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Social responsibility

Times of emergency

The ABC provides intensive, widespread emergency broadcasting services for Australians in times of crisis. There is not doubt that 2019-20 brought major upheaval in the form of domestic natural disasters as well as global upheaval in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout an unprecedented 2019-20 bushfire season, the ABC undertook emergency broadcasting for more than 900 events, compared to 371 in the previous year. Details can be found on Bushfire coverage

Content impact

The ABC’s content-making teams make a difference for their audiences through the impact of the content they create and in the communities they engage with, work with and portray. Delivering effective environmental, cultural and social change is part of what drives ABC content makers.

Details of the ways in which ABC content reached and influenced diverse Australian communities in 2019-20 can be found in the chapter Content, services & communities

Social responsibility in the community

Community service announcements

The ABC’s Local Radio services broadcast community service announcements (CSAs) to provide information to assist local communities.

In 2019-20, CSAs were developed in consultation with emergency agencies across the country to broadcast during the bushfires in 2019-20. With the advent of the pandemic Local Radio services broadcast CSAs providing information on the National COVID-19 Older Person Support Line, which is aimed at older Australians who may not have access the latest COVID-19 information via online sources. Over the year, the ABC also created emergency CSAs and health messaging in a range of Indigenous languages.

Humanitarian appeals

The ABC works with Australian and international aid agencies during crises and humanitarian aid appeals when it is appropriate and possible to do so, highlighting the work of these agencies as they attempt to provide shelter, food, education, healthcare and other forms of relief. The ABC Appeals website at http://www.abc.net.au/ appeals/ provides information about current crises and suggests appropriate agencies to which audiences can donate.

In 2019-20 the ABC supported domestic and international organisations in their efforts to provide Bushfire Recovery Relief and COVID-19 Relief.

Connecting with communities

The ABC connects with communities of Australians through a wide range of its broadcasting and services, as well as via regional projects facilitated by ABC Community Engagement. These programs are aimed at bringing the ABC to life, and in 2019-20, the team's focus was to reach younger Australians, their families and their wider communities in a way that was both meaningful and beneficial.

Examples of these projects in 2019-20 included:

  • Remote Media Literacy Project
    In 2019, ABC Community Engagement received grant funding from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas to support the expansion of its regional schools project into a specialised media literacy education program for remote schools. A suite of materials was delivered in classrooms as a series of workshops over six months, and to date the project has trained 11 ABC journalists in a range of skills including classroom delivery, core media literacy concepts, engagement tools and effective evaluation techniques. The program identified issues relevant to each regional locality to inform the content of the workshops, and the sessions were well received by students, educators and local communities.
  • Regional Schools Program
    The Regional Schools Program is a network of 552 primary and secondary schools around Australia in regional, rural and remote areas. Each school has a direct and established relationship with ABC Community Engagement and schools were chosen with a view to maximising geographical reach and representing diversity across inner/outer regional and remote/very remote areas. In 2019, engagement focused on pairing regional offices with primary and secondary schools in their area.​

International development (ABCID)

ABC International Development (ABCID) uses the ABC's strengths to improve citizens' access to media content and services in the Indo-Pacific region.

Throughout 2019-20, the ABCID team continued to provide expertise, training, technical and program support to assist partner organisations in the region in pursuing quality journalism and storytelling, and building strong connections with their communities. Local, regional and international development donors supported the Corporation’s regional presence and engagement.

In 2020, COVID-19 posed a challenge for all training and support activities, which were adapted to be delivered remotely from March onwards.

ABCID projects in 2019-20 included:

  • Media Development Initiative
    The MDI project supports Papua New Guinean media to promote greater diversity of citizen voices and increase accountability of decision-makers. MDI activities in 2019-20 included training in talkback radio, supporting national press clubs, encouraging journalism research through background briefings and the development of drama formats for initiating discussions on local issues. The project focussed on assisting media responses to COVID-19 from April 2020 onwards, including producing public service announcements, and comic strips promoting social distancing and handwashing.
  • Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS)
    The PACMAS program aims to facilitate greater discourse across government, business and civil society on key issues affecting development, economic growth, and security in the Pacific. PACMAS capacity development activities include training of trainers for economic and business reporting, and mentoring and training journalists to cover regional events. In 2019-20, PACMAS trained 190 media professionals - with more than 200 pieces of mentored content published in the Pacific - and provided support and guidance for media professionals to ensure safe journalism practices while reporting on COVID-19 across the region.
  • Women in News and Sports (WINS)
    The WINS program aims to address the under-representation of women in sports media in the Indo-Pacific, with an overall goal of increasing opportunities for women in sports journalism. In 2019-20, the ABC continued to contribute its expertise in sports broadcasting to help train and mentor women journalists in the region, opening up opportunities for them to cover major regional sporting events.

