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Breaking Silences

Media and the Child Abuse Royal Commission

The iron fence of St Patrick's Cathedral, Ballarat

The Breaking Silences: Media and the Child Abuse Royal Commission project analyses the role of media, journalism and social media activism in the ground-breaking Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013-17) (RCIRCSA). Through an investigation into the impacts of a rapidly changing media environment on this national ‘listening’ exercise, this is the first major Australian research to explore the nexus between media and commissions of inquiry in the digital era.

A case study approach is used to critically analyse the role of a transitioning local, national and social media in triggering, reporting on and keeping alive the findings of the royal commission, ensuring victims of institutional child sexual abuse are heard, and justice is upheld.

The project benefits media organisations and journalists by identifying their role in triggering, reporting on, and holding to account the institutions implicated in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and provide examples of best practice journalism and communication.

It provides governments, journalists, victims advocacy groups, future commissions of inquiry and researchers with knowledge and tools to understand and manage the role of a rapidly transforming media environment and the public inquiry process.

PhD scholarship opportunity

The News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) invites applications from outstanding candidates to undertake a PhD on a topic related to the Breaking silences ARC Discovery Project.

Under the Primary Supervision of Professor Kerry McCallum, the PhD candidate will undertake an independent study that addresses the Breaking Silence project’s aims and scope. This project might focus on the institutional media practices of the Royal Commission to investigate the innovations and challenges enabled by the digital media environment in contemporary inquiries.

The PhD candidate will be supervised within the N&MRC, which researches digital news consumption and the impacts of digital technology on public discourse and democratic participation.

For more information about how to apply for this fully-funded PhD opportunity, download the call for applications. Applications close on September 15, 2019.


Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP190101282 (2019-2022)

Breaking Silences Team

Professor Kerry McCallum, University of Canberra

Associate Professor Lisa Waller, Deakin University

Associate Professor Kristy Hess, Deakin University

Associate Professor Tanja Dreher, UNSW

Professor Eli Skogerbø, University of Oslo (Norway)

Other Team Members

Megan Deas, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Canberra

Publications and outputs

Waller, Dreher, Hess, McCallum & Skogerbø (2019) Media Hierarchies of Attention: News Values and Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Journalism Studies (online first).