Media Literacy in Australia: A Qualitative Study
This report complements an earlier study based on a survey that was published in April 2021. We acknowledge that there are hard to reach groups that online surveys cannot fully represent. To address this, between January and July 2021, we carried out a series of interviews and focus group discussions with 22 participants across 17 organisations that serve communities with specific media literacy needs. The aim was to better understand the diversity of media literacy needs among Australians.
We focused on four target groups: people who live in aged care facilities; people living with a disability; culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people (hereinafter ‘multicultural communities’ and ‘CALD’ are used interchangeably throughout the report); and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The interviews and focus group discussions revealed that there are considerable differences within the target groups in terms of how media are used and the role they play in their lives. Common elements also emerged. For example, participants agreed that connecting with others, gaining independence, getting access to critical services and participating in society as a citizen were important outcomes of media use and media literacy for these groups.
The study highlights broader challenges related to media use and media literacy. These include inadequate access to devices and the internet, insufficient trusted sources of information (particularly among multicultural communities), a lack of understanding of these groups within the broader public, and attitudinal barriers to using media and technology.
Participants emphasised that the key to providing adequate media literacy programs is to acknowledge the diverse needs of people within the target groups, and to develop a ground-up approach. Media use is usually coupled with other social activities and services, and this means that media literacy education should be embedded as part of and within other services.
In many cases media literacy education was delivered by social service organisations in an ad hoc manner. Front-line workers would often find that their clients need to acquire a certain level of media literacy to access social services. However, staff rarely receive training or education to deliver media literacy education as this is not seen as a key part of their role.
The findings suggest that more in-depth and comprehensive research is needed to fully understand the diverse media literacy needs of all segments of the society and to develop media literacy programs for all citizens.
The report is part of the Adult Media Literacy in Australia research project, which was funded by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) in the United States.
The Research Team
This report is part of an international research project, which is funded by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), based in the USA. The Australian Project, Adult Media Literacy in Australia, is led by Dr. Tanya Notley (Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University). Team members include Professor Sora Park (News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra) and Professor Michael Dezuanni (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology). Read more about the project at https://namle.net/international-researchinitiative/.
Sora Park is the Associate Dean of Research for the Faculty of Arts and Design and Professor of Communication at the University of Canberra. Her research focuses on digital media users, media markets and media policy. She is the lead author of the Digital News Report: Australia 2021.
Jee Young Lee is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Design and a member of the News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra. Her research focuses on digital inclusion practices and policies, particularly for emerging digitally excluded social groups in developed communities, and the growing digital media consumption in emerging markets.
Susan Atkinson is a senior strategic communication consultant and a Research Associate at the News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra. Her research focus is on the use of social media in crisis communication, and particularly on understanding community information needs and the use of images and infographics to increase community responses and resilience.
Jing Su is a doctoral student at the News and Media Research Centre, University of Canberra. She works as a Research Associate at the N&MRC and as a Higher Degree by Research Trainee at the Faculty of Arts & Design.