This seminar explores how transformations in Australia's media landscape are impacting on public discussion of Indigenous policy issues. Previous research found the exclusive dialogue between political journalism and policy elites has worked to exclude Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the national conversation. Analysis of political communication in 2015 around the proposal to hold a referendum to recognize Indigenous peoples in the Australian constitution demonstrates that mainstream media continue to play a key role in reporting politics and are closely listened to by the politically powerful. Oppositional voices, such as the growing chorus of Indigenous opinion critiquing the very concept of recognition, fight to be heard in powerful forums of influence. At the same time, changing media technologies and practices offer opportunities to disrupt the exclusive domain of political communication. Indigenous participatory media keeps alive issues of diversity, sovereignty and rights, challenging the narrow bipartisan political agenda on constitutional recognition. Such initiatives increasingly bridge mainstream and alternative media, contesting state policy agendas and connecting voices of protest and dissent. The presentation considers whether this changing media environment can offer new possibilities for political engagement in the Australian context.
Kerry McCallum is Senior Research Fellow in the News & Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra. Her research in Political Communication focuses on the relationships between changing media and Australian social policy, particularly in Indigenous affairs. She is currently CI on the Australian Research Council funded project 'Deficit Discourse in Indigenous Education'. Kerry has published widely in Media and Communication and is the author (with Lisa Waller) of 'The Dynamics of Media and Indigenous Policy in Australia' (Intellect, forthcoming 2017). She is a former President of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association, and a member of the Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Prior to entering academic life, Kerry worked in federal politics and was policy and media advisor to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer.