I’d like to thank the Executive and members for awarding me this significant honour. When you are in an organisation like TASA, I think the more you put into it, then the more you will get out of it. Perhaps it’s the same as life in general! I have learned so much from my time in TASA and gained so many friends. It’s also been a lot of fun.
We’ve heard this week about the history of SAANZ and TASA, and how things are changing. In the current issue of Nexus (November 2013), the editors write about how universities no longer recognise the value of service to professional organisations. We know about the difficulties early career academics have in finding permanent jobs as lecturers, and the postgraduate day on Monday explored the range of careers that are open to sociologists. The great majority of TASA members still work in universities, but I’d like to look into the crystal ball and think about what TASA might look like by the time the next big anniversary comes around.
By then, perhaps, many of our members will be working in areas other than the traditional lecturing and research. They will be working in universities as administrators; working for the government; in business or non-government organisations; and as teachers in private colleges, TAFEs and high schools. Obviously, the way these people ‘do sociology’ will be different from what we know at present. Let’s take a look at one of them.
A friend of mine has a degree in sociology from the University of New South Wales, and she became a high school teacher. Now, if you think running first-year tutes is hard work, think about teaching Class 8F on a Friday afternoon. Many of the students at the school where my friend teaches are of low socioeconomic status and from multicultural backgrounds. She told me about a typical classroom exchange during a discussion on the workplace:
‘My Dad says it’s all these illegal refugees who are coming here and taking our jobs. And the government gives them all houses and cars. It’s not fair. They should go back to where they belong!’
Of course, this is the same racist claptrap we have been hearing for 30 years or more, but my friend used her sociological skills and knowledge to counter it. First, she decided to collect some empirical data, the most basic of sociological skills. She turned to one of the refugee students in the class:
‘Neyzang, is this true? What does your father do?’
‘We’re on a Temporary Protection Visa, Miss. He’s not allowed to work. The government gives our family $270 a week. We’re sharing a two-bedroom flat with two other families because we can’t afford anything else.’
My friend now called upon one of those great classic sociological concepts, Verstehen, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes:
‘Derryn, how would you like to live like that?’
The challenge for TASA in the next fifty years is to think about how it can be of service to members like these, and to provide opportunities so they can be of service to
Thank you very much.