Drowning in our own home: a metaphor-led discourse analysis of Australian news media reporting on maritime asylum seekers

Li Nguyen, Kerry McCallum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article provides a socio-cognitive discourse analysis of Australian news media's use of certain metaphoric concepts to represent maritime asylum seekers (MASs) and discuss how such metaphorical constructions function to shape shared knowledge and legitimise certain immigration policies. The article argues that Australian news media feature a range of figurative language that discursively and consistently depicts MAS as an 'uncontrollable danger'. Two major metaphoric themes are identified: MAS as water or water catastrophe (all italics in this document are my own italics for emphasis, unless otherwise stated), and Australia as an invaded home. These metaphorical constructions appear to have emerged at the expense of earlier concerns regarding assimilation and difference and the metaphorical use of the queue, suggesting a recent shift in the immigration discourse in Australia. We conclude that both the water catastrophe and the home metaphors cognitively concretise and socially amplify the link between boat arrivals and social menace, thereby giving credence to discourses of responsibility and border control. This reproduction of a new discourse contributes to legitimising restrictive government policies and creating further possibilities for antiimmigration measures
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-176
JournalCommunication Research and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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