Arts grad wins prize for Pauline Hanson thesis

May 31, 2018

Award winners: Andrea Byrne (left) with School of Arts Dean Rikki Kersten and Matt Finch

Award winners: Andrea Byrne (left) with School of Arts Dean Rikki Kersten and Matt Finch

A Murdoch University PhD student who wrote about Pauline Hanson’s campaign during the 2017 Western Australian state election for her honours dissertation, has won a prestigious student prize.

Andrea Byrne received the Geoff and Lynn Field Prize in Australian Studies at Murdoch’s School of Arts Prize Night earlier this week.

Her thesis told the story of Hanson and her right-wing populist party One Nation as they attempted an historical comeback with the hope of influencing the future direction of WA. It also analysed Hanson’s relationship with the public and her campaign strategy, as described by the news media.

Ms Byrne found that coverage of the preference deal between One Nation and the WA Liberal Party led to significant brand damage for both parties.

“It was characterised as an unprincipled, desperate effort on the part of an unpopular government to retain power, and, as a ‘sell-out’ by One Nation leadership of their candidates and support base,” she said.

“Voter anger was reflected in a transfer of support to the WA Labor party, who remained focused and ‘on message’ throughout the campaign.”

In a speech to attendees, Ms Byrne thanked prize donors, including Geoff and Lynn Field, for supporting and encouraging students like her who are fascinated by humanities subjects.

“I believe with all my heart it is people who think about the way our world works, who seek to understand structural relations, history, philosophy, power, politics, communications, culture, and society, who are the people that have the best chance of making the world a better, fairer place for everyone,” she said.

Ms Byrne, who graduated earlier this year with an Honours in Communications and Media alongside her son Nicholas, who studied Radio and Sound, has just begun her PhD.

Although she has not yet established a title for her research, Ms Byrne says she plans to “…investigate how media representation influences public understanding and attitudes towards progressive social issues, such as gender equality”.

Another winner on the night was recent Games Art and Design graduate Matt Finch, who was awarded the Digital Media Prize for being the most outstanding final year student in the discipline.

Matt was recruited as an artist by Sentient Computing before he even graduated to produce virtual reality training programs where users based in Perth can witness mining, oil and gas plant operations as though they were on site.

Matt said Murdoch academics and tutors including Brad Power and Simon Allen had been instrumental in his success.

“My tutors and the coordinators of my course bent over backwards to encourage and push students to produce the best work we could,” he said.

“They ensured my experience here was spectacular and they are what makes the course worth it from a student perspective.”

Twenty-five prizes were presented at the School of Arts awards event, which also featured a poetry reading, student photography displays and a DJ set.

School of Arts Dean Professor Rikki Kersten said this was the first award evening dedicated solely to School of Arts students.

“With the support of their family and friends, our students produce top quality work and it’s wonderful to be able to reward them with the help of donations from individuals and organisations who are close to Murdoch,” she said.

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