From deaths in custody, to child removals, land rights and closing the gap – government reports repeatedly show that the current top-down policies are failing to improve the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and are instead taking us backwards.

This deficit language, however, which is so prolific in mainstream media, doesn’t work in creating change. Research shows it’s not just ineffective, it is counter-productive. It increases support for punitive and paternalistic policies, reduces support for self-determination and justice, and silences community-led vision and solutions.

That’s why we need to find the words that work, to shift the narrative and engage the broader public in support of our solutions.

This Fellowship is the first stage in a three-part project to shift research the words that work to shift public narrative in support of self-determination and justice. The 15-20 Fellows selected will shape the research, development and roll-out of these messages.



The First Nations Messaging & Communications Fellowship is the first stage in a message research and narrative shifting project. Fellows will complete, as part of the Fellowship homework, a language analysis which will then inform later stages of the message research project.

The Fellowship includes two residential three-day retreats, three webinars and 4 hours of reading material and homework each week.

  • Opening Retreat — November 6-8, 2019 — in Melbourne

  • Three Webinars — Dates TBC

  • Closing Retreat — February 19-21, 2020 — in Sydney



  • Media skills – How and when to battle the dominant, conservative storyline by developing and inserting your own.
  • Digital communications – Engaging in elements of successful and best practice digital advocacy and campaigns.
  • Developing key messages – Introducing you to framing and language analysis to different target audiences.
  • Conceptual metaphor – What is it, how to spot it and use it to best advantage for your cause.
  • Framing semantics – Identifying the elements in your storyline, such as heroes, villains, quest, tools and so on and using each to best effect.
  • Passive versus active constructions – Why the ubiquitous passive voice harms advocacy, how to spot it and make writing and speech active and engaging.
  • Narrative strategy – How and when to battle the dominant, conservative storyline by developing and inserting your own.



The costs of participation in the fellowship program is based on the size and type of organisation and does not include travel.

Please note that we do not want cost to become a barrier to your participation in the First Nations Fellowship, and have a number of full and partial scholarships available including travel costs.

  • $5,000 + GST — Full Price
  • $2,500 + GST — University
  • $1,500 + GST — Media / Large Non-Profit (with an annual operating budget above $2M)
  • $1,200 + GST — Regular Non-Profit (with an annual operating budget between $500K and $2M)
  • $800 + GST — Small Non-Profit (with an annual operating budget of less than $500K)
  • $200 + GST — Volunteer (for any and all unwaged activists)



Applications have now closed. For any further enquiries, please contact Kirsty at kirsty@australianprogress.org.au.