The National Freelance Committee of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) works to improve freelancers’ power, respect, fair pay and conditions.
MEAA’s National Freelance Committee aims to improve freelancers’ power through collective actions for respect, fair pay and conditions.
The committee was formally established by MEAA’s Federal Council in 2019 and existed prior to that date in various forms. With ever increasing numbers of media freelancers working across Australia, MEAA have a new focus on freelancers and the National Freelance Committee is actively working, supported by MEAA organisers, towards these goals.
The committee is made up of freelance journalists, writers and photographers.This is an introduction to those people volunteering their time to improve the lot of freelancers across the country.
Who shall we introduce first? Let’s go in alphabetical order by first name.
Erin Delahunty is a sport and news journalist based in regional Victoria. She started her career with a print journalism cadetship and has since spent close to 20 years as a news, sport and feature writer and section editor for major media groups in Australian and the UK. She’s established herself as one of Australia’s pre-eminent netball writers and pundits, writing for a range of leading outlets including a regular in-season Super Netball column for Guardian Australia. She’s also a regular contributor to ABC radio and is co-writing a book that will be a ‘love letter to netball’.
Erin wants to see decent freelance rates, which she considers as “closer to $1 a word than 50c”, as well as payment of superannuation, as required by law. Why did she join the committee? “There are enough people shouting into the void about the poor treatment and rate of pay for freelancers,” she says. “I wanted to do something about it instead.”
Fran Molloy is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and editor with over 20 years’ experience in print, online, radio and TV. She’s published two non-fiction books and is also a long-term casual academic, teaching environmental journalism at New York University’s Sydney campus. Fran also runs the online freelance journalist community, Freeline.
Fran believes that support, encouragement and knowledge sharing among freelancers is core to her (and other freelancers’) survival in this industry. “Staff and freelancers working together is key to us reaching the common goal of a resilient, diverse and ethically-driven media landscape,” she says. To this end, she would like to see liveable rates as standard and contracts that are fair and protect freelancers who are covering complex or controversial stories. “If publishers won’t indemnify freelancers through fair contracts that protect them against litigation, it can have a chilling effect on freelance journalism,” she says.
To view Fran’s work, see authory.com/FranMolloy
Jeanette Severs is a regional Victorian journalist, photojournalist and content creator. Her award-winning investigative journalism and photography is created for newspapers, magazines and online in Australia and internationally. She creates content for government, corporate and not-for-profit clients. Trained in a newsroom, she is also a subeditor, copywriter and has edited two magazines and a regional newspaper. She’s also a sociologist and one-time accountant!
“I have strongly advocated for dedicated recognition and representation within MEAA for media freelancers since 1999,” she says. “The gig economy has become more common, meaning a refocus on valuing skills to achieve outcomes rather than time spent in an office.” Jeanette wants to see superannuation factored into freelance payments and industry associations providing freelancers with skills needed to manage business in a gig economy, so they are successful in the long term.
Jeanette’s work can be seen at: jeanettesevers.wordpress.com
Jennifer Mills is the author of five books, including her most recent novel The Airways. She’s been a full-time writer since 2007, supplementing her fiction with freelance work in the fields of arts, criticism, opinion and analysis. She lives and works on Kaurna yerta (Adelaide). In 2022 she is continuing to work on art and precarious labour as Artist in Residence at Vitalstatistix.
Jen has been campaigning with, and of behalf of, writers for many years. In 2013 she founded the @paythewriters campaign as a way for Australian writers and other precarious arts workers to complain, conspire and organise. “I’m determined to get freelancers organised so we can demand our worth!” she says. “Aside from increased rates, superannuation, fairness and consistency, I want to see freelancers working together, organising across genres and industries, and campaigning in solidarity with others doing precarious work.”
Learn more about Jen at jenjen.com.au and join @paythewriters on Twitter.
Madonna Deverson is a freelance researcher and writer based in Melbourne. She’s worked in media and communications in the US (Fox News, New York Times, Ogilvy) and in the UK (Leo Burnett). She’s now a freelance research, strategy and content specialist for B2B media, agencies, brands and small business. She also does fact checking and investigative journalism.
She joined MEAA on returning to Australia after 20 years working in the US and UK. “My eyes were opened to the realities of life as a media freelancer by my teenage-self’s radio role model, Helen Razer,” she says. “It’s unfair and no-one really appreciates how hard it is to find work and get paid properly.” She’d like to see more alignment with freelancers in other industries who are typically paid for time worked, performance or deliverables. “Call me crazy but payment based on number of words written when (or if) published is an outdated model based on traditional print media,” she says.
