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Caroline Winter’s Sick as a Dog podcast continues her path of researching and bringing to life powerful and interesting stories that matter to the Australian public so much so, it was nominated as a finalist for a June Andrews Freelance Journalist of the Year award in the Walkley Foundation’s Mid-Year Celebration of Journalism.

Created with funding from the Meta News Fund’s Public Interest Journalism Fund, administered by the Walkley Foundation, the podcast explores the mental health crisis facing workers in the veterinary industry. It was a story that Ms Winter had been wanting to tell for many years.

“The crisis in the veterinary industry is an issue I have wanted to investigate for a few years, but rather than the short news stories I would see once in a while, I believed there was the need for a deep dive into, not just the challenges of the industry, but the reliance that all Australians have on vets and vet staff, whether they are pet owners, wildlife lovers, meat eaters, or farmers,” Ms Winter said.

Pictured: Caroline Winter

With the necessary funding secured, Ms Winter passionately pursued the story she has waited so long to tell. 

“To explore the challenges and solutions, in its entirety, from the city to the bush, I needed to have the time to do it (the story) comprehensively; the ability to travel to speak to people across the country; the resources to create a website, marketing material, and facilitate the podcast’s distribution, among other elements. The Meta funding made all this possible in a financial sense, but being judged as a successful applicant, also gave me confidence in my idea and helped me focus my investigation.”

Released as an eight-part series on Apple podcasts and an independent website, Sick as a Dog places a spotlight on the sometimes tragic stories of suicide and loss, directly attributed to the pressures of caring for Australian animal friends.  

The Meta funding, which has granted $10 million since 2021, has seen freelancers, like Ms Winters and organisations able to bring to life public interest journalism projects, ranging from podcasts to the expansion of newsrooms and bringing to life ideas for apps. It is because of the Meta funding that Ms Winter’s work has gone from concept to a polished and published product. 

“I would absolutely encourage freelancers to apply for the META Fund. My project was one I could only have dreamed of doing under the umbrella of a big media organisation. By applying as an independent, as part of my business PodTalk (which I co-own with my partner), I had the freedom to create the series as I wanted, partner with who I wanted, distribute it how I wanted, all while bringing my decades of editorial experience as a journalist and broadcaster to ensure it was a great piece of impactful work and in the public interest.”

And the impact?

“My biggest hope was that by creating a compelling, engaging and thought-provoking series on the veterinary industry, that I could help start important conversations about the extent of suicide and mental ill health that exists among vet workers.

“Many vets and vet nurses who have listened have sent messages to thank me for shining a light on an issue they were either too afraid to speak up about or felt was just the norm in their industry. I feel I have given them an outlet to express how they are feeling, but also to let them know that they are not alone.

“Together with recent launch of Sophie’s Legacy’s campaign ‘We are only human’ (by Kate and Garry Putland who featured heavily in the podcast), we are helping to bring about change –particularly change in how the community understand and value vets, what they do, the challenges they face, the reasons those challenges exist and solutions that they can be a part of.

“We have also met with politicians from many sides, in particular the South Australian Labor Government which has recently pledged $25,000 towards Sophie’s Legacy, to educate pet owners to be respectful to vets and their staff. My advocacy in the vet space is continuing. I remain in close contact with the Australian Veterinary Association, vet clinics and academics, who are all working to make the profession a better, safer place for people to work.”


To listen to Sick as a Dog, listen via Apple Podcasts here

Or head to Caroline Winters website here

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