1The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 2The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
In Australia, people seeking asylum continue to receive widespread media attention, attracting considerable debate at both the political and community level. For people who support refugee resettlement in Australia, discourses of humanity and compassion are commonly voiced. Conversely, those who oppose asylum seekers coming to Australia have routinely constructed them as illegal immigrants, queue-jumpers, and economic migrants. Some empirical evidence has suggested that similar discourses are pervasive in Australian news representations of asylum seekers, often mirroring political discourses that serve to justify punitive and exclusionary policies.
While some Australian research has explored media representations of people seeking asylum, no prior studies have focused on community perspectives regarding news discourses. The present study aimed to enhance and progress scholarship concerned with the socio-political context of asylum seeking by ascertaining how the Australian community interpret and evaluate messages
about asylum seekers communicated to them via the mass media. This research utilised a qualitative approach, applying Critical Discourse Analysis and Audience Reception Theory to examine the perspectives of a 24 Western Australians. Results revealed that participants conceptualised news depictions as predominantly negative, with many advocating for more humanising representations that prioritise the inclusion of asylum seekers’ voices. These perspectives were routinely constructed as recommendations for how news organisations could endeavour to foster a more compassionate, transparent and inclusive approach to informing the
Australian public about people seeking asylum. Irrespective of their personal views on the topic, the majority of participants felt that media representations were insufficient for informing the Australian public, indicating a complex and nuanced relationship between audiences and Australian news discourses. In this presentation, participants’ views and recommendations are discussed with emphasis on the wider implications from both a research and policy perspective.