Tough love and talkfests: Discourses of Aboriginal policy in media reporting on Closing the Gap

Aboriginal Studies Press
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Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, 2019, 1st, pp. 177-195
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This case study undertakes textual analysis of selected national and New South Wales (NSW) mainstream print news media in the weeks following Rudd’s Apology on 13 February 2008 which contain thematic references to ‘close the gap’. It finds that, across the whole sample, there was a failure to distinguish between the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), and Closing the Gap. The NTER, also known as the Intervention, had been launched by the previous government and was supported by Kevin Rudd’s Labor government after some modifications (Bielefeld, 2014). Not only did this erase Aboriginal communities outside the remote Northern Territory (NT) from the mainstream media coverage of Closing the Gap, the negative behaviour said to characterise life in these communities was often generalised to Aboriginal people as a whole, supporting a simplistic discourse of dysfunction that was generally associated with Aboriginality. Aboriginality thus became the gap that needed closing. This supported an overwhelming deeper narrative that ‘tough love’, using Intervention style measures that overruled existing ‘failed’ Aboriginal authority, was necessary to close the gap, while a cognate narrative told that a mixture of consultation and Intervention-style approaches, based on expert opinion, was needed to implement Intervention-style measures. In both narratives, such measures could avoid the apparent mistakes of the self-determination era.
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