Aqua Hastings, University of Newcastle:
I was escaping the heat in the air-conditioned public library of the remote township where my study is focused when I read the email that informed me I was the recipient of a TASA 2016 Conference scholarship. In the parched landscape of thesis writing, where the horizon stretches endlessly and the end is like a mirage that I fear will disappear as I draw near, the scholarship was a welcome break of rain in a dry season. It was a relief. I took it as a much needed sign that my study was progressing in the right direction.
My PhD research focuses on a remote area of Australia. It explores the role of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) in this remote area. The paper that I presented at the conference discussed an aspect of the emerging findings from this study. Health sociology is a fascinating field and my paper described some of the experiences that people living remotely have around their use of TCAM. In particular, it looked at how people conceptualise health and use TCAM in ways that fit with the sociocultural context in which they live. Health, for people living remotely, was found to be contingent on three main factors: community networks, the geographic landscape, and spirituality. Although featuring differently, these factors emerged consistently when people were interviewed about their experiences of TCAM. My paper was in the last session of the conference so I was grateful to those that stayed to listen.
When I arrived at the conference I was still brushing the red dust off me. It was a contrast to go from the heat and aridity of the desert to the clean, tiled hallways of ACU in Melbourne. Through the week, I met many sociological student researchers who shared their stories with me. I was humbled to speak with some of the greatest names in health sociology. It was my first experience of a TASA conference and being immersed in the field of sociology was an intellectually and socially enriching experience.
There was a great breadth and scope of speakers and topics. Of course, I particularly enjoyed the two papers that shared my topic: Michelle Black’s paper on trust and complementary medicine practitioners, and Lena Rodriguez’ contrasting paper which questioned the sacred status of evidence-based health policy. There were many more papers that I was sorry to miss. Between sessions, the halls of ACU were filled with sociologists enjoying the tea breaks and networking.
My experiences at the 2016 TASA Conference were hugely encouraging at this end stage of my thesis writing. They gave me a sense of momentum and motivation, and a vision to hold for the future. The scholarship reduced the financial pressure that flying in and out of a remote area entails, and for this I am very grateful. Thankyou to all TASA supporters for making this possible. It made a difference for me. Special thanks to Sally.
Best wishes to all for ongoing success.