In 2021, we worked with the national charity for Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, Butterfly Foundation, to bring greater awareness to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about the signs and support available.
Research shows that one in ten Australians at some stage experience an eating disorder, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are affected by these issues at similar rates to the wider Australian population. However, awareness, and therefore access to support services, can be low.
With that in mind, we worked with Butterfly Foundation to create a culturally safe forum for consultations ahead of developing community-focussed campaign materials. This forum was made up of a reference group which included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with lived experience(s) with eating disorders as well as health and mental health sector professionals.
The key outtake from the reference group discussions was that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people impacted by eating disorders are often simultaneously navigating intersecting cultural factors and barriers. Eating disorders and body image issues are often depicted or associated as affecting a specific and western archetype. Amplified through stigma and such archetypes, the consultations revealed that there can be a general sense of shame felt in seeking support within community on these issues.
Our goal was to create a strength-based approach to empowering individuals, their families, and their communities in knowing they are not alone. To do this we created materials that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people impacted by eating disorders and body image issues could easily recognise and identify with.
The ‘Every BODY is Deadly campaign’ was launched with two key campaign ambassadors: Wiradjuri, Bundjulung, Kamilaroi and Yuin woman, Garigarra Mundine, and Kamilaroi and Dhungutti sister girl, Felicia Foxx, who shared their personal stories.
For Felicia Foxx, growing up in a male-dominated Aboriginal family that was very masculine and athletic had a significant impact on her body image and sexual identity. For years she struggled with expectations of how her body should look—until she realised it was just like her ancestors.
Back home with her family and surrounded by culture, Garra never took much notice of her body image. However, at the age of 11 after moving to Sydney, she began to feel her body was different and eventually developed an eating disorder.
A major aspect of the communications campaign were videos produced specifically for social media platforms and audiences.
In the videos, Garra and Felicia talk openly about their personal journeys and body image related experiences.
The video shoot took place over the course of a single day in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Newtown, and also included a photoshoot with each talent.
We hired an indoor living space for interviews and interior shots, and acquired b-roll in surrounding suburban streets, as well as the iconic Carriageworks precinct (the former Eveleigh Railway Workshops).
Our crew on the day consisted of a videographer, producer, production assistant, and hair and makeup professional.
Pre-production work included location scouting and booking, the development of a videography brief, shot list, and run sheet for the day, the development of interview questions, and talent and crew booking.
The Every BODY is Deadly campaign is a first step, providing a platform for awareness and discussion about this issue.
The materials are available to download from the Butterfly Foundation website, to help support community health providers, schools, and staff to identify signs and symptoms of an eating disorder.
The vision for the campaign is to continue building out these personal stories, recognising and reflecting the diversity of communities and ensuring there is not one approach that suits everyone – eating disorders and body image issues can affect anyone, at any time.
Support is available for people at risk or experiencing an eating disorder by calling 1800 33 4673. You can also call the helpline if you are concerned about someone close to you or you can contact Butterfly Foundation by email or online chat.