School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses

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    The Life of Human Rights: An Everyday Approach to Understanding Human Rights in an Australian Parliamentary Enquiry on the Involuntary Sterilisation of People with Disabilities
    Hernandez Ruiz, Maria Paula ( 2022)
    This research questions how ‘human rights’ are used in a parliamentary inquiry on the coercive or involuntary sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia. Throughout three chapters, the thesis breaks down ‘human rights’ as a concept and as a practical approach in development programming. Chapter two delves into the multiple understandings of rights in the development literature and incorporates contributions from legal anthropology and the field of the social studies of science and technology to understand human rights in the development context. Chapter three proposes an “ethnography in the archives” as a methodological design that pushes disciplinary boundaries to understand the value of documents and arguments in how different stakeholders inside and outside of the development field engage with issues such as the coercive sterilisation of people with disabilities. Finally, chapter four offers an analysis derived from 82 documents presented in the parliamentary inquiry in Australia. This chapter shows this thesis’s main argument: That human rights differ from what this research calls ‘everyday rights’, which are the claims articulated by people drawing upon their lived experiences rather than human rights treaties or arguments. This argument sheds light on how development practice often faces a gap between what the stated outcomes are in terms of Human Rights-Based Approaches and the practical realities of rights claims.
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    Preserving Turkishness in the daily life of Broadmeadows
    Karagoz, Orhan ( 2020)
    This dissertation investigates how Turks endeavour to preserve their cultural identity while living in Australia. Based on research carried out between 2013 and 2017 in Broadmeadows, a suburb of Melbourne and historic centre for the resettlement of Turkish immigrants, the dissertation explores a number of themes which frame each chapter: nostalgia for the homeland and for the earlier times of arrival; overseas marriages; gossip and rumour; Turkish film and television; return visits to Turkey; multiculturalism and integration; and homeland politics. Consonant with the ethnographic approach deployed, these themes were selected on the bases of what research informants identified as being especially important and meaningful aspects of their lives in diaspora. However, while eschewing a central argument, the thesis reflects on how these themes relate directly or indirectly to matters of cultural preservation and very widespread anxieties that Turkish-Australians have about losing their culture. The dissertation’s author is clinically blind. So, whilst the issue of blindness is not a conscious concern in the dissertation, it is framed by a blind sensibility. It relies upon the author’s capacity for listening, rather than being, as per convention for anthropological work, observational. And, its data and findings are conditioned significantly by the way Turkish people conceptualise and treat blind people and this author in particular.
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    On the Way Home: Christian Migrants and the Liturgical Self
    Swann, Natalie Marie ( 2019)
    This thesis tells the stories of Christian migrants who all go to church in the same suburb in the north of Melbourne. It explores the ways in which their faith journey and migration story are intertwined and seeks to show how the stories they tell echo the themes Christians rehearse when they remember, re-enact, and re-tell key biblical narratives. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus and the work of theologian James K. A. Smith, I frame this remembering, re-enacting, and re-telling as ‘liturgical practice’. This liturgical practice is not limited to the formal wording of the church service but includes the habits of everyday church life and the faithful practices of Christians in their everyday lives. Smith’s articulation of liturgical practice owes much to Bourdieu’s conception of habitus, and I seek to draw the two concepts into conversation as I reflect on the migration stories my participants told me. The liturgical frame adds two facets to habitus; first, it is explicitly tied to a sacred text, and second, it is used to decode what people love and value rather than decoding power relations. I hope that this reading of the lives of migrant Christians contributes to re-shaping the way we talk about and ascribe value to the lived experience and emotional expressions of migrants in Australia. This thesis shows how the stories Christian migrants tell about their journeys reflect the stories they know from faithful practice: for example, that they learn how to wait through stories of waiting for Jesus’ birth and second coming, that they learn about the significance of the body through the story of the incarnation, or that they learn about valuing suffering through the stories of wilderness experiences. Using this native framework to interpret the everyday practices of church life and the life stories of migrants helps identify the differences and draw attention to the continuities between three very different congregations. It shows how Australia is not the final end point or resolution of these journeys, but that waiting, suffering, and joy continue. Every Christian, but perhaps most especially the Christian migrant, is always on the way home.
