Sustainable Futures and the importance of Gender

Centre for Women’s Studies & Gender Research, Sociology Public Lecture 2017

When 17 August 2017    Time 12-2 pm   Where State Library Victoria

Sustainable Futures and the importance of Gender

The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals identify gender equality as a key goal for sustainable futures. This panel of experts examines the importance of gender, globally, nationally and locally, as we develop social and political structures to achieve long term sustainability. The panellists interrogate the critical role of gender interventions as personal, communal and global.

Sustainable futures and the importance of gender flyer

Janelle Weissman, Executive Director, UN Women National Committee Australia

 What’s gender got to do with it?  The SDGs and the 2030 Agenda

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a roadmap for every country in the world to advance peace, prosperity and to protect the planet. Different to the MDGs, gender is central to each of the 17 goals. Ms Weissman will speak about the importance of and substance behind the standalone gender goal, and why applying a gender lens to the achievement of each of the SDGs will be critical to our success, locally, nationally and globally.

Professor Margaret Alston, OAM, Monash University

Gender, Sustainability and Climate in Australia and the Asia Pacific

Using recent research on water restructuring in the Murray Darling Basin, Professor Alston will explore impacts on affected dairy communities and the ways in which complex and precarious gendered livelihood strategies are emerging. She highlights the importance of gendered analyses of climate change and disaster situations in order to understand critical impacts and challenges in environmental and social change.  

Dr Yolande Strengers, Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT

Plugging the Wife Drought: Smart homes and gendered futures

Sustainable futures and the importance of gender’ relates to how futuristic global visions of the smart home are romanticising and reproducing traditional gender roles (aiming to fix Annabel Crabb’s ‘Wife Drought’, whilst simultaneously generating new forms of domestic labour that are, ironically, more likely to be performed by men. They are also reproducing masculine ideals of sustainability, such as automated appliances and detailed consumption feedback designed for ‘Resource Man’. The key challenge is ensuring that we bring women’s voices to the technology table.

Moderator: Associate Professor Jo Lindsay,Sociology, Monash University


Speaker biographies 

Janelle Weissman, Executive Director, UN Women National Committee Australia

For the past twenty years, Janelle Weissman has worked to strengthen social justice organisations tackling issues from empowering women through to supporting people with HIV/AIDS. Since joining the team at UN Women National Committee (NC) Australia in 2014, funds raised to support UN Women programs to empower and protect women have substantially increased. Under her leadership, UN Women NC Australia is positioned to increase its annual contribution to $1.7 million by 2020.

Prior to her work with UN Women NC Australia, Janelle was Director of Communications and Development at Family Planning Queensland, a sexual and reproductive health, education and training organisation. Before relocating to Australia, she was Executive Director of two philanthropic foundations and a venture philanthropy giving circle. Janelle completed her Masters in Nonprofit Management from Regis University in Denver, Colorado USA, as a Colorado Trust Fellow, in 2001, and her Masters in International Studies at the University of Queensland, as a Rotary World Peace Fellow, in 2009.

Margaret Alston Professor of Social Work and Head of Department at Monash University.

At Monash University Professor Alston has established the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit which has attracted an extensive number of PhD students. Previously she was at Charles Sturt University for 21 years, most recently as Professor of Social Work. In 2010 she was awarded an Order of Australia for her services to social work and to rural women.

She is a past-Chair of the Australian Heads of Schools of Social Work (ACHSSW) and was appointed a Foundation Fellow of the Australian College of Social Work in 2011. She is currently CI on an ARC project on social sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin area and on the ARC Invisible Farmer project with the Victorian Museum to develop awareness of rural women’s contribution to Australian society.

Dr Yolande Strengers, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT

Dr Strengers is a sociologist of design and technology specialising in visions of and everyday lived experiences with smart technology. As co-leader of the Beyond Behaviour Change Program at RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research, Dr Strengers leads a program of applied research oriented towards achieving sustainability outcomes and energy consumption reductions in households. Her book on ‘Smart energy technologies in everyday life’ (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013) revealed a gendered vision for the smart energy consumer – or Resource Man – who is imagined as a tech-savvy and data-driven energy user. She currently holds an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher  Award on ‘Automating the Smart Home’, where she is uncovering further gendered implications of future sustainability visions.

Moderator: Associate Professor Jo Lindsay, Sociology, Monash University 

Associate Professor Jo Lindsay is in the Sociology discipline in the School of Social Sciences (SoSS). Jo specialises in the sociology of families, consumption and the environment.At Monash Jo leads the Research Impact Portfolio in the School of Social Sciences and is on the executive of Monash Infrastructure.  Nationally, Jo is on the board of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and as past president of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) she has a long term commitment to the association. Internationally, Jo is on the academic organising committee of the EcoCity world Summit 2017 and the International Sociological Association World Congress planned for 2022.


