Peter Robinson, Swinburne University of Technology: 

Welcome to the August 2018 issue of Nexus where the focus is on professionalisation in the style of the work of Evan Willis from La Trobe university. When we sent out a call for writers, we stressed that we were interested in contemporary issues about research into professions and gender, race, health, education, emotion work, developing world and post-colonial professional work. We included in our guidelines the fact that professions more and more exist within systems and organizations at a time when there is evidence of a growing rejection of experts and authoritative knowledge as well as a greater reliance on professions, examples of both have been aired nightly on excerpts from televised hearings of the Royal Commission into the banking and superannuation system in Australia. We hinted also that other areas of interest could include studies investigating the effects of automation, robotics and digital consequences for professions.

As the initial response for articles was far from overwhelming, we approached post-graduate students and those with recently awarded doctorates in the hope that they would recognise the value (and impact) of writing for, and practising their writing skills with a non-refereed publication like Nexus. Here the response was strong and genuine and we received five articles on professionalisation as understood by their six authors. Sadly, no one wrote on automation or robotics, though two authors did write a stimulating piece on the struggle between professions in hospital operating theatres where (wo)man and machine more and more must work together.

With one exception, all the articles were written by sociologists who recently received their doctorates. The exception was a well published, early career historian who has a post-doctoral position at the University of New England. Answering the call to write, the six authors who did so chose topics ranging from education in universities and schools to the meaning of professionalisation in the 2010s, with a cluster of five focusing on health.

In the order they appear below, the first article is by Tom Kehoe and examines what he regards as gaps or absences in the training of doctoral candidates for employment in the higher education sector. His argument centres on practices he observed and developed when working at universities while studying for his PhD, from which he learned important skills. The second article, also on education, focuses on how schools can include an understanding of trauma in their curriculum. Drawing on her work in a school specifically set up to cater for students with experience of trauma, Carmel Hobbs argues for a greater awareness of the benefits of trauma-informed approach to the general population of school children.

Boundaries separating professions in the health sector with more power from those with less was the focus of two articles. The first one was the work of Olivia King and looked at competition between non-medical professions for more influence and their relative success in creating greater cooperation with each other. The second one was written by Allegra Schermully and Andy Schermully and concerned the division of labour that continues to persist in operating theatres in Australian hospitals. The latter article discussed the continuing efforts by Anaesthetic Technicians for professional recognition in the context of power relations in operating theatres. The final article on professionalisation was the work of Edgar Burns and considers the varying forms and representations of the professional worker in the late 2010s.

Aptly follows Ashleigh Watson’s update on post-graduate matters in Post-graduate Corner. Here are details on a free workshop for post-graduate and ECR members at Griffith University, South Bank, Brisbane. Entitled, ‘Behind the Scenes: How to Run Academic Events and Organise Collaborative Publishing’, it is being held on 27 September 2018. As well, a reminder: applications for TASA’s annual post-graduate conference scholarships close on 24 August 2018.

In his President’s Letter, Dan Woodman reports on the recent ISA World congress of Sociology in Toronto. There was a large TASA presence there, in preparation for the next Congress in 2022 that will be held in Melbourne. We hope to have members’ impressions of the Congress in the next issue of Nexus. Dan also reminds readers that now is the time to nominate for the TASA Executive elections.

Southern notes are next, from New Zealand correspondent, Bruce Curtis of Waikato University. In these, he praises Jacinta Adern for the frankness with which she announced the birth of her child to New Zealand and to the world and her success in returning Labour to power in that country. As well, Bruce alerts readers to the forthcoming conference of the Sociological Association of Aotearoa/New Zealand in Wellington, 4-7 December 2018.

The penultimate article is Maria Khan’s account of preparing her oral presentation for TASA’s conference in Perth last year. Maria was the 2017 recipient of the post-graduate scholarship and explains in her article the work underpinning her Master’s thesis on the role of migration intermediaries in Australian immigration.

Our final piece explores the work behind preparing for a TASA conference, in this case the 2018 conference which Deakin University is hosting in November in Melbourne. Alexia Maddox together with two other members of the local organising committee, Grazyna Zajdow and Anna Halafoff, reflect on how the conference themes were chosen and hint at the highlights to which conference goers can look forward. Perhaps unaware that professionalisation was to be this issue’s focus, Alexia coincidentally drew attention to a principal theme of the conference, the job insecurity of university teachers and researchers, which Grazyna had raised:

The  precarity of the university is an interesting example of people who may be considered middle class but who are being confronted with the sorts of pressures that other groups, commonly considered socially disadvantaged, have long been facing … It may be a somewhat ironic commentary that finally the upper middle classes are beginning to understand what it means to live a day-to-day existence and not be able to think about or plan for a future retirement.

That date and place again, for your diary?

TASA’s 2018 conference is being held 19–22 November at Deakin University’s Burwood campus, Melbourne.

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