UPDATE: You can now see my interview from yesterday’s Today Show here….
Kate Ellis, Minister for Sport and Youth
Glad you asked. It’s the idea of Kate Ellis, federal minister for Sport and Youth who is 31 and astonishingly impressive. One day, I hope I can vote for her to become Prime Minister.
Anyway. In her work with her portfolio, Kate travels the country constantly and meets a huge number of people. Many of them young and many of them telling her that negative body image is a serious problem.
This is backed up by a Mission Australia survey last year which showed that among people aged 11-24, body image was one of their top three concerns. I’m not sure what the other two were but given there are a few heavy ones to choose from – global warming, the imploding economy, terrorism – the fact that body image is in the top three? That’s big.
So Kate decided to ask Kevin for some money to put together a voluntary code of conduct for the media, advertising and fashion industries. He gave her $125,00. Thanks Kevin.
She wasn’t finished. To help her put together this code and to advise the government on a national strategy to improve body image among Young Australians, she appointed a diverse group of 11 people to an advisory board. I was one of those people, chosen (I assume) because I have long been passionately out-spoken on the issue and have a background in magazines and media.
Other members of the group include Sarah Murdoch (model & media personality), Sarah Cornish (editor of Girlfriend who lead the media pack on a responsible approach to body image – more about that in another post), Professor David Forbes and Professor Susan Paxton who are both at the forefront of medical and psychological work on the subject of eating disorders, Belinda Seper (Australia’s leading independent fashion retailer and a force to be reckoned with in the industry), Claire Vickery (founder of the Butterfly Foundation), Raina Hunter (YWCA), Kerry Graham (Inspire Foundation), Helen Gazal (fashion industry businesswoman and mother of 4 teenage girls), Chris Warren (MEAA – the union which governs performers and the media) and Amanda Scott (NSW Youth Advisory Council).
To those who have questioned the inclusion of a model and magazine and fashion people in the group? (I’m not being defensive, I’ve just heard this question asked a few times in the past 24hrs)
Kate firmly believes (and I agree) that the only way to tackle an incredibly complex issue like body image is to do it in partnership with the industries who are involved. We’re going to get a lot further a lot faster by working together with media and magazines and the fashion and advertising industries than we will be demonising them or sending anyone to the naughty step.
It’s a big job. No question there. As we agreed yesterday, it took years to turn around public attitudes to smoking and sun-baking. We’re not going to change things in one meeting or even in ten. This is the beginning of a long process but if we throw up our hands and say ‘too hard’ and ‘too long’ then nothing will change. We have to start somewhere.
As a group, what we’ll be looking at is this voluntary code of conduct – how it might work and what it might include. We’ll also be looking at how we can proactively work to better education kids and parents about body image. It’s a multi-pronged approach and it’s complicated. But we’re a highly motivated group of individuals who are all passionate about trying to make change.
To answer them, I’m going to try something new here. Ask your questions via comments and I’m going to do a vlog to answer them all and post it up here next week. So go for it. Ask away. Even difficult questions. And please make suggestions too. Over to you…….