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    Policy news in the digital age: an examination of Australian election reporting
    Gibbons, Andrew John William ( 2018)
    This thesis examines news coverage of policy issues in Australian federal election campaigns from 2001 to 2013. Focusing on three policy domains (health, education and taxation), it evaluates news coverage primarily through a quantitative content analysis of four key elements: media attention to policy issues, the amount of policy information provided, the sources quoted, and the frames and narratives adopted in these reports. In doing so, this study examines 1270 newspaper articles, 128 television news stories and 86 online news reports. Additionally, it analyses how media coverage intersects with political communication through a quantitative content analysis and qualitative language analysis of 10 campaign launch speeches. This study provides an original contribution by bridging a major gap in the Australian scholarship. It investigates news coverage of policy issues and campaign launch speeches over a period of immense technological, political and economic change in Australian political communication. Australia’s traditional print and broadcast media organisations are facing significant threats to their businesses models in the twenty-first century. A clear tension exists for Australia’s news organisations as they attempt to balance their commercial challenges with their democratic obligations to inform the public sphere. To examine this empirical problem, this thesis addressed the following question: What, if anything, has happened to traditional news media reporting of policy issues during Australian federal elections in the twenty-first century (2001-2013)? This study finds an overall decline in the quality of policy reporting provided by the press during election campaigns in the twenty-first century. The evidence suggests that policy reporting provided in later election cycles was limited in its capacity to facilitate a contest of diverse ideas and inform voters about policy matters. News coverage in later campaigns contained less policy information, adopted more game and strategic frames, and quoted fewer sources than earlier election cycles. However, this decline in the quality of policy reporting cannot be blamed entirely on Australian journalists. This study concludes that a combination of factors including financial pressures experienced by media outlets and changes in political campaigning adversely impacted on policy reporting in the 2000s.
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    Settler regimes of ignorance: teaching indigenous-settler relationships in schools in Australia and Kanaky/New Caledonia
    Stastny, Angelique ( 2018)
    Schools are institutions for knowledge dissemination but at the same time also sites of power. They inculcate students into specific ideological and emotional norms and social relations. Far from being politically neutral institutions, schools disseminate government-sanctioned ways of understanding and engaging in Indigenous-settler relationships. Schooling, as a form of power, has particular salience in settler colonial societies such as Australia and Kanaky/New Caledonia. In these societies, schools have, historically, been a crucial tool for the assimilation and oppression of Indigenous people. The latter have contested, refused, but have also used to their advantage these colonial education institutions to challenge colonial hegemony. In response to continued Indigenous resistance and struggles, schools have attempted more recently to reform historical knowledge and redefine Indigenous-settler relationships. This thesis focuses on the ways that the historical and political relationships between Indigenous people and settlers are taught in public schools in two settler colonial societies: Australia and Kanaky/New Caledonia. Based on an analysis of history curricula, textbooks and interviews with history teachers carried out in these two societies, this thesis addresses the following questions: What political understandings of Indigenous-settler relationships are disseminated in schools? To what extent can or does the teacher – as the ultimate institutional actor, the inheritor of a historiography, and a political and emotional agent – shape the relationships between Indigenous people and settlers in schools? Can the school system decolonise itself? Pushing the existing boundaries of research on settler colonialism and decolonisation, and taking the original approach of engaging with settler colonialism across European colonialisms by bringing together British/Australian and French forms of settler colonialism in the analysis, the thesis examines processes of producing both knowledge and ignorance. It argues that settler colonial power rests on settler regimes of ignorance that sustain the political status quo. This thesis interrogates the ways that teachers deal with these settler regimes of ignorance and their capacity (or lack thereof) to challenge them. The thesis concludes that the production of knowledge may not necessarily be a solution to settler colonial ignorance but, rather, that the attitudes towards that ignorance are both where the problem is and where the solution lies. Findings from my research reveal that history curricula, staffing trends, textbooks, and some teaching practices sustain settler regimes of ignorance. The school system in both these societies continues to disseminate historical knowledge that fails to comprehend and wilfully ignores the mechanisms and contemporaneity of settler colonialism. This ignorance constitutes a most effective tool of settler colonial power within the school system. However, some history teachers, on an individual level, attempt to destabilise and rethink institutional practices to shift power relationships between Indigenous people and settlers within this public institution. In doing so, teachers’ practices bring an unexpected finding, that is the potential of ignorance – rather than increased knowledge production – to facilitate such a political shift.
