05 July 2024

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

A story caught my eye recently that reinforced everything I have come to know about communicating the stories of rural and regional Australia and confirms my belief that future generations will continue to carry the torch for these communities and the people who live there.

The Walkley Foundation - which presents to media awards that are recognised as the pinnacle of journalistic excellence - held a ceremony in June where one of the winners on the night was Bill Ormonde who was named Young Journalist of the Year.

Bill works for ABC Broken Hill and he was honoured for a piece he did on mental health issues in remote Australia. It was well-deserved, but Bill's acceptance speech on the night was also memorable.

I would have loved to have been in the room to hear it in full, but in the excerpts I read, it was clear how much this young journo loves the bush, the people who call these areas home, and the stories that are there to be told.

He spoke of the challenges of sharing the stories he files for regional audiences with his colleagues in city newsrooms, and the frustration in having them dismissed when he knows their value, importance and interest to the national news cycle.

Bill said regional journalism was "undervalued" but that winning a Walkley award gave him hope that there are people who do appreciate stories beyond metropolitan Australia.

I have spent much of my career sharing the experiences, issues and passions of rural and regional communities, so I fully appreciate just how vital it is to tell the stories of these areas and have them heard by an audience beyond the bush.

With weight of population firmly against the regions, it can sometimes feel like we're shouting into a vacuum, but the important thing is to keep shouting, as the likes of myself and my team, Bill and his regional colleagues, are doing every day.

It's so important to keep telling the real stories of the bush - without catastrophising them, without too many bleeding hearts - but with clarity, kindness and sometimes harsh reality woven in.

But if you are authentic and say it how it is, then the message can cut through and awareness of the role the regions play in the nation's social and economic fabric is raised to those who may rarely leave the city limits.

And, it can help reshape opinions and shift policy positions among those who sometimes need to be reminded our communities are as critical as those with a few more million voters.

Something my team is working on at the moment includes assistance in securing support from the government for a project that will add real value to a rural community.

It's been such a pleasure to work on because the people involved from the rural community are genuine and passionate and the stories we have the privilege of sharing resonate with authenticity.

The result to date has been an increasing awareness of the project and strong indications their message is being heard.

They won't stop, and we won't stop, pushing for that ultimate outcome, because when you believe in what you're doing, believe in the people and communities you're representing, then the sky's the limit.

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