Thank you very much, Lucy, and thank you to the Rural Press Club for the opportunity to speak tonight, and I wanted to acknowledge my colleague Minister Murray Watt’s apology. He is stuck in the Senate. I think they’re still debating amendments on the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill. But for anyone that knows Murray, he would have to be one of the hardest working ministers in the Albanese Labor Government. Not only was he sworn in and then had to deal with foot and mouth and lumpy skin disease breakouts in Indonesia, but we’ve had multiple flooding disasters. And I and many of my colleagues really appreciate the work that he does, especially for our rural communities.
I also want to acknowledge the Member for Bega, Dr Michael Holland, which is also in my patch in Eden-Monaro – we are really repping the region tonight!.
But I want to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on where we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to elders past, present and future and acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.
I am really honoured to be part of a government that is absolutely committed to giving our First Nations people a voice in the decision-making process of this nation. Our commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, is central to our vision for Australia and the kind of nation we want to be. And on that particular note, I want to also acknowledge Uncle Ossie Cruse from Eden, who was present at the discussions at Uluru and someone that brings back to my community the depth of knowledge and understanding of what the Uluru Statement means for not only First Nations people but for all of us.
What an incredibly newsworthy year it’s been. Massive. Natural disasters, the threat of exotic diseases on our doorstep, and then there was this thing called the Federal Election. Our rural press has played a vital role in reporting all of these major events. And with the greatest respect to my friends from the Canberra Press Gallery here today, I actually always really enjoy getting out on the ground in regional Australia, speaking to journalists about the issues impacting our regions.
And what many of you might not know about me is that I actually grew up in a regional area – in Victoria and then in New South Wales. But I went to uni and studied journalism, and I fully intended to return to the regions to tell regional stories. I did my work experience at a local paper, the Merimbula News Weekly, when I was in Year 10. I fully thought I’d be the next Lois Lane breaking big stories in the regions. Then I got to university, I studied journalism and law, did a tonne of work experience including in the press gallery, and then I graduated and immediately went to work in a law firm, and that put an end to that.
But I wanted to give an acknowledgement to the amazing work of our regional journalists. They’ve always got a camera over a shoulder, a smart phone in hand trying to file stories and get them furiously back to papers, to get stories online and meed deadlines for hard copy editions. And some of them are doing it for multiple regional newspapers. It’s really important that we have rural journalists that continue to hold governments to account for decisions we make, but most importantly to inform our communities about regional policies that really affect their lives.
It's important that they know about the funding announcements which sometimes are a footnote in a nightly news bulletin that can make the world of difference to a local community. And I wholeheartedly believe that in the regions we still have a really thriving news environment.
I want to pay particular tribute to the ABC and the work they do throughout rural and regional Australia. The breadth and depth of your coverage is a source of national pride, and I’m proud to be part of a government that champions the work of our national broadcaster, especially the work that is done in emergency situations, which literally saves lives. And I thank all of the ABC journos in the room tonight.
I also want to give a shout-out to community radio. I know that doesn’t cover a lot of you guys, but some of our community radio stations did an absolutely amazing power of work during the Black Summer bushfires keeping communities updated on what was happening in their local areas.
For all of you I know that the role of journalism is becoming more and more difficult. You’re being asked to do more with less, break the news more often while also speaking truth to power. I’m really proud that we have made an investment – and you too have as well. The ABC, The Guardian, Australian News Media, Region Media, all making investments in rural and regional bureaus, which I cannot be more happy about because we need to tell these stories.
The Minister for Communications, Michelle Roland, announced 208 regional and independent suburban First Nations and multicultural print producers would receive a share in $15 million of funding – 133 grants were awarded to regional publishers from the $10 million available under Stream 1. Regional, independent, suburban, multicultural and First Nations publishers will all benefit from this grant funding. It covers printing cost, purchase or lease of assets and equipment, the cost of acquiring new technology to assist with printing, and other costs that directly support the printing of core news content.
And this funding directly delivered on an election commitment we made to support the sustainability of local newspapers which tell the stories which are so important to us in the regions. We promised it, and then within a matter of months we delivered it, because we know how important it is for our regional communities to have a voice.
Finally, I want to thank the Rural Press Club for the work they do, including hosting these awards tonight. It is vital that our rural journalists have their own collective to come together and share ideas and recognise the stories that you all break. Thank you very much for having me here tonight, and congratulations to all the winners.