Sociology PhD publishes her first book

Prof JaneMaree Maher (Monash University) with Dr Fiona MacDonald at her book launch

Dr Fiona MacDonald (Sociology PhD 2014) has just published a book drawing on her thesis research with Palgrave Macmillan. Entitled Childhood and Tween Girl Culture: Family, Media and Locality the book explores the ways in which notions of childhood are being influenced by a rapidly expanding consumer-media culture in the 21st Century. It focuses on the everyday social worlds of Grade 6 girls and offers a critical account of the concept ‘tween’ in their lives.

Fiona now works at the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University on projects focused on social inclusion in schools. 



Testing times: new research project looks at expectations in healthcare testing


PewDiePie, new media stars and the court of public opinion


Let’s talk about sex: inclusion in the classroom and beyond with Dr Kirsten McLean


Kirsten McLean recognised in 2016 Vice Chancellor’s Teaching awards


Alan Petersen elected to the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences

Professor Alan Petersen who has recently been elected to the Academy of Social Sciences in the UK. This is a very prestigious appointment, with fellows including academics, practitioners and policy makers from around the world. Alan was the only Australian and one of only two non-UK people elected.
See the list fellows here.
As the Academy notes: ‘The new Fellows are drawn from across the spectrum of academia, practitioners and policymakers. They have been recognised after an extensive process of peer review for the excellence and impact of their work through the use of social science for public benefit. This includes substantial contributions and leadership in higher education, government, public health and social policy, funding councils, charitable foundations and think tanks.’


Youth research

Our youth research focuses on the ways young people respond to – and create – new conditions of social and economic life in the 21st century. We explore the meanings and impacts of globalisation, new media and technology, the new transitions environment and shifts in work/study patterns, relationships and self-identity and citizenship for youth today.

Dr Steve Roberts researches and publishes on how social class and gender shape, influence and constrain young people’s experiences of and aspirations for education, employment, housing, consumption and the domestic sphere. His most recent research projects include investigations into the shifting nature of youthful masculinities and also a study of youth homelessness in a relatively affluent suburb of Melbourne.

Internationally recognised in the sociological study of youth and young adulthood, Steve is often called upon to advise on methods and findings from policy-related research and to offer commentary on international youth-related issues. Recent examples include advice to the UK’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission on research into youth employment destinations, advocacy for the charity World Vision and also analysis of the challenges facing the ‘millennial generation’ for eFM Radio South Korea. 

Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett is developing new research avenues in response to Australia’s diverse and changing international student population. She holds an ARC Post Doctoral Fellowship and is undertaking a project entitled International Student Safety from Crime.  Helen’s work has recently been presented to the Australian Government House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment, Parliament House. She is co-author of International Student Security (Cambridge University Press) and has a forthcoming book (with McCulloch and Nyland) entitled International Students and Crime (Palgrave MacMillan). 

Associate Professor Jo Lindsay  researches young people’s consumption and leisure practices, and has also undertaken major research projects on young workers and health risks in their social lives, and youth sexual health knowledge and practices. She is currently working on a large national project on young people and alcohol consumption

Dr Kirsten McLean researches issues surrounding inclusion and diversity in higher education, and has an ongoing research interest in young people and sexualities.

Professor Zlatko Skrbis is undertaking a large-scale ARC-funded longitudinal study into the Social Futures and Life Pathways of Young People in Queensland, known as the ‘Our Lives’ project, and holds an ARC Linkage grant for a project on Social Networks, Belonging and Active Citizenship among Migrant Youth in Australia.


Diversity research

Diversity is a strong and dynamic research theme in Sociology. We undertake research on cultural diversity in many forms including multiculturalism, migration and religious and sexual diversity. 

In recent years new projects focused on multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism and diversity have strengthened our research impact.  Professor Zlatko Skrbis‘ work on contemporary cities and cosmopolitanism and Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett‘s investigation of the experiences of international students sit at the cutting edge of current debates on diversity and social inclusion.

Multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism

skrbisProfessor Zlatko Skrbis has a distinguished international research profile. He is renowned for his work in the fields of migration, cosmopolitanism, social theory and life-course studies. Zlatko’s most recent projects include Social Futures and Life Pathways of Young People in Queensland, and Cosmopolitan Encounters in Contemporary Australia.



Associate Professor Dharma Arunachalam conducts research on social cohesion in Australia and international migration through predominantly quantitative methods. His work also explores family and household structures, fertility and partnering in Australia, religion, aging and health. His current research on India focuses on child malnutrition, poverty and social/cultural institutions.

Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett focuses on issues concerning international students. She holds an ARC Post Doctoral Fellowship and is undertaking a project entitled International Student Safety from Crime, which is currently an issue of major international concern. Helen’s work has recently been presented to the Australian Government House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment, Parliament House. She is co-author of International Student Security (Cambridge University Press) and has a forthcoming book (with McCulloch and Nyland) entitled International Students and Crime (Palgrave MacMillan). Helen is developing new research avenues in response to Australia’s diverse and changing international student population.

Religious diversity


Sociology is home to the UNESCO Chair in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations – Asia Pacific 2005, held by Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Gary Bouma. Professor Bouma’s research has primarily focussed on the interaction between religion and society in Western societies including Canada, The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Current work includes a major study of religious plurality in multicultural Australia which makes strategic comparisons with other societies; research into the management of religious diversity and continuing work on Post-Modernity as a context for interfaith dialogue and theological reflection.

singleton-spiritDr Andrew Singleton is undertaking research on The Afterlife in a secular age. The project considers belief in the afterlife in an era of widespread secularisation and spiritual diversity. Andrew has published widely on a diverse range of topics relating to religion. Andrew’s forthcoming book, Religion, Culture and Society (SAGE), looks at religious diversity worldwide. He is also co-author of The Spirit of Generation Y, the book about the first national Australian study of youth and religion.

Linked research

Diversity and gender – Sexual diversity

Dr Mark Davis researches the intersections of sexual difference and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. He has written on the psychosocial aspects of gay men’s sexual health and for people living with HIV.

Diversity and health

Professor Alan Petersen has a long standing research interest in inequalities in health, having undertaken research on various topics in this field in Australia and UK over a period of more than 20 years. He is particularly interested in the impacts of neoliberal policies on the provision and experiences of healthcare. His books in this field include: In a Critical Condition: Health and Power Relations in Australia (Allen & Unwin); Health Matters: A Sociology of Illness, Prevention and Care (Allen & Unwin) (edited with Charles Waddell) and Just Health: Inequalities in Illness, Care and Prevention (edited with Charles Waddell).


Health research

Alan Petersen ​has interests in the sociology of public health and health promotion, the sociology of new and emerging health technologies, ageing and health, and digital health. His research has been funded by the ARC, including recent projects on stem cell tourism and on the market of anti-ageing treatments. This work has explored the operations of promissory discourse, hope and expectation in neoliberal healthcare (e.g. Hope in Health: The Socio-Politics of Optimism (Palgrave, 2015), and Stem Cell Tourism and the Political Economy of Hope (Palgrave, 2017). Alan is currently undertaking two new projects funded by the ARC—a sociological study of patients’ use of digital media; and expectations in healthcare testing, focusing on the Australian national cancer screening programs (breast, bowel, cervical) and clinical practice. He is co-convenor of the Health and Biofutures Focus Program.

Mark Davis’ research focuses on health and society with reference to emerging infectious diseases, transformative pharmaceutical and diagnostic technologies, and the turn to digital media and narrative in health communications. Mark has held grants from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project (ARC DP) programme. He currently leads an international team researching the social aspects of antimicrobial resistance, supported by an ARC DP.

JaneMaree Maher is Professor in the Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Sociology in the School of Social Sciences.Her research is focused in two key areas of gendered social science: women’s work and family, and gendered violences.

Her health research critically examine the interactions of familes and societieswith an emphasis on how neo-liberal discourses of health and consumption impact on family relationships. Her current project is the ARC funded DP160100257 Children as health advocates in families: assessing the consequences exploring the mobilisation of children as vectors for public health messages and she recently published Consuming Families (Routledge 2013) with Associate Professor Jo Lindsay.  

Jo Lindsay specialises in the sociology of families and consumption. Over-consumption and the health of families and communities are central themes of her research. With JaneMaree Maher she authored Consuming Families: Buying, Making, Producing Family Life in the 21st Century.  Jo is currently working with colleagues to explore the management of food and healthy eating in families with the project Children as health advocates in families: assessing the consequences and the management of alcohol consumption by young people with the project Alcohol use and harm minimisation among Australian university students.

John Gardner’s work is situated in the field of science and technology studies (STS) and medical sociology. His general research interest is the social, political and ethical dimensions of biomedical innovation, with a specific focus on neurotechnologies and regenerative medicine.

He was previously the Science and Technology Studies Unit (SATSU) at the University of York.  Here, worked on an ESRC-funded project exploring the social dynamics of the regenerative medicine in the UK and Europe.

His PhD was funded by the Wellcome Trust, and involved ethnographic research of a clinical team providing deep brain stimulation to children and young people with severe movement disorders. This work is published in his monograph Rethinking the Clinical Gaze (Palgrave, 2017).