Year

2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of the Arts, English and Media

Abstract

This thesis is about media coverage of disability. Specifically, it is concerned with four issues, namely (1) the extent to which Australian newspapers provide people with disability a voice when reporting on issues that directly affect them; (2) the language adopted by journalists and media organisations when reporting on disability; (3) whether that language is traditional or progressive (that is, does it present disability as a significant part of the human condition or fallback on stereotype and negative models of disability); and, most importantly, (4) what people with disability think about their representation in Australian news media.

The thesis uses a single case study – the debate surrounding the need for, design, and delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the scheme was introduced by the Australian federal government in May 2013 with bipartisan support - to argue that people with disability are often considered minor or secondary voices in the media, even when the issue being reported on affects them directly. The NDIS presents an important, perhaps once in a lifetime, opportunity to explore such a complex issue, one that directly affects one in five Australians who live with, care for, or know someone with a disability. The case study is important because it (1) provides an opportunity to chart an issue that has the potential to change the lives of Australians with a disability in a positive way through an extended time period (in this case, six years – 2008-2013); and (2) because it attracted considerable media attention through its design and implementation phases.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.