Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Communications (Honours)


School of Communications and Arts


Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Danielle Brady


The media’s representation of the Australian National School Chaplaincy Program has not currently been addressed by social theorists. This thesis analyses online newspaper portrayals of the National School Chaplaincy Program, examining a total of eleven major state newspapers. Norman Fairclough’s theory of Critical Discourse Analysis, and particularly his theory on the three main types of assumptions (Existential, Propositional and Value), is employed to examine how language is used to construct ideologies and discourses about the Chaplaincy Program. Four key issues are examined, which include: the role of chaplains, the use of government funding for the Program, as well as church and state boundaries. The fourth issue analysed is the 2011 High Court Challenge. The challenge began when Queensland father Ron Williams contested that the Chaplaincy Program was unconstitutional because it breached Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, which claims that the ‘Commonwealth is not to legislate in respect of religion’. The news articles have been analysed during 2006 when the Program was first announced, 2007 during the commencement of the Program, and 2011 when the High Court Challenge began. The results from the analysis reveal mixed responses, with news articles in 2006 and 2007 portraying a more positive representation of the Chaplaincy Program. On the other hand, in 2011 the Program was portrayed more negatively due to considerable support for the High Court Challenge. The compiled findings demonstrate that online newspaper portrayals of the Chaplaincy Program are predominantly biased based upon the assumptions made by journalists, and the people they choose to represent in their news articles. This research provides new insight into how spirituality is represented within Australian media, particularly analysing and reflecting on the way in which newspaper discourse represents religious chaplains within state education.