Lesson 5: Media Representation

Learning intention: Identify what media representation is, and why it is important to individuals and communities.


As an individual exercise, ask students to quietly reflect on any screen content they viewed in the past day. This could include television, film, YouTube or social media clips.

Now ask students to think about the people and communities depicted in this media: were trans or gender diverse people included? Were any people of certain communities or backgrounds overrepresented? Were these communities represented accurately? If not, what implications might this have for individuals or society? 


View the following series of clips as a class, allowing time for student responses and questions between each video. These interview responses show First Day Lead Actress Evie Macdonald and Writer / Director / Co-producer Julie Kalceff reflecting on the audience and purpose of the series, and the importance of authentic storytelling and representation.

Julie Kalceff responds to: Why did Hannah’s story begin in Series 1 with her starting a new school?

Evie Macdonald responds to: What was your input during the scriptwriting stage?

Julie Kalceff responds to: Does a screen story have to appeal to everyone to be worth telling?


‘Media representation’ means the ways in which the media represents people, communities, places, experiences and ideas from a particular point of view. Some groups and perspectives are represented in our media more than others.

Due to myriad factors, marginalised communities have been underrepresented in screen media since its inception. Explain to students that representation of individuals and characters with diverse gender identities is improving, but their stories are still seriously underrepresented. In fact, First Day lead actress Evie Macdonald (who plays Hannah Bradford) was the first transgender actor to play a lead role in an Australian scripted television series.

Explain to students that more and more transgender characters are appearing on screen, particularly in adult drama, but the tendency in the past has been to cast a cisgender man in the role of a transgender woman. Casting a cis male in the role of a trans girl or woman is not an authentic portrayal of a trans woman. It reinforces the ignorant and misinformed notion that a trans woman is really a man and that being trans is about cross-dressing. Trans voices are crucial in telling authentic stories about trans characters.

To build understandings of what media representation means and why it is so important, ask students to reflect on and discuss representations of their age group or year level in screen stories. Do representations reinforce any positive or negative stereotypes about young people? How does it feel when you see your identity reflected inauthentically? What would you change about these screen representations if you could?


Working in pairs, have students select one or more of the following statements about media representation to explore through reflection, discussion and online research if time permits.

  • Seeing relatable characters on screen is affirming and empowering for all people.
  • The media can influence personal attitudes, beliefs, decisions and behaviours.
  • By representing human diversity as a part of everyday life, the media can play a role in dispelling negative stereotypes and misconceptions.
  • LGBTQIA+ storytellers bring unique and authentic perspectives to their work.

Students could share their learning and perspectives in a short Q&A interview about stories on screen. This could be shared with the class through an oral presentation, or as a podcast if voice recording equipment is available.


As a reflection on this lesson or the complete learning resource, ask students to share one message they took away after viewing First Day. This could include something students learnt, a scene they enjoyed or something they were left wondering about.

Review and critically examine these responses as a class, highlighting for students the learnings that relate to representation of gender diversity or media representation. Ask students to identify any common themes in their peers’ responses. Which strategies might the filmmakers have used to position the audience and elicit these responses? (For example, the narrative point of view, or dialogue and gestures intended to persuade viewers or build empathy.)

“It's been our goal from the beginning that as many trans kids and their families, and as many cisgendered kids and their families, watch the series, start conversations, maybe learn something, maybe broaden their perspective."

- Julie Kalceff [Writer/Director/Co-producer]


Australian Curriculum Links

Year 7
Year 8
Critical and Creative Thinking 
Identify the relevant aspects of a concept or problem, recognising gaps or missing elements necessary for understanding by using approaches and strategies suitable for the context.
Draw conclusions and make choices when completing tasks by connecting evidence from within and across discipline areas to provide reasons and evaluate arguments for choices made.
Evaluate the effectiveness of a course of action or the outcome of a task and account for expected and unexpected results, including using a given or co-developed set of criteria to support decisions.
Understand how language expresses and creates personal and social identities.
Recognise how language shapes relationships and roles.
Explain the ways that literary devices and language features such as dialogue, and images are used to create character, and to influence emotions and opinions in different types of texts.
Discuss the aesthetic and social value of literary texts using relevant and appropriate metalanguage.
Explain how language and/or images in texts position readers to respond and form viewpoints.
Use interaction skills when discussing and presenting ideas and information including evaluations of the features of spoken texts.
Use comprehension strategies such as visualising, predicting, connecting, summarising, monitoring, questioning and inferring to analyse and summarise information and ideas.
Use interaction skills for identified purposes and situations, including when supporting or challenging the stated or implied meanings of spoken texts in presentations or discussion.
Use comprehension strategies such as visualising, predicting, connecting, summarising, monitoring, questioning and inferring to interpret and evaluate ideas in texts.
Ethical Understanding
Understanding ethical concepts and perspectives
Describe the relationship between the role of individual and community values, rights and responsibilities, and ethical norms when responding to ethical issues.
Health and Physical Education
Interacting with others
Investigate strategies that influence how communities value diversity and propose actions they can take to promote inclusion in their communities.
Making healthy and safe choices
Investigate how media and influential people impact attitudes, beliefs, decisions and behaviours in relation to health, safety, relationships and wellbeing. 
Media Arts
Exploring and responding
investigate the ways that media arts concepts are used in media arts works and practices across cultures, times, places and/or other contexts
Personal and Social Capability
Social awareness
Acknowledge the emotions, needs, cultures and backgrounds of different groups and compare with their own.
Social management
Appreciate diverse perspectives in a range of collaborative contexts and demonstrate negotiation skills to improve ways of working and outputs.

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