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7 – 14 July 2024
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Passing the Message Stick

National NAIDOC Innovation Award Category
Passing the Message Stick

Passing the Message Stick is a ground-breaking message research project designed to shift public narrative in support of First Nations justice and self-determination, paving the way for long term change. Based in Meanjin (Brisbane), with a national focus, Passing the Message Stick shares stories and truths, putting First Nations voices and lived experiences first.  

First launched in 2021, Passing the Message Stick is led by and for First Nations people and is the first of its kind in the country. The project responded to a need amongst First Nations advocates, organisations, journalists and allies, to critically analyse the language used when talking about First Nations people and issues that impact our lives.  

The findings from the first two years of research are already being actively used by a wide variety of organisations. The momentum continues with First Nations people and allies joining in Passing the Message Stick’s message briefings, and hundreds of organisations have requested workshops to learn practical skills to apply messaging advice and recommendations to their issues. 

In 2023, the project is being led by a distinguished steering Committee of:  

  • Dr Jackie Huggins AM,  
  • Larissa Baldwin (CEO, GetUp),  
  • Millie Telford (First Nations Justice Director, Australian Progress) and  
  • Kirsty Albion (Executive Director, Australian Progress) 

The Passing the Message Stick team is now undertaking the next phase of the project which involves building on the foundational research to develop compelling messages on key issues relevant to the current political climate, including truth-telling, treaty and representation, within the context of the upcoming referendum. This is to ensure that the national narrative builds the foundations for major long-term policy change, rather than descending into racist and deficit-based debates.  

The next phase also includes messaging research on law reform and justice, highlighting the strength of the Stop Black Deaths in Custody movement, and the consistent call for support from advocates to find messages that are effective in building support for justice campaigns and law reform.  

As part of this further research, Passing the Message Stick have completed a language analysis including 20 advocate interviews, an analysis of 1,500 media tokens, and led a Law and Justice Fellowship for First Nations law and justice campaigners to learn foundational message research theory. In addition, they have completed 15 focus groups and a general population dial test survey with 3,000 people to find the messages capable of building widespread support for transformational change. 

Passing the Message Stick are doing transformative work that will continue to change the story on self-determination and justice for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the wider Australian community.

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