Analysis of representation of Indigenous Australians in mainstream print media: An exploration centred on the social determinants of health

The objective of this research project was to examine the representation of Indigenous Australians through coverage in print media. The Age, The Australian and the Herald Sun were selected as representative examples of mainstream print media sources for Melbourne, Victoria. The study aimed to measure and categorise the coverage of Indigenous Australians in all areas of the selected newspapers and to specifically analyse the reportage of health issues and the social determinants of health. This student project is an initial study that should be used as a pilot for further research into this field of analysing the representation of Indigenous Australians in the media.

Over the period of analysis the study found the representation and exploration of the health of Indigenous Australians in print media articles to be disproportionately lower compared to articles on the topics of sport, arts and politics. Key findings included:

  • of the 505 articles collected, only 6.5% comprised articles covering Indigenous health issues. In the reporting of health issues, at least one social determinant of health was mentioned in 90.9% of cases
  • almost half of the health articles collected did not feature any sources for the information they were reporting on
  • the types of social determinants mentioned in all articles were: education 20.4%; life expectancy 17.4%; housing 17%; income 15.9%; and health behaviour 10.4%.

The study employed content analysis of the three selected newspapers over the 10-week period of April 1 2007 to June 10 2007. These newspapers were selected over smaller, local and specialised newspapers as they have a larger reader population and they cover a greater geographical location in not only distribution but also with regard to the stories published.

Related resources

  • Jessica Roberts 2008, ‘Analysis of the Representation of Indigenous Australians in Mainstream Print Media: An exploration centred on the social determinants of health’, Honours Thesis, La Trobe University.

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