Madonna’s website is madonnadeverson.com
Marisa Wikramanayake is a freelance journalist and book editor based in Melbourne. Their 15 years of experience started with writing a weekly column for the national paper, The Sunday Leader, and they have since written for The Age, The West Australia, The News Daily, Guardian Australia and more on whatever topics intrigue and interest them.
Marisa wants to see all freelancers, even those new to this way of working, not only survive but thrive. They also want to see better accessibility and diversity in Australian news, so that it caters to the whole population, not just urban Australia. “The industry is steadily moving towards more insecure, gig and freelance-based work,” they say. “We need advocacy that works for the growing numbers of freelancers who do a vast variety of work.”
See Marisa’s work at authory.com/MarisaWikramanayake
Marty Hirst has been a journalist and writer for more than 40 years, with roles ranging from editing a university paper, Press Gallery correspondent, and executive editor. He is a columnist with Independent Australia, has authored several books on journalism theory and practice, and is currently studying painting and photography at RMIT. Marty now runs a small business helping clients with their public-facing media.
“I have spent my entire adult life as a union activist,” says Marty. “I know I cannot create change by being a critic who sits on the sidelines.” Marty’s main hope for media freelancers is a change in Fair Work rules that recognises freelancers’ worker status so that MEAA can effectively represent us. He’s also keen to see access to superannuation and, of course, an increase in rates.
Marty’s writing for Independent Australia can be seen here independentaustralia.net/profile-on/martin-hirst,364
Miriam Cosic has worked in mainstream media for more than 30 years, including with The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. She has worked general and specialist rounds as well as in features and as a section editor. She now freelances for publications including The Saturday Paper, The Monthly and The Australian.
“I joined MEAA’s Freelance Committee to help gain the respect and remuneration for freelancers that professional journalists expect and staff writers receive,” she says. “I am being paid less now in most cases than I was paying freelancers 20 years ago.
Sandra Godwin is an award-winning freelance journalist, writer, editor and communications specialist, living in rural Victoria where she formerly grew stonefruit and grapes. With over 30 years’ experience of sharing regional and rural stories, she knows that making a living as a freelance writer has become more difficult, especially with the rise of the gig economy and ‘content farms’ where cheaper is considered better.
A MEAA member since 1989, Sandra has seen the benefits of having a united voice when it comes to retaining and improving wages and workplace conditions and would now like to see these improvements also apply to freelancers. She’d like to see superannuation paid as a matter of course rather than exception, payment within 7-14 days of work accepted, fair minimum rates and annual rate increases. “I’m also advocating for more professional development and training for freelancers who don’t have access to in-house courses especially if, like me, you’re located in regional Australia,” she says.
You can see samples of Sandra’s work at: sandragodwin.com.au
Vivienne Pearson is a freelance feature and content writer living near Byron Bay in regional NSW. She came to freelance writing in her mid-40s after careers in health and research. She started after doing a short online course and now, after bylines in many major media titles, is tutoring participants of that same course and is offering her own course in writing opinion pieces.
Vivienne joined the committee in the quest for increased pay rates and respect for freelancers. “Freelancers are an important part of the media landscape and should be treated as such,” she says. “Practices like payment on publication are not acceptable as part of a respectful work environment.” She wants to be a voice for freelance writers who have not come through the system of cadetships or ‘journalism school’ and, after decades of work in other industries, to challenge practices that others accept as inevitable and unchangeable.
Vivienne’s writing lives at: viviennepearson.com
Wilson da Silva is a Sydney-based science journalist, editor and communications advisor. He was founder and longtime editor of COSMOS magazine, as well as working for ABC TV, a foreign correspondent for Reuters, a staff journalist on the Age and Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney correspondent for New Scientist, science news editor for ABC online and a communications advisor at the University of New South Wales. His broad experience encompasses writing, editing, media liaison, creative production, television production, communications strategy, media campaigns, business development, team leadership and custom publishing.
Copyright is top of Wilson’s list for changes he would like to see for media freelancers. “Most publishers in Australia acquire all rights from freelancers but this is not the case internationally,” he says. “I joined MEAA’s Freelance Committee to address inequities in how freelancers are treated in copyright and superannuation, as well as empower freelancers to improve their contracts and conditions.”
Wilson’s website is: wilsondasilva.com