We may be what we eat, but perhaps it’s time we started forging the same accountability for the information we consume. From childhood we’re thrown into a brisk stream polluted with mixed messages – yet most of us have never been given the tools to stay buoyant, let alone swim.
We are blissfully unaware of the information crisis that cocoons our collective, but the era of COVID-19 has forced many of us to confront that reality. As we spend more time than ever glued to our screens, we’re finally beginning to realise the human toll of information.
The delicate issues at the crux of media and wellness affect us all in various ways. We feel constantly ‘logged on’ and drawn to keep up with breaking news, pop culture and our social circles. Throughout the period of COVID-19, the effects of information overload are more visible than ever before.
Zooming in, the media industry also greatly impacts marginalised groups such as those with disability, racial minorities and deeper still, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Despite being the Traditional Custodians of the land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have never seen their culture or social identity reflected in the mainstream social sphere, due to lack of accessibility and representation in the news, books, movies, as well as ‘wellness culture’ itself.
In a world fuelled by White agenda and White narrative, we have left almost no room or consideration for other voices or perspectives. If we do include alternative perspectives, they are often narrated from a position of pity or power.
Just like every issue, our approach to reforming the media landscape needs to be intersectional and centre marginalised voices. The decolonisation of media is fundamental to a more just future, but an industry cannot be decolonised without first understanding how it works – otherwise it can only silently continue to tighten its firm, White grip on our world.
When diving into media studies, it’s integral to begin by realising that the information ecosystem moves cyclically. Society shapes the media, and in turn the media shapes society.
Media organisations are businesses that need to make a profit, be it from consumers, corporations and other powerful bodies, so information is tailored to their consumers in order to keep up clicks, subscribers and viewers.
As a result, profit is often placed above integrity and the truth, and in this instance, we are the influencers. The people get what the people want to hear about – information that contradicts demographic beliefs or prejudices is thrown out the window, and reported within reputable media sources.
It’s here that consumers switch from the influencers to the influenced. Mainstream media organisations often hold agendas, influenced monetarily by corporations and other powerful bodies, and twist narratives to sway outcomes such as elections and policy reforms.
These twisted stories then influence the way we engage within our society, impacting our behaviours, opinions and prejudices.
Our media consumption thus impacts how we vote, the way we treat others and the way we uphold harmful structures such as White Supremacy.
Where the media can act as a megaphone for change and actions like policy reform, the Indigenous community is usually not even considered a part of the conversation.
Herein lies the direct and clear impact on the health and wellness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities: how is Indigenous policy reform achievable in our so-called ‘democracy’ when our fourth estate upholds the echo chamber of White Supremacy?
Despite the diversity train that brands and companies have jumped on since the #blacklivesmatter movement hit virality, a decolonised media goes far beyond simply hiring Indigenous reporters.
While access to employment as well as leadership development opportunities need to be in focus, nothing will change from these implementations alone.
It requires a dedication to shifting the power, passing the microphone and amplifying the voices we have historically silenced.
It involves an upheaval of the intricate web of White power within the media scape, as well as the remodelling of journalism education to centre Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.
The shift needs to begin from the bottom, which requires the decolonisation of a multitude of industries. Reporters and those in media leadership are not blank canvases: they bring prejudice to the table, after decades of being morphed by colonial education.
Every prevailing narrative in White Australian society is rooted in institutionalised racism. These ideologies are passed down as White ‘legends’, woven into our psyches from primary school, through a curriculum that focuses on the endeavours of Captain Cook.
If decolonising the media scape seems like a huge undertaking, that’s because it is. We as individuals are a potent part of the media ecosystem – the industry relies on us as viewers just as much as we rely on them.
As individuals who digitally engage, we have to begin by decolonising our own media consumption and relationship with digital discourse.
We can only achieve individual and collective wellness when the fourth estate serves the greater good of every part of our global community.