Academic journal article Rural Society

Local Newspaper Reporting Humanitarian Migrants’ Settlement Experience in an Australian Country Town

Academic journal article Rural Society

Local Newspaper Reporting Humanitarian Migrants’ Settlement Experience in an Australian Country Town

Article excerpt


In recent years, more Australian rural towns are coming to terms with the permanent presence of new and different ethnic groups (Hugo, Khoo, & McDonald, 2003; McDonald, Gifford, Webster, Wiseman, & Casey, 2008; Smolicz, 1997). Community uncertainty about belonging results in responses ranging from inclusion to rejection within Australian civil society (Noble, 2005; Rundell, 2004; Sandercock, 2000). Within a broader study of how immigrants conceptualise their sense of belonging, articles from two local newspapers are analysed for coverage of South Sudanese humanitarian arrivals in their community. These print media, in representing the rural town to itself and expressing views of both community and migrant experiences, play a pivotal role introducing newcomers and building their image in a host community lacking prior experience mixing with different ethnicities (Mahtani, 1984, 2001; Nunn, 2010; Özcan, 2013). The current study analyses how local rural media report and represent local and South Sudanese attitudes. This, in turn, can be contextualised within the significant gap in Australian academic literature examining local media reporting of immigrants' settlement experience.

In this article, news production, as a tool in maintaining social order, is considered through Bauman's (1995b) notion of strangerhood and Foucault's (1988) idea of discursive power relations is used to understand social relations between host community and newcomers. Australian media studies on immigrants, Australian refugee settlement policies, and the study location, Castlemaine, are presented before the methods describe how critical discourse analysis (CDA) elucidated unintended implications of positive media representations of Sudanese. Findings analyses newspaper data, discerning relations between locals and newcomers under three major topics: constructing Sudanese as citizens, community involvement, and multicultural events. Finally, a protocol of balance is described that avoids sudden disruptions of the social fabric of the rural community in receiving new arrivals.

Literature review and theory

Theoretical framework

The permanent arrival of newcomers to a community directly challenges, or causes reflection, for existing members. This experience can range from the acceptance of newcomers, to their exclusion (Alexander, 2004). New arrivals "befog and eclipse the boundary lines which ought to be clearly seen", spreading uncertainty where certainty and clarity are expected (Bauman, 1995b, p. 1). According to Bauman, strangers render social, cultural, and physical boundaries unstable. Strangers, as ambiguous people, disturb the "full satisfaction" ofparticipation in society, polluting joy with anxiety by covering implicit boundary lines; these newcomers threaten the insider/hosts' identity (Marotta, 2008).

The discourse of stranger in Bauman's work symbolises the ambivalence of boundaries: strangers both reinforce and blur the boundaries between self and others (Marotta, 2001). Strangerhood demonstrates relational or inter-subjective conceptions. "Self-identity is constituted through its opposition: the Other" (Pietsch & Marotta, 2009, p. 188). Identity is subjected to interpretation by "others" in order to show the difference. How hosts read strangers' identity, and whether they agree to position migrants within their social order, are important for understanding the project of building a sense of belonging (Hage, 2002; Vasta, 1993). Within this relationship, newcomers could be positioned as others, strangers or guests, for example.

Interaction between hosts and newcomers can also be viewed as reflecting relations of power, with the knowledge/power conjunction challenging the strangers' position. While the local community may see themselves as the dominant group, migrants bring new energy to perform as a group in the host community. This dynamic interaction, reaction and counter-reaction, can be understood as a relation of power. …

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