For more details on the way in which ABC staff interact with and represent communities, see Local connections

International relations

The ABC contributes to a number of international bodies that foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing between public-service media organisations.

During the period, the ABC's Managing Director David Anderson became an inaugural member of the Global Task Force (GTF) for public media, a group of eight leaders of major public media services from around the world formed to defend the values and the interests of Public Media. The ABC also continued to participate in the Public Media Alliance (PMA), the largest global association of public media organisations, holding a seat on the PMA Board, participating in the 2019 Public Broadcasters International (PBI) conference in Helsinki, Finland and providing a representative on the PBI Steering Committee.

The ABC's Head International Strategy David Hua spoke at the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union’s (ABU) General Assembly in December 2019, and was separately appointed Chair of the ABU Radio Committee. David also met with other members of the DG7 - a group of public broadcasters from democratic countries with an international broadcasting function.

 ABC Kelly Williams
ABC Radio Sydney’s Dayvis Heyne shows an intern how to fly a drone. Image: ABC Kelly Williams

Social responsibility in the supply chain

Each year the ABC engages with suppliers to procure goods and services to meet its obligations under the ABC Charter. Through this spend the ABC has an opportunity to facilitate and promote social and sustainable outcomes. While traditionally the ABC’s focus has been on environmental opportunities within its supply chain, this focus is now expanding to address a much wider range of social and sustainability issues like diversity, labour practices and human rights. In 2019/20 the ABC published a Social and Sustainable Procurement Strategy, guided by the ISO 20400:2017 Sustainable Procurement Guidance, which is driving its multi-faceted approach to social responsibility within its supply chain.

This has included the development of an ABC Supplier Code of Conduct which can be found at the Doing business with the ABC section of the ABC’s website (https://about.abc.net.au/talk-to-the-abc/doing-business-with-the-abc/) . By producing this Code, the ABC is demonstrating the values and behaviours it expects to be mirrored by all suppliers within its supply chain. This includes an expectation that the ABC’s suppliers will take measures to ensure their supply chains are free from exploitation including modern slavery practices which are major violations of human rights and serious crimes and include trafficking in persons, slavery, slavery-like practices (including forced labour and forced marriage) and the worst forms of child labour. The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 places a reporting obligation on the ABC who will be producing a 2019/20 Modern Slavery Statement to be published in March 2021 per the Australian Government’s extended reporting deadline.

Social responsibility in the workplace


The ABC strives to create a work community that reflects the nation at large, and its policies and activities support and enrich that goal.

For more on the ABC's diversity plans, programs and reporting, see Diversity For more on the ways in which the ABC works with, and represents, communities, see Reflecting contemporary Australia

Mental health in the workplace

For details on the programs and services provided to staff to support their mental health in the course of their work at the ABC, see Mental health in the workplace

Product responsibility

Product information and labelling

The ABC ensures all products are appropriately labelled. No changes to the ABC’s policy or practices regulating product information or labelling were made during 2019-20. If applicable, packaging displays information about appropriate disposal of the packaging. ABC licensed merchandise packaging is clearly marked if it is a potential hazard.

Quality assurance

All licensees of ABC branded merchandise have contractual obligations to manufacture high quality products that meet Australian Standards applicable to the product. Children’s products are safety tested to the Standards AS/NZS ISO 8124 parts 1, 2 and 3 if applicable. Products aimed at adults also may be required to be tested to relevant standards. Licensees are required to provide certificates to prove the test results.

If there are no applicable Australian Standards or testing procedures for a product aimed at children, the ABC requires that licensees or manufacturers perform tests that conform to American or European testing, to safeguard product safety and quality. Licensees test for colourfastness, shrinkage and flammability of apparel products. These products are required to meet retailers’ individual standards.

Product complaints and recalls

Customer safety and satisfaction is of paramount concern to the ABC. ABC Commercial's comprehensive Product Recall Procedure covers all products produced, distributed, licensed and sold by the ABC, ensuring the Corporation is compliant with legislated requirements.

In 2019-20, there were no product recalls or instances of non-compliance with safety standards associated with products produced, distributed, licensed or sold by the ABC.

Protecting privacy

Information about the ABC's compliance with privacy obligations can be found at Privacy