Rachel Payne

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts


This thesis explores links between perceptions of Australian identity and the national press reporting of two Olympic and two Commonwealth Games staged in Australia: the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, and the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. When Australia plays host to the world or Commonwcalth of Nations it is the press' role to communicl!te to Australians and international visitors how Australia and its peoplc are seen, and where Australia positions itself in global or Commonwealth contexts. The assumption guiding this study is that during these major intcmational sporting events Australia's newspapers depicted athletes and Games rituals, such as opening and closing ceremonies, in ways that conveyed a sense of national identity and consciousness. The newspaper is selected as the main medium for analysis because written reports consistently provided substantial coverage of each of the selected Games.Particular attention is paid to the ways in which Australia's newspapers defined "Australianness" and "otherness" within this sporting framework. From onc perspective, the concepts "Australian" and "other" can be treated as two distinctive, or separate, entities. From another, the idea can be entertained that the boundaries of Australian identity and "otherness" are often blurred, in the sense that someone who is part of the nation may be perceived as being an "other", and someone who is not directly connected to the nation might be considered to be more compatible with the (mainstream) Australian way of life. Therefore, the findings of this study are divided into six sections which, one by one, focus on representations of Australian athletes and Australia as Games host; Indigenous Australians; the British monarchy and the Commonwealth of Nations; athletes from the regions of Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia; and depictions of Australian identity through Games ceremonies. The sixth section employs a case study of press constructions of local identity during the Perth British Empire and Commonwealth Games. The research is presented as both quantitative and qualitative findings. The qualitative results comprise the bulk of the thesis, and involve textual analyses of the prcss reporting and a semiotic analysis of the Games ceremonies. Comparisons of thefour Games are historical in nature. The findings and analysis draw on ways in which the coverage of these major events reflected social, cultural and political factors linked to the evolution of Australia's identity, but overall the study is grounded in communications discourse. The dissertation is interdisciplinary in that the research combines the fields of identity, print journalism, sports journalism, Australian sports history, and Western Australian history. In particular, this thesis aims to cxpand on the currently limited literature on Australia's involvement in the Commonwealth Games.