Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Criminal Justice by Research

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Ann-Claire Larsen

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Margaret Giles

Abstract

Australian research confirms that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience high levels of social inequality, racism and injustice. Evidence of discrimination and inequality is most obvious within the criminal justice system where they are seriously over-represented. The Australian news media plays a large part in reinforcing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inequality, stereotypes and racist ideology within specific situations such as the Northern Territory Emergency Response and the Redfern riots. This study widens the scope from how the media reports a single criminal justice event to how the media reports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s interaction with the criminal justice system. The study relies on Norman Fairclough’s (2003) theory of critical discourse analysis to analyse critically 25 Australian online news media articles featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Specifically, the study applies Fairclough’s (2003) three assumptive categories (existential, propositional and value). It identifies discourse reinforcing dominance and inequality within those media articles and reveals two major findings. The first significant finding is the unwillingness of any article to challenge or question the power structures that reinforce or lead to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inequality. The second major finding involves three ideologies within the text communicating racism and inequality: neo-colonial, neo-liberal assimilation and paternalistic ideologies. The concern is that although the twenty-five news media articles appear neutral, the critical analysis reveals racist ideologies being communicated and an unwillingness to challenge the power structures that create these. This position suggests that racism is not just a problem of a bygone era—it is a contemporary issue continuing at a deeper level nestled in the underlying assumptions and ideologies found within news media discourse. These findings would bring awareness to the media’s discursive practices and generate further discussion and research to address the discursive structures responsible for perpetuating the systemic harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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