Deakin University

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The dynamic interplay of news media and bilingual education policy in Australia's Northern Territory 1988-2008

posted on 2013-03-01, 00:00 authored by L Waller
his study investigates the dynamic interplay between news media and the Northern Territory’s policy of bilingual education for indigenous children living in some remote communities. It provides evidence to support the argument that the media-related practices of a range of policy actors resulted in policy processes being shaped to a significant degree by ‘media logic’. The research is based on depth interviews and uses the spoken words of participants to gain access to the local experiences and perspectives of those invested in developing, influencing and communicating the bilingual education policy. Through the analysis of more than 20 interviews with journalists, public servants, academics, and politicians as well as indigenous and non-indigenous bilingual education advocates, I have identified a range of media-related practices that have enabled policy actors to penetrate the policy debate, define problems for policymaking and public discussion through the news media, and thereby exert particular forms of influence in the policy process. The study also provides a ‘southern theory’ analysis of the Yolngu public sphere and a Bourdesian understanding of the journalism sub-field of indigenous reporting in the Northern Territory. It shows that issues of physical and cultural remoteness and the need for journalists to develop cultural competence are the hallmarks of this reporting specialization. It also identifies marked differences in journalists’ relationships with government, academic and indigenous sources and how these differences play out in the way participants understand the production and reception of media texts. This research makes an innovative contribution to Australian Journalism Studies by demonstrating how indigenous epistemologies and knowledges offer fresh perspectives and insights about news media and indigeneity that can be brought into balance with northern theories to build what Connell (2007) has called ‘southern theory’. This dovetails with another key outcome, which is the development of an academic form of journalism that serves indigenous peoples’ self-determinist aims for scholarly research, based in indigenous perspectives and research methodologies.



256 p.

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Original held at the University of Canberra

Degree name

PhD (Communication)


M Meadows, K McCallum, W Blood


Faculty of Arts and Education


School of Communication and Creative Arts