Communicating the Coast: Thoughts from Communication, Media and Journalism

Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, Professor  Libby  Lester, Dr Claire Konkes

1Griffith Centre For Social And Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia, Bogangar, Australia


The coast is many things, an eco-system, a holiday destination, an economic resource, a memory, a history, a policy, a plan and so on.  Common to all these, and every idea and articulation of the coast, is communication. From newspapers, radio and television to Facebook feeds and Instagram posts; via policy documents and gatherings in community halls; on a beach somewhere and at your local Nippers carnival; and throughout these Coast to Coast conferences, the coast is being communicated in ways that signal much more than a simple ‘message’.

This panel challenges conference attendees to think deeply about the diverse and complex ways in which the coast is communicated in our private lives and in public domains. Panellists will begin to chart the ways in which communication performs a critical role in expert and everyday understandings of the Australian coast and coasts everywhere.

Drawing on recent empirical data, the panellists will speak to their work on the Australian coast and other environments. The discussion will canvass both theoretical and practical possibilities, drawing on a range of recent coastal conflicts to highlight challenges to, and opportunities for the communication of Australian coasts.  As environmental communication scholars, the panellists will open a new dialogue, centred on the role of journalism, media and communication, with those in active and authoritative positions at the fore of coastal sciences, planning and policy, advocacy and care.


Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton – Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University

Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton’s research focus is the communication of coastal and marine environments. Her work on Coastcare and broadly communication in coastal and marine management has centred on the development of the best methods to meaningfully engage communities in their local environmental futures.  In 2017, her book Environmental Communication and Critical Coastal Policy: Communities, Culture and Nature reported on her forays into Australian communities and contemporary environmental issues and disputes. The role of media in climate change communication and in environmental issues more broadly is a core research theme.  Her recently co-authored book Journalism and Climate Crisis: Public Engagement, Media Alternatives (2017 with Hackett, Forde and Gunster) explores possibilities for journalism and the news media to better communicate escalating environmental threats. Recent work is exploring various aspects of the communication the Great Barrier Reef, including its communication by Australian news media.

For over a decade, Foxwell-Norton investigated Australia’s community media sector as a senior researcher on two national Australian Research Council – Linkage Projects traversing urban, regional, remote, Indigenous and ethnic communities – and their experience of local media. She has also worked as a consultant, primarily in Queensland’s Gulf Communities on community and social development programs.  Alongside these roles, she is a lead investigator on an Australian Research Council – Linkage project that is collecting the stories of the Queensland land rights movement and broader political struggle.

Professor Libby Lester – Journalism, Media and Communications, University of Tasmania

Libby Lester is Professor of Journalism, Media and Communications, and Academic Director, Research for the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania. She has authored, co-authored and co-edited six books, including Leadership and the Construction of Environmental Concerns (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan), Environmental Pollution and the Media: Political Discourses of Risk and Responsibility in Australia, China and Japan (Routledge 2017), Media and Environment: Conflict, Politics and the News (Polity 2010; Arabic ed 2013) and Transnational Protests and the Media (co-edited with Simon Cottle). She has been awarded three Australian Research Council discovery grants (‘Transnational Environmental Campaigns in the Australia-Asian Region’, ‘Leadership and the Construction of Environmental Concern in Australia’ and ‘Changing Landscapes: Online Media and Politics in an Age of Environmental Conflict’), and is Australian leader of the EU-Australia funded exchange and research program, ‘Europe and Australia in the World: Reporting Political, Social and Environmental Change.’

Her research has appeared in leading international journals, including Media, Culture & Society, International Communication Gazette, Journalism, Forestry, International Journal of Communication, Environmental Policy and Governance, and International Journal of Press/Politics. She has been a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. Her current research program is focussed on trade, resource extraction and supply, and environmental communications.

Dr Claire Konkes – Journalism, Media and Communications, University of Tasmania

Dr Claire Konkes lectures in Journalism, Media and Communications at the University of Tasmania and is the program’s News and Journalism stream coordinator. Her research interests include news media’s contribution to public debate and governance, especially in environmental matters, and the relationship between contemporary journalistic practice and representations of crime, controversy and conspiracy. She is an affiliated researcher with the Institute for the Study of Social Change (ISC) at the University of Tasmania and her recent projects have looked at Australian media representations of environmental public interest litigation and media representations of Australian environmental policy in relation to the Great Barrier Reef.

Before coming to UTAS, Claire worked as a newspaper reporter for The Australian and The Mercury and others, and she continues to work with the media industry at local and national level and is a contributor to The Monthly.