Yesterday, the National Body Image Advisory Group, of which I am Chair, presented our report to Minister Kate Ellis at parliament house –
an experience I will post about separately today because it WAS A TRIP.
Of the head kind.
It’s been an intense and exciting few days, the culmination of many months of work with the wonderful experts on the National Body Image Advisory Group and the terrific facilitation and assistance from theDepartment of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations working on the report into body image.
I’ve done a huge amount of media in the past 24 hours around the report and most of it has focused on the Industry Code of Conduct. I am posting that here as well so you can see it in full but I also wanted to post a summary of our recommendations because the report is so much more that just the code.
I am going to do my very best to answer any burning questions you may have about our work and the report so please leave comments after this post and I will try to answer as many as I can (please note: much as I would love to help out with school and uni assignments around body image, my own work and family commitments mean that I can’t. However you are welcome to use direct quotes from this post if that helps.)
Some context: back in March, the Federal Minister for Youth and Sport and Child Care, Kate Ellis, appointed a National Body Image Advisory Group and asked me to be Chair. Once I established what a human Chair actually was, I readily accepted and we have spent the past few months putting together a report advising the government how best to tackle the issue of negative body image among young people and the wider community.
Here are the people who are in the group:
Ms Sarah Cornish
Prof David Forbes
School of Paediatrics and Child Health,
Ms Helen Gazal
Fashion industry businesswoman
Ms Kerry Graham
Ms Raina Hunter
Mrs Sarah Murdoch
Prof Susan Paxton
Head of School of Psychological Science
Ms Ruth Pollard
Ms Amanda Scott
Youth representative, currently the Chair of the
Ms Claire Vickery
Founder and CEO
After a public consultation process, we drafted a raft of recommendations for how to tackle the issue of body image in the community. We divided our recommendations into two parts:
1. Industry (media, advertising, fashion etc) which create the messages we all see and influence us externally. This is covered by the code of conduct.
2. Immediate Environment (community groups, schools, online, workplaces, families) which also have an immense impact. We have proposed a variety of strategies to tackle body image in all these areas.
VOLUNTARY INDUSTRY CODE OF CONDUCT ON BODY IMAGE
Organisations that sign up to this Code of Conduct will abide by the following principles:
Positive content and messaging
Use positive content and messaging to support the development of a positive body image and realistic and healthy physical goals and aspirations among consumers.
Use a diverse range of people that are appropriate to their target audience. When considering diversity, particular focus should be given to including a range of body shapes, sizes and ethnicities.
Use advertising that supports positive and healthy body image behaviour.
Advertising that contradicts positive body image messages will not be used.
Realistic and natural images of people
Should not use digital technology in a way that alters images of people so that their body shape and features are unrealistic or unattainable through healthy practices.
Make consumers aware of the extent to which images of people have been manipulated.
Healthy weight models
Use models that are clearly of a healthy weight.
Appropriate modelling age
Only use people aged 16 years or older to model adult clothes or to work or model in fashion shows targeting an adult audience.
Fashion retailers supporting positive body image
Stock a wide variety of sizes that reflects demand from customers.
A National and Strategic Approach (Page 11)
1. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that, in progressing the development of a National Strategy on Body Image, the Australian Government engage with and support existing expertise, resources and organisations.
2. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· formalise information sharing among the federal and state and territory governments to ensure research, best practice initiatives and resources are shared and that national moves to address body image are supported by all levels of government.
· maintain and expand the Register of Interested Parties as a means of creating a network of concerned people from the public, industry, community organisations, and academics and health practitioners.
· use the Register of Interested Parties to encourage, support and inform these stakeholders so that they are better able to promote positive body image messages within their spheres of influence, including relevant industries.
- ensure activities undertaken under the Strategy are evaluated and that resources are allocated for this.
- take a considered approach to evaluation with the aim of informing the development of future initiatives designed to support and maintain positive body image.
- incorporate a process of continual feedback as part of the implementation of each initiative.
Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image (Page 15)
4. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that:
· the Australian Government commit to implementing, promoting and supporting the proposed voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image and the associated good practice principles.
- the Australian Government maintain the Code as a working document that is revised in response to industry and public feedback, technological developments and emerging issues.
- the Australian Government monitor the support for the Code across relevant industries to determine the effectiveness of the Code.
- If, after a sustained period of continued development, government support and promotion, there is a broad failure among industry to adopt good body image practices, the Australian Government should look to review the voluntary nature of the Code.
5. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that:
· organisations who show support for the Code be publicly recognised. This could be done, for example, through the use of logos and a public listing of the supporting organisations.
· in keeping with the voluntary nature of the Code, individual organisations who indicate support for the Code be the primary point of responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the Code within their business practices.
· organisations who wish to support the Code be asked to make their support public, including if they intend to support certain principles of the Code, or all relevant aspects of the Code.
6. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· approach and select body image spokespeople who are credible and expert on body image issues, either from a health and wellbeing or relevant industry perspective.
· provide spokespeople with training and other ongoing support as is appropriate for the role.
· distribute the list of spokespeople to relevant stakeholders.
7. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government develop an evidence base demonstrating the commercial benefits associated with business adopting positive body image practices, and promote these findings throughout relevant industries.
8. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government provide industry awards that recognise best practice with regard to body image. In doing this, Government could give preference to incorporating awards into existing industry processes and using public voting systems to determine award recipients.
Standardised Sizing (Page 19)
9. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that, as part of the introduction of standardised sizing, the Australian Government consider consulting body image experts and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Industry representatives who are concerned with body image issues to:
· ensure sizing labels do not encourage competitive weight loss.
· develop positive body image messages that can be distributed with Government communications on the introduction of standardised sizing to industry and consumers.
Public Advocacy (Page 20)
10. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· inform members of the public of mechanisms they can use to raise concerns regarding body image messages.
· liaise with the administrators of existing commercial, regulatory and self regulatory mechanisms to determine the basis on which body image related decisions are considered.
· where appropriate, provide evidence to inform the basis on which decisions in relation to body image issues are made.
Schools (Page 22)
11. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· makes the positive body image checklist available as a resource for schools to adopt.
· considers the issue of body image in the development of the national curriculum, within the health and physical education curriculum.
· collaborates with state and territory government and non-government education authorities to encourage schools to address body image, through:
the use of short-term school curricula.
funding for reputable organisations to deliver body image initiatives within schools.
informing teachers of appropriate and best practice opportunities to incorporate body image issues within teaching and learning.
12. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government consider encouraging Universities and Registered Training Providers such as TAFES to incorporate positive body image messages and practices within institutional cultures and curriculum where appropriate.
13. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· provide appropriate information to parents and carers to assist them in fostering positive body image messages in the home.
· note the impact of maternity on body image and explore the adequacy of current efforts in this area.
Online (Page 27)
14. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· commission the development of a digital strategy to provide a holistic approach to the use of the internet as a means of promoting positive body image messages and resources.
· develop digital partnerships with influential online stakeholders to facilitate the distribution of positive body image messages.
· investigate and engage viral messaging to encourage positive body image.
Workplaces (Page 28)
15. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· identify key organisations and industries where body image is likely to be a significant issue.
· engage with these organisations and industries to determine how positive body image policies and training could most effectively be incorporated into their workplaces.
· support organisations to introduce positive body image practices.
· consider including body image as an employment issue within the Young Workers Code of Conduct, Toolkit or other supporting information as appropriate.
Community Organisations (Page 29)
16. The National Advisory Group on Body Image recommends that the Australian Government:
· work with the Australian Sports Commission and peak sporting bodies to respond to the body image issues raised in the report on the participation of women in sport.
· work with relevant sports and artistic agencies and bodies to support strategies to encourage positive body image.
· work with community groups to provide them with appropriate body image information and messages.
You can read the full report here. We’re pretty proud of it.