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    Negotiating the future: the role of the media in transitional justice
    Rae, Maria Mejer ( 2016)
    Transitional justice has become a global norm and practice yet some advocates continue to use the media alongside law to pursue justice for state crimes. This thesis examines why they do so and what this can tell us about the current limits of transitional justice and possible ways forward. My thesis undertakes a comparative case study analysis of Sri Lanka, Argentina and Australia to address these questions. In taking an empirical bottom-up approach, it draws primarily on interviews with 21 advocates centrally involved with legal claims against the state, about their perceptions, beliefs and experiences of the relationship between the media and transitional justice, alongside an analysis of key texts. The thesis finds that these ‘justice advocates’ turn to the media as a parallel justice forum that at times intersects with law to provide a public space for accountability and truth-telling. It shows how the media is used alongside law to make justice claims heard in the public sphere and to put pressure on the state to enact political and social reform. The media is also used as a tool to influence public opinion, mobilize action and apply pressure on international legal and political institutions to respond to human rights violations. However, the media’s complicity in or indifference to state crimes can place limits on its capacity to play a formal role in transitional justice. In drawing on Habermas’ public sphere conceptual framework, this thesis concludes that the media’s role in transitional justice can be conceived as an accountability mechanism that communicates opinion between civil society and the state. In light of this, it argues that transitional justice projects may consider providing an official democratic forum so citizens can participate in discussing, debating and negotiating what the future looks like in a post-conflict society. This space of public deliberation could be an official platform for justice advocates to make claims and be heard. In doing so, this space encompasses a grassroots approach that encourages citizens to participate in negotiations about the future of a post-conflict society. Subsequently, transitional justice projects may facilitate a more deliberative process for public opinion to be formed about how society wants the state to respond to human rights violations.
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    Consuming Asianness in Australia : identity, capital and class
    Smith, Naomi ( 2004)
    In this thesis I aim to investigate the consumption of 'Asianness' in Australian society. I account for the actions of individuals and groups who, during the Keating era of government, acted upon the Keating rhetoric of engagement with Asia by exhibiting a desire for 'Asianness'. I use the term 'Asianness' to include all goods and knowledge that have, or are informed by, a distinctly Asian identity, including Asian art, spirituality, design, fashion, food and business practice. I argue that the consumption of 'Asianness' by such individuals and groups is a means to attain distinction; it is a marker of identity which has particular meaning and currency in Australian society. I investigate this phenomenon by firstly providing a genealogy of the idea of Asia in the Australian national psyche. Australia's relationship with Asia at the beginning of the nineteenth century was dominated by a mood of fear and hostility. However, amongst some members of the population an interest in Asia was exhibited. It is this dichotomy of fear and desire which is the hallmark of Australia's relationship with Asia. I argue that the idea of Asia at the turn of the century and beyond played an integral role in the construction of the Australian nation. It is important to document the history of the relationship between Asia an Australia before moving on to examine the shift in Australia's attitudes towards Asia during the Keating era. No longer feared or hated, Asia was perceived as desirable in a variety of ways. It is the refashioning of attitudes towards Asia, and therefore Australian identity, by the Keating government which is detailed in chapter two. I argue that under the discourse of multiculturalism in the 1990s 'Asianness' was conceived as a commodity to be consumed by the Australian public. Through a number of examples from national broadsheets and magazines I detail the pervasiveness of this consumption in everyday life. In answering the question of who consumes 'Asianness' in Australian society and why? I have found the work of Pierre Bourdieu to be instructive. Bourdieu allows us to explain why certain people consume particular goods and the motivation behind such consumption choices. I argue that the consumption of 'Asianness' is an activity which is indicative of a particular group in Australian society; the cosmopolitan class. Termed 'cosmo-multiculturalists' by Ghassan Hage (1998), this group of Australians came to prominence during the Keating era. It is through the consumption of 'Asianness' that this group distinguishes itself from others.
