SSJN has modest funding to support new research collaborations between the University of Sydney and civil society organizations in the field of social justice. In 2012, the SSJN is supporting the following collaborative research projects:

The University Beyond Bars

Conveners: Laura Beth Bugg, Susan Banki, Rebecca Scott Bray

“The University Beyond Bars” is a partnership between the University of Sydney and the correctional system that seeks new ways to think about social justice, inequality, crime and education. It is a model of transformative education in which incarcerated persons and university students come together to learn as peers in the prison setting. The project involves a 12-month period of relationship building and facilitation with the NSW Department of Corrective Services and NGOs working on issues of incarceration and social justice and culminates in a semester long academic course, “Social Inequality in Australia”, that will be taught to 10 University of Sydney students and 10 incarcerated persons at the Compulsory Drug Treatment Correctional Centre (CDTCC) in Parklea. The course will be facilitated by University of Sydney teaching staff. The class will emphasise collaborative learning and problem solving amongst peers facilitated by teachers, using the “prism of prison” and the life experiences of both university and incarcerated students to explore material. The aim of the program is to create transformative encounters across profound social and cultural barriers through educational practice and to allow students who will pursue careers in social policy, education and criminal justice the opportunity to see those with whom they will work as potential partