Date of Award


Degree Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Kayt Davies

Second Advisor

Stephen Bright


A plethora of existing research shows that current media discourse around illegal drugs and drug use creates stigma that can harm People Who Use Drugs (PWUD). The negative health effects of stigma, including reduced likelihood of seeing doctors or seeking treatment, and creating or exacerbating mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, is similarly well-researched. This research focusses on the reporting of illegal drugs and the media discourse framing them within Australia, with two goals: 1) identifying potential sources of discourse that can harm PWUD; and 2) identifying how media discourse around illegal drug issues can be improved. By identifying what factors influence how journalists and editors from major Australian news media organisations report on illegal drug issues, this research aims to facilitate reduction or modification of discourse that can harm PWUD. This research uses knowledge of what types of discourse are harmful, and knowledge of the process through which an event becomes a news story, to analyse the attitudes and approach to the work of Australian journalists and editors using semi-structured interviews (n=8) and a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) using articles from the participants and their news organisations (n=32). The literature review, CDA and semi-structured interviews were triangulated against each other to increase methodological rigour. In doing so this research found that the majority of news about illegal drugs is sourced from police and the courts, with a strong focus on crimes involving drug-related violence and drug dealing, echoing results from previous research. A strong relationship between the genre of news story and the treatment and neutrality of the story was also identified. The participant journalists and editors generally expressed an openness to guidelines around reporting on drug issues to improve reporting. More resources for journalists to source non-crime related news and easier access to experts would likely help improve the standard of reporting around illegal drug issues and reduce harm.

Access Note

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