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    Australia Felix: Jeremy Bentham and Australian colonial democracy
    Llewellyn, David Geoffrey Matthew ( 2016)
    Jeremy Bentham considered that society should be ordered on the idea of the greatest happiness. From this foundation, he devised a democratic political system. Drawing on others’ ideas, this included: the secret ballot; payment of members of parliament; equal electoral districts; one person one vote; universal adult male and female franchise; and annual elections. It also included: a single parliamentary chamber; law made by legislation, including codification of the common law; a strong but highly accountable executive; peaceful change; and eventual colonial independence. Bentham inspired several generations of radical reformers. Many of these reformers took an interest in the colonies as fields for political experiment and as cradles for democracy. Several played a direct role in implementing democratic reform in the colonies. They occupied influential positions in Australia and in London. They sought peaceful change, and looked towards the eventual independence of the colonies. This thesis traces the influence of Bentham, and those who followed his ideas, on democratic reform in the Australian colonies. It also examines the Benthamite input into the 1838 Charter in Britain, and relationships between the Charter and subsequent reform in Australia. The thesis notes ideas implemented in Australia that emerged from the experiences of other colonies, especially Canada. The Wakefield land and emigration system, and responsible government for the colonies, both saw their genesis in the Canadian experience, and both were theorised or taken up as causes by people who were members of the Benthamite circle. South Australia was founded as an experiment for ideas promoted by Bentham and his followers. Liberal agitations for democracy in New South Wales and Victoria were influenced by Bentham’s followers. The successes of Benthamite reformers in the Australian colonies included the first secret ballot system as we recognise it today, introduced to parliaments in Victoria, South Australia and Van Diemen’s Land almost simultaneously. The system of government favoured positive liberalism. Generally proponents of the small state, Bentham’s followers played a considerable role in laying the constitutional foundations that allowed the growth of the mixed Australian system, which looked both to the freedom of the individual coupled with a strong role for the state. The thesis does not claim that Bentham’s ideas were the only influence in colonial constitutional reform. Nor does the thesis uncover activity that has not been recognised elsewhere. Rather, the thesis identifies the influence of Bentham’s ideas on actors already recognised for their role in colonial reform. The thesis adds coherence to a story that is generally presented as a series of unconnected ideas expressed in unconnected acts by unconnected actors. Recognising the Benthamite association of the relevant actors adds coherence to the story of Australian colonial democratic reform and challenges some existing interpretations. It also helps confirm the observations of some scholars that Australia is fundamentally utilitarian or Benthamite.
