The expanding COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the safety of communities across Australia, including First Nations communities in rural, remote and suburban areas. From the very early stages of the pandemic response, First Nations media outlets have risen to the challenge of supporting and communicating with Indigenous people and broader audiences by providing targeted, relevant and reliable information and by fostering connections with individuals and between groups. The First Nations media sector proved to be a trusted source of information by tailoring messages to suit its audiences and by correcting emerging misinformation. It recognised and continues to address mental health issues associated with the pandemic by maintaining its focus on the welfare of audiences.
First Nations media organisations also demonstrated the important role they play in fostering identity and keeping communities strong and by often going above and beyond broadcasting and communicating through media channels. First Nations media organisations have adapted their crisis response to the pandemic to focus on vaccination information and managing information flow about the evolving directives for travel and lockdowns on an ongoing basis.
Through case study examples, this study provides an understanding about how First Nations media organisations operated during the early days of Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic. It also identifies key lessons that can be learned from that experience, both for the future benefit of media organisations and for those First Nations communities continuing to struggle with the impact of Australia’s most urgent public health challenge in nearly a century.