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Perceptions of public relations in Australian Aboriginal community-controlled non-profit organisations

Petersen, Natacha Wirenfeldt (2016) Perceptions of public relations in Australian Aboriginal community-controlled non-profit organisations. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines how staff working within Aboriginal community-controlled non-profit organisations (ACCOs) perceive and practice Public Relations (PR), and foregrounds how ACCO staff, in the role as the organisations’ key communicators, can be seen as facilitating communicative processes of social change that lead to positive social outcomes within Australian Aboriginal communities. This relationship between PR and social change has been increasingly acknowledged in scholarship. Although most of the PR literature continues to focus on the management of communications between organisations and their publics, recent scholarship sheds light on PR’s influence on society and culture, and vice versa. This indicates PR is more than just a practical tool for an organisation. Rather, PR has the potential to be a much-needed voice for marginalised groups in society.

More specifically, this thesis explores PR in the non-corporate environments of the Indigenous sector in Perth, Western Australia. A selection of six ACCOs based in the metropolitan area of Perth represent the sample, and seven ACCO staff members participated in this research.

Drawing on a postcolonial theoretical framework and employing a qualitative research approach and Indigenous methodology, this thesis found that ACCOs predominantly practice PR-like activities in reactive ways on an ad hoc basis due to their limited communicative resources or lack of knowledge on how to integrate PR into their organisational structure. It was further established that short-term government funding programs challenge the ACCOs’ ability to budget for PR. A key finding was the importance of Aboriginal culture and kinship systems that must be factored in to understanding the ACCOs’ working environments and ways of communicating with members, communities and other stakeholders. This thesis calls for further research and development of theoretical frameworks embracing and extending the cultural diversity of PR practices. Moreover, it contends that there is a need to introduce culturally sensitive and sector-specific PR that sheds light on Indigenous contexts particularly within postcolonial societies, as PR holds the potential to give voice to and drive social change for minorities in our communities locally and abroad.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Richardson, Ingrid
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