About Project Open Doors

One in five Australians are living with a disability ranging across a broad spectrum of conditions from obvious physical to psychosocial and cognitive disabilities. The issues faced by people living with a disability vary greatly depending on a number of factors including issues of access, poverty, discrimination, criminal activity and lack of support and representation.

We would like to share with you a Journalism and Media Reporting Work-integrated Learning Project commenced July 2017 as part of an ongoing research project. We partnered with Qld Anti-Discrimination Commission, Endeavour Foundation, Queenslanders with Disability Network, Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, Deaf Services Queensland, SUFY, and community sector group WWILD to develop and implement this important project.

The project was launched by Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin.  Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, Federal Member for Ryan Hon. Jane Prentice, MP, introduced Mr. McEwin, followed by a Keynote presentation by Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of Logan Campus Professor Lesley Chenoweth  AO, and a series of panel discussions featuring Qld Disability Commissioner Kevin Cocks AM, CEO Deaf Services Queensland Mr. Brett Casey, and a variety of speakers from our partner organisations and support services along with journalists, mentors, and activists. Videos of the event are available here.

The goal of this project was to change the way people living with disabilities, their families, carers and support workers are represented in the media, and develop a body of media reporting about issues affecting the disability sector.

We see the potential for this project to provide an engaged voice for people with a disability and the disability community more broadly.

Project Outcomes

  • A body of media reporting around disability in partnership with people with a lived experience of disability including their families and carers, sector and support organisations, and policymakers in this area.
  • Build on existing reporting guidelines.
  • Develop resources and guides for people living with disability about their rights when
    engaging with media and pointers for dealing with media and requests for interviews. (Available under resources)
  • Action resources that can be used in conjunction with other resources.
  • A physical on-line news site dedicated to reporting issues around disability.
  • Specialist media reporter training and skills development for journalism students around a key issue in society, as the NDIS implementation
  • Assist in developing the skills and confidence of people with a lived experience of disability including their families and carers, to share their unique
    perspectives via media.

Project Open Doors provided dedicated media coverage and support to the disability sector and set out to change the way the disability community is reported in the media, and perceived by the community at large. I have a deep commitment to develop and implement work-integrated learning (WIL) projects that not only provide significant learning opportunities but are of service to our communities.

Working in conjunction with our industry partners and special interest groups, the main goal of Project Open Doors was to provide responsible and informed media coverage that included an active presence and voice for the disability community, that is guided and informed by the disability community.

As a journalism educator and scholar, it is a priority to ensure journalism students are exposed and educated on these issues to ensure improved media coverage now and into the future.

The idea behind ‘Project Open Doors’ was to create a safe space in the public sphere to both openly and constructively discuss the issues faced by those living with a disability, and provide stories and information.

Ultimately the project seeks to facilitate active media engagement with future journalists and editors that will ensure a broader educative role in disseminating information to the community, our students, and through them, the broader community, about this important social issue.

Part of an action research project building theory through case studies, and developing the Event WIL model, it was important to seek input and guidance from the community including relevant government departments and members of parliament, interest groups, legal advocates, and most importantly, people living with disability.

Project Open Doors worked closely with people who have lived experience of disability, providing not only a voice, but an avenue to actively guide and develop media coverage and resources facilitating the development of a body of published work within a media and policy system that does not adequately accommodate their unique situations.

As part of the project, we produced a series of stories and coverage of issues facing people with a disability, moving beyond the stereotypical media representations of disability. These stories worked toward highlighting many of the issues faced by, misconceptions and misunderstandings around, people living with disability and their family members. Housed within a digital portal,  the journalism aspect was further approached through two distinct models:

  • An advocacy journalism model that casts the journalist as an advocate-journalist. Advocacy journalism, coupled with the genre of participant video, worked closely with individuals and representative organisations to facilitate social and legal change in the area of both public perception and response to disability.
  • A wise practice in journalism education model of WIL for purpose or Purpose WIL

The Project Open Doors case study built on the original intensive advocacy journalism clinic, Project Safe Space and forme part of a research project investigating and developing an inclusive model of ‘wise practice for work-integrated learning in journalism and media education.’  Project Open Doors replicates the original pilot case study adopting Yin’s (1984) concept of replication logic, in an attempt to address any concerns of validity and reliability in the experimental research design of case study research (Eisenhardt, 1989).    The study of wise practice for WIL (work-integrated learning), in journalism education, identifies three categories of wise practice (Engaged WIL, Event WIL, and Purpose WIL) with Project Open Doors a replication of the Purpose WIL model of wise practice. 

I hope you enjoy reading the body of work produced by the students, and the resources for people with lived experience of disability.  I would like to thank the tutors and sub-editors working with the students to help them get their stories published, Nance Haxton, Chris Mamouzelos,  Ginny Balfour, Bennet Nichol and Cassie Louise Mulhern.

Thank you for your support.

Faith Valencia-Forrester 

Project Open Doors/Project Safe Space

Griffith University  | Nathan | QLD 4111 | N16_2.64
email faith.valencia-forrester@griffith.edu.au