Julie Gale is the Founder of Kids free2b Kids (kf2bk), a non-profit organisation concerned about the increasing sexualisation of kids in the media, advertising, and clothing industries. She is also a comedy writer and performer and has performed her one woman shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Julie has been raising public, corporate and political awareness about the sexualisation of children since February 2007. She has generated great media interest about the issue and has appeared on television, radio and in newspaper articles throughout Australia and internationally.
Julies work instigated changes to the children's advertising codes and she also helped to instigate the 2008 senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment.
Julie received a 2009 National Leadership Achievement Award from the Centre for Leadership for Women, and is named in the 2011 Australian Who's Who of Women.
During 2010 Julie was invited to talk about the impacts of sexualisation to the Australian Federal Police, The Victorian Law Institute, Universities, School communities and Health Conferences across Australia and she was a keynote speaker with Dr Jean Kilbourne at the World Summit on Media for Children and Youth in karlstad, Sweden.
Interview with Julie Gale
What steps did you take to make your vision a reality and what did your collaboration with others involve in getting the project started?
I told 2 other women about my idea to convene a meeting between politicians and child development experts, and to raise public debate about the issue.
They were generous enough to provide seed funding to get the project off the ground.
I realized that to receive funding I would need deductible gift recipient tax status, or alliance with a group who did have it.
I asked Young Media Australia if they would partner me in the campaign, as it was already an interest area of theirs – and we formed an alliance together.
I started networking and finding out who were the key people concerned with the issue at that time. When the media became involved – the networking expanded rapidly.
Is kf2bk financially self-sustaining?
At this point, the initial seed funding has been very helpful, but is running low, and so I will be applying for funding over the next month or so.
I am in a better position at this end of the year to apply, because I have a clearer understanding of what is required to run the campaign, and what steps need to be taken next ie: research, surveys, policy, advocacy, public awareness, etc
What is your vision and mission for kf2bk?
My vision is that corporation, industry, and adults in general, take responsibility for what children are exposed to – and how they are represented.
Kids free 2b Kids aims to:
- Keep the issue of the sexualisation of kids in the media at the forefront of public debate.
- Provide educational information to the community, outlining the potential psychological and physical repercussions of early sexualisation of children by the media.
- Minimize indirect sexualisation through educational awareness programmes for parents, schools and children.
- Provide an avenue for concerned members of the community to petition companies and, if need be, regulators to stem the trend towards sexualisation of kids.
- Collect evidence of current commercial practices that are causing concern, and provide a conduit for complaints to regulators
- Push for an independent regulatory body which oversees all children’s interests in the media
What have been your major achievements and stumbling blocks thus far?
Some of the achievements
- Much public awareness had been raised and kf2bk has received thousands of emails from a broad cross section of the community both Australia wide and internationally.
- The AANA (Australian Assoc of National Advertisers) is reviewing the advertising code for children.
- An internal enquiry into the sexualisation of kids has been given to ACMA. (Australian Communications & Media authority).
(I’m not happy with this outcome - A motion about an open enquiry into the sex of children was originally put to the senate by Sen Lyn Allison, but was amended by Sen Helen Coonan. ACMA only oversee a limited section of the media – and doesn’t include billboards, young girls magazines etc.
It feels like lip service..and should be an open enquiry including submissions from child development experts & other relevant individuals and organizations.)
- I have networked with many experts and organizations concerned about the sex of children both Australia wide and internationally, and currently I’m working on forming a global coalition.
- I have frequently spoken in the media about the sexualisation of children since March this year. Examples listed:
Kf2bK in the media:
- Channel 7 Today Tonight. 29/3/07
- SBS Insight 17/3/07
- ABC Asia Pacific Focus 11/4/07
- Channel 7 Today Tonight 19/4/07
- Channel 10. 9am with David & Kim. 19/7/07
- Stateline ABC. 17/8/07
The Sunday Age
- Innocence interrupted: move to end selling sex to children 25/3/07
- Sex and Children – Innocence lost? Child protection from sexy ads gains favour. 1/4/07
- Advertisers heed outcry over sex and kids. 8/4/07
- Editorial - Advertisers must act on child sexualisation fears. 8/4/07
- The Age
- Filmed For Series on Teenagers – Sexuality, Alcohol & Technology
- Filmed 13/7/07. Series 10/8/07
The Herald Sun
- Be aware, and alarmed. 27/5/07
- Kylie gets her knickers knotted. 15/6/07
- Racy wear for kids under fire. 16/6/07
Brisbane Courier Mail Time to end the sex sell. 4/4/07
The West Australian Sexy sold to kids. 9/5/07
- ABC 774 Red Symons 29/3/07
- ABC 774 Lawrence Mooney 29/3/07
- ABC 774 Overnights with Trevor Chappell
- ABC Conversation Hour Jon Faine 15/8/07
- The Australia Institute 14/6/07
- Womens Action Alliance sept/07
Interviews for Books
- Claire Halliday 17/5/07
- Centre for Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics.MelbourneUniversity - Workshop Title: The Psychology & Ethics of New Marketing. Presentation Title: The Sexualisation of Kids in advertising & the media – Are we being too complacent? 7/8/07
Some of the stumbling blocks:
There have been many challenges along the way – I’ve needed a lot of patience and perseverance!
