Expertise, public opinion and Indigenous policy agendas: Shifting media assemblages and their implications

Margaret Jean Simons, Jack Holten Latimore, David Nolan

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This presentation draws on a case study of an intervention in Indigenous policy debate, and what it suggests about
potential shifts in process of mediated agenda setting. In the policy process, the expertise of opinion pollsters has been
a significant influence in public debates, and polling has provided an important tool through which policy actors have
worked to build policy agendas. The presentation focuses on a case study of such a process in action, as mobilised by
the ‘Recognise’ campaign for constitutional recognition of Australia’s first peoples, and a subsequent controversy that
occurred following an intervention by the activist digital media organisation IndigenousX. A significant criticism of both
Indigenous policy making and mediated policy discussion has been its reliance on a narrow range of policy actors and
voices, and the predominance of well-resourced actors that are able to mobilise institutional and economic capital to
both shape and delimit Indigenous policy agendas. The production of polls, and the successful promotion of findings as
the basis for news stories, has been a significant resource within Indigenous policy processes. Where the Recognise
campaign’s use of polling was quite typical in this respect, its contestation by IndigenousX, through the production and
publication of a second poll that disputed the findings of the first, points to a significant digital disruption of the
mechanisms, relationships and ‘media ecology’ through which Indigenous news representation is produced. This paper
provides an analysis of this controversy in order to trace these shifting relationships and, by doing so, reflect on what it
suggests about the changing ways in which mediated policy agendas are produced and contested, and discusses a
current digital action research project that seeks to further amplify a greater diversity of Indigenous voices.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018
EventA Crisis of Expertise?: Legitimacy and the challenge of policy making - University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 15 Feb 201816 Feb 2018


ConferenceA Crisis of Expertise?
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