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Facing responsibilities: The unexpected consequences of successful collaboration

Desai, R. and Smyth, C. (2013) Facing responsibilities: The unexpected consequences of successful collaboration. In: ANZCA 2013: "Global Networks - Global Divides" Bridging New and Traditional Communication Challenges, 3 - 5 July 2013, Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle.


Effective collaboration between journalists and public relations practitioners and academics alike has been traditionally fraught, with each approaching communication with audiences in different ways. But what happens when they work together to achieve a common goal? This has been the basis of the success of the Australian Asbestos Network website project, which brought together academics from three different professional areas to develop, build, launch and manage an integrated online communications platform in order to increase public awareness and draw public and media attention to this contentious and at times politically--‐driven issue.

This presentation will show how a multi--‐disciplinary academic and practical approach, involving academics from journalism, history and PR disciplines, successfully built a website that now garners the first page in Google search results for its topic. As the site was developed it grew from being a story--‐telling, archival repository that documented the shameful history of asbestos in Australia, to being a live health communication portal, a focus for a community of those who have suffered the ravages of asbestos--‐related disease and others who want to know about more about the risks of exposure in their everyday lives.

However, success brings its own problems, not least of which is sustainability, a pressing problem for community--‐based research projects that take on a life of their own, well past the arbitrary boundaries of funding cycles. Moral and ethical obligations arise. When does storytelling become advocacy? Do we have a duty to continue the ‘good work’ after the funding runs out? These and other issues have confronted the researchers who started with one idea for a website but success made it another.

The presenters will discuss the crucial role of interdisciplinarity in creating an authoritative, credible and engaging website, social media network and offline stakeholder community in order to effect change in public awareness and understanding and government policy in relation to asbestos and its impact on the Australian community. The presentation will focus on the success and the unexpected outcomes of this National Health and Medical Council of Australia funded project and what this means for the longer term viability of this important community resource.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
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