- Getting the website up and running was important, and although it’s been operational for many months now, finding the right person with the right technological knowledge to keep it up to date, and to sort out the database has proved difficult. (for a number of reasons). One of my disappointments & frustrations is that I don’t have a system in place yet, where I can regularly send out newsletters, or mass emails to contact all the people who have taken time to register – so that I can keep them updated or ask them to join in on specific campaigns. I hope to have this sorted by the end of the year.
- I was paired up with legal representation (pro bono) from a major Australia wide Law firm, as I needed to be clear about the copyright laws regarding images I wanted to show on the website and in my power point presentations. Unfortunately, as soon as I asked questions about what I could and couldn’t say about the corporations I was dealing with – the legal firm cited ‘conflict of interest’ and withdrew their assistance.
- My computer skills are quite basic – in fact I had to learn how to send an attachment at the beginning of the year, so I’d love to get funding to have an assistant who understands filing systems, computers, databases etc - that’d make life a little easier.
- On a practical level, getting my family to work together as a team, and not rely on me to organize their lives so much..because they’ve been used to me being on call and available…has proved challenging. My kids are nearly 12 and 10, and I think it’s been very good for them to have to become aware of what it takes to be organized.
- One of the major stumbling blocks is to not let cynicism take over and feel that I’m being idealistic to expect that change can and will occur. At times I feel overwhelmed and angry with the fact that corporations are allowed to get away with basically corrupt and manipulative methods of targeting our kids – and that an industry which regulates itself (advertising) continues to allow children to be exposed to imagery which is harmful to their development.
In your view, how short does the Advertising Standards Bureau fall in relation to its governance of regulating advertising targeted at children?
This requires a long answer – however to be brief – the Australian Association of National Advertisers has a very limited code of ethics dealing with sex & nudity.
It does not include provision for the impact of the sexualisation of children. It does not include provision for the sexual objectification of women (or men).
This means that when the community complains to the ASB, most of the complaints regarding these issues are dismissed.
- Self regulation is failing our children and that is why kf2bk ( and others, including child development experts) are demanding an independent regulatory body which oversees all children’s interests in the media.
- Billboards are not screened or vetted before they go out into the public arena. This system is a reactionary system, which relies on the public complaining before any action takes place – and this is a problem because of my first point.
In an election season, what promises have you got from the various political parties as to how they will stamp out the sexualisation of children in advertising and retail?
Both the Prime minister and the opposition leader made statements about thesexualisation of children a couple of months ago.
As I’ve already indicated – the pending internal enquiry into the issue by ACMA is far from acceptable and extremely limited.
Labor has stated in their policy that they will have an open enquiry – but there is not enough information by any political party about a commitment to action yet.
There have been numerous studies done – for example:
- ‘The Portrayal of Women in Outdoor Advertising’ - (2002), which makes reference to the effects on children –
- the recent ‘Media Code of Conduct Working Group on Body Image Report’.
And also research & expert recommendations:
- The American Psychological Associations Taskforce on the sexualisation of young girls.(2007).
- The Australia Institutes ‘Corporate Peadophilia’ and ‘Letting Children be Children’. (2006)
- The recent Australian Psychological Society’s guidelines for parents on the sexualisation of children.
Enough money spent on reports –
Enough research confirming there is a problem - action is now required!!
For anyone interested in supporting your campaign, what can they do?
I invite people to have a look at the website to read more about the issue and to register their name as a way of voicing concern. I always ask people to pass on the website address to anyone else they think would be interested.