Catherine Robinson, Social Action and Research Centre, Anglicare Tasmania:
In 2016, after 15 years as an academic, I left both Sydney and academic life to move home to Tasmania and into the NGO sector. Always fascinated with the complexities of knowledge transfer between university, government and non-government sectors, I am relishing the new professional capacities enabled through my position as a social researcher with the Social Action and Research Centre (SARC), Anglicare Tasmania. I have responsibilities for both informing and critiquing the work of government and contributing to leadership on social justice issues within the Tasmanian community.
Since joining SARC, I have developed a research and advocacy focus on highly vulnerable teens in Tasmania – those aged 10–17 who are known to multiple agencies and services (child protection, police and youth justice and specialist homeless services) and yet continue to experience very significant personal and systemic adversity (see https://www.socialactionresearchcentre.org.au/research/too-hard/). In particular, I have focused on the disturbing gap between child protection and specialist homelessness services through which the care needs of unaccompanied older children fall (see https://www.socialactionresearchcentre.org.au/research/who-cares/). As in my past academic work, this new research is framed by a conceptual commitment to the politics of vulnerability and the ethics of care.
It is a productive time to be working on these issues because Tasmania has an election on 3 March 2018, it is launching its first Youth at Risk Strategy and implementation plan and undertaking significant reviews of the child protection and out of home care systems. Being part of a team that undertakes research, advocacy and campaigns provides a context in which I get to see my work through a full project cycle in which social change is the fundamental benchmark of success. The unique compactness of the Tasmanian community means I work collaboratively and in very immediate ways with community services and peak bodies within the NGO sector and with key contacts in government departments. Our connection with key relevant Ministers on all sides of government is also very strong. All of this contributes to a responsive and vital research culture in SARC which pivots on acutely felt responsibility for the issues and outcomes of research.
I’d like to express my thanks to TASA for supporting my conference attendance in Perth through the Sociology in Action Conference Scholarship. I find the professional sectors I cross very hungry for sociological thinking, language and intervention. TASA’s support of non-academics to engage in sociological exchange and reflection is an important contribution to the social change efforts and cultural critique that is ongoing outside the academy. It is also clear that the academy has much to learn from the translation work that non-academic sociologists routinely undertake. May the exchanges continue!