Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Communications Honours


Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Dr Debbie Rodan


This thesis presents a selection of representations of the Children Overboard event of October 7, 2001, sourced from the Australian government and print news media. Employing an interpretative and critical discourse approach, I explore how the event could be seen to define the physical and cultural boundaries of the Australian nation. In particular I explore how a threat to nation is articulated. From my analysis of the representations, I identify a rhetoric of the 'Other' set within the discursive spaces of family and nation. These discourses circulated within the Children Overboard event are pursued in this thesis in terms of agenda setting, post-colonial theory and political liberalism. Specifically, I suggest that the family, as space for moral education and as a symbol for 'good' citizenship, has political value in order to maintain national borders. This maintenance is articulated in terms of the discourse of exclusion and inclusion. The Children Overboard event demarcates national identities and spaces through the construction and representation of 'good' Australian citizens and 'bad' asylum seeker Others. This demarcation is seen to have a long history in Australia, where the nation has relied on a continual representation of the Other in order to define its 'self. I argue that as a media event and political tool, the Children Overboard event was mobilised to promote a continuing threat to the nation in order to gain support for government policy and legitimise national security. This thesis aims to discover that in order to sanction these representations and policy actions, the event constructed an ideal of family and nation through the representation of an 'asylum seeker' Other.