deb brennan

ASPC conference: gender migration and the work of care

ASPA member Professor Deb Brennan is excited about a new research project – an international collaboration on gender migration and the work of care.

Preliminary findings from the project will be presented at the upcoming Australian Social Policy Conference (ASPC) in Sydney, September 28-30. Deb will present the paper with SPRC colleagues Elizabeth Adamson and Natasha Cortis and Sara Charlesworth (RMIT).

The paper is called: Markets, migration and care: Australia in a global context.

“It’s the first time our research has been presented at an Australian conference, so we’re really looking forward to it,” Deb said.

Coming from a political science background, and working in the social policy arena for the last 20 years, Deb has put much of her energy and professional focus into Australian social policy, especially gender-related areas such as childcare, parental leave and family policy.

Since joining the Social Policy Research Centre in 2007 Deb has become increasingly involved in comparative research.

She currently leads the Australian element of a large international project on Gender, Migration and Care. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanitis and Research Council of Canada and its overall leader is Professor Ito Peng (University of Toronto). The project involves eight universities in North America, Asia and Australia and international organisations including UN Women, the Migration Policy Institute, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the Asia Research Institute.

Deb is fascinated by the transformation of Australian social policy – especially the way that aged care, child care and care for people with disabilities are becoming more individualised and marketised.

“There’s a lot more home-based and individualised provision now. Whether we’re talking about the NDIS, aged care, or nannies in childcare, a lot more government subsidised care is being offered in private homes.”

Internationally, she says, policies like these frequently lead to the recruitment of low-paid migrant workers – even if that is not the officially announced policy intention.

“Our research team is interested in looking at how these policy trends are playing out in different countries and in different sectors. There is growing pressure in Australia to introduce visas for low-skill workers.

“I’ve always been interested in how Australian policy arrangements compare internationally. We can learn lessons from other countries, and see our own policies in a new way as well.

“I’m really excited about what we will learn in this project through comparison with the UK, Canada and New Zealand.

Mentoring the next generation of scholars is important to Deb, and she is pleased that the Gender, Migration and Care project provides opportunities for students and early career researchers.

The project offers students great opportunities to travel, to learn how to write grant applications, and to be mentored by senior scholars from across the globe. They have access to methods workshops and internships and the chance to connect with (other) PhD students as well as more senior scholars.”

“One of my former PhD students, Dr. Elizabeth Adamson, has just won a writing fellowship that will support her to write a journal article while being mentored by leading international scholars. Later this year I’m running a workshop for PhD students from around Australia who share an interest in this field.”

As well as producing scholarly articles and books, the team is keen to have an impact on policy so there will be many kinds of ‘knowledge dissemination’. There are plans to prepare policy briefs for government decision-makers, hold forums with trade unions and advocacy groups and to ‘really engage people in what’s happening in this area’.

Biennial Australian Social Policy Conference, ‘Rights and Entitlement in Times of Austerity’, UNSW, Sydney, 28-30 September 2015.


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