidence during settlement, and ensuring fair representation of diverse, multilingual communities.

“These efforts can help migrants build a safe, secure, and successful life in Australia,” Professor Park said.

“Programs providing support and tools to help migrants improve their English skills are also necessary for a more comfortable process of ‘settling in’ to their community and society.”

The report was launched earlier today at a live-streamed panel event, recorded from the SBS studios in Sydney.

SBS’ Director of Corporate Strategy Sarah Yassien said, “this rigorous, high-quality research is intended to spark a change in how Australians think and talk about inclusion and social participation, while suggesting new ways of approaching these issues”.

While the research findings are comprehensive and have discovered new insights, there is scope for additional work in the area, and the research team hopes to explore further avenues in the future.

Professor Park said the research area is rewarding and can contribute to an inclusive and diverse society.

“We hope that by identifying links between belonging, participation, representation, and news trust among multilingual audiences, our research will spark conversations and inspire actions that ultimately lead to greater inclusion in Australian society,” she said.