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    Federalism and schooling reforms in Australia
    HINZ, BRONWYN ( 2016)
    This thesis reveals how federalism has shaped schooling reforms and policy making processes in Australia, a portfolio characterized by extensive and contested overlap of state and Commonwealth government roles. This is done through qualitative case studies of two landmark reforms from the 1990s - Victoria’s Schools of the Future reforms and the Commonwealth’s Choice and Equity reforms – based upon semi-structured interviews with policy actors and documentary analysis of material from personal and institutional archives, parliament, media, government and other sources. The thesis traces each of these reforms from their origins through to their implementation with the decisions, motivations and obstacles faced by policy makers examined at each ‘stage’ of the policy making process. Next, the lens is widened to encompass the broader and dynamic intergovernmental context in which each reform was pursued, to consider the direct and indirect ways each reform and the policy making process were shaped by Australian federalism. This is the first close-range, comparative, multi-level qualitative study of schooling reforms from an intergovernmental perspective in Australia. The thesis contributes new knowledge and a deeper understanding of these landmark reforms, of the operation of Australia’s federal system, and of the dominant models of federalism and policy making. This thesis finds that while each reform was pursued unilaterally, each reform was also significantly and indirectly shaped by features of Australia’s federal system. Contrary to widely held views on the restrictive nature of tied grants and perverse effects of overlapping roles, the study found the Victorian government possessed policy autonomy and the capacity to innovate in their response to what they considered state issues. Tied grants from the Commonwealth helped rather than hindered reform. The Victorian reforms were also enhanced by the spread of policy ideas, movement of policy actors and the availability of comparative data on school spending and outcomes in other states. These findings indicate the existence of a policy ‘laboratory’ and the protective ‘insurance’ effects of overlap, two claimed advantages of federal systems. The Commonwealth likewise pursued its reform package unilaterally in line with its own analysis of the policy problem and its own policy agenda. Yet the Commonwealth’s new school funding model was derived from models already in operation at state level, and constitutional provisions meant that the Commonwealth relied on state cooperation to implement its reforms. Vertical fiscal imbalance in its favour enabled the Commonwealth to provide funding to private schools beyond their estimated need. This constitutional, fiscal and political settlement contributed to what was ultimately a sub-optimal policy decision, poor resource allocation and slow, partial implementation. Simultaneous to the Choice and Equity reforms, the Commonwealth unilaterally reengineered tied grants for schooling to the states to make them more prescriptive and punitive, and attempted to extract other school funding from the states. The Commonwealth had very limited success in both instances of coercion. Conversely, evidence of highly productive collaboration was found in the case of the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling for the Twenty-first Century. These findings demonstrate that the coordinate and cooperative models of federalism, as well as the collaborative and competitive models of intergovernmental relations, are simplistic and unrealistic reflections of the fluidity and complexity of intergovernmental relations and governance in each of the case studies. The use of these models risks imposing unproductive and artificial boundaries on policy thinking and practices. The thesis supports a reconceptualisation of Australian federalism as concurrent federalism, which recognizes that policy actors act unilaterally and pragmatically in pursuit of their own policy goals within a shared policy sphere, but are still shaped by the contours and institutions of Australia’s federal system. This term also allows for the fact that intergovernmental relations took a variety of forms simultaneously – combative relations on one issue did not prevent constructive work on other issues. This was much more dynamic than previously conceived. This flexibility of Australia’s federal system is likely to be of value in the face of the increasing complexity of public policy problems. Furthermore, the thesis finds that models of policy making, such as the Australian Policy Cycle (Bridgman and Davis 1998) and the ‘streams, entrepreneurs and windows of opportunity’ model (Kingdon 1984), are useful analytical tools in a federal system, even where their descriptive value differed in relation to the two case studies. Findings from this study indicate that state governments are more effective at developing and implementing schooling reforms. Concurrency, tied grants, intergovernmental comparisons and movement of policy actors and ideas can enhance policy making processes and the policy laboratory effect to maximize policy responsiveness and effectiveness. But these benefits are undermined when tied grants become prescriptive and punitive, especially if the conditions are determined unilaterally by the Commonwealth.
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    Middle power or awkward partner?: A study of Australian foreign policy in Asia
    Patience, Allan ( 2015)
    This thesis provides a clarification of middle power theorizing in order to demonstrate how what is identified here as middle power imagining contributes to Australia’s awkward partnering in the Asia Pacific region. Australia’s characteristic assumption of a middle power identity is re-conceptualized as dependent middle power imagining. It is argued in the thesis that an analysis of the scholarship and commentary (the political science) on Australian foreign policy points to a new and more nuanced understanding of Australia’s relations with its major Asian neighbours than the conventional accounts have thus far provided.