Media literacy is important to every citizen. It is the ability to critically engage with media in all aspects of life and it is essential for full participation in society. However, media literacy abilities are unevenly distributed across the population, and little is known about the challenges facing those who may be vulnerable to disproportionate barriers when trying to access and use media.

This report complements a national survey that was conducted in 2020, with more than 3000 adult Australians about their media literacy needs and abilities (Notley, et al., 2021).

The authors acknowledge that there are hard to reach groups that online surveys cannot fully represent. To address this, between January and July 2021, they 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. The researchers focused on four target groups: people who live in aged care facilities; people living with a disability; culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Key findings:

  • Not much is known about the diverse media literacy needs of different segments of the population, especially about those who are socially disadvantaged. The findings suggest that media literacy needs among groups that experience disadvantage vary vastly within each group. More research is needed to better understand the needs of different groups.
  • Those who already experience a disadvantage in society are usually those who need media literacy education the most. And the value-add of acquiring and improving media literacy is greater for groups that experience disadvantage, as it can be used to overcome other societal barriers. At a national level, media literacy needs of groups that experience disadvantage should be addressed as a priority.
  • Improving the general public’s understanding of diversity in society is an important element of media literacy education. Media literacy for groups that experience disadvantage cannot be addressed in isolation. They are affected by perceptions and attitudes, and the relationships between disadvantaged groups and the rest of the population. The research shows that media literacy education must be embedded in people’s everyday context. For groups that experience disadvantage, embedding media literacy with social or community services can be an effective model of delivery, as this leverages existing intermediary models of service and education.
  • Many social service organisations are already providing ad hoc media literacy support to their endusers. There is an urgent need among front-line workers to be trained in delivering targeted media literacy education to the communities they serve.
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