Fixing Australia’s media diversity problem

Zathia Bazeer was 22 years old when she made the switch from her PR/Comms degree at Deakin university to Journalism; despite her fear of pigeonholing.

“I couldn’t find someone [in the industry] from my cultural background and so I wondered, would I make it? Am I going to be the person who only talks about race? Will that be my ‘thing’?”

Growing up Sri Lankan in the diverse suburbs of Melbourne, the rich volume of culture she experienced surrounding her in school and the community didn’t translate to the faces and voices she watched on television.

So, with hopes of being a part of the solution, Zathia set her path on the industry to “report on other’s experiences the right way”.

“The current media reporting creates an us and them [scenario],” she said.

“I thought I would love to speak on that, and we need more people like me, covering those issues.”

The recent Who Gets To Tell Australian Stories report found that more than 75 per cent of broadcast presenters, commentators and reporters in a two-week period across a selection of free-to-air channels, had an Anglo-Celtic background.

Data: Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories.

That lack of visual diversity on screen has had a continuing ripple effect on Australians across the country, as Zathia explains: “Coming from a Muslim community, a lot of the time growing up I saw a lot of Islamophobic articles and a lot of misinformation.

“Whenever it was about ethnic people or different races, it was always a problem that’s how we were represented on the news.”

She explained that this led to extremism within her community.

“Putting people in those boxes, it just almost made them do that,” she adds.

“I saw people that I knew growing up getting extreme, not because that’s how they grew up or that’s what they were taught, but because the media constantly fed them that label and narrative.”

She believes the change is now up to the media to accept their diversity problem and move forward with practical strategies like employing diverse entry-level people into their companies.

“If people are going to deny racism in the first place, we’re not going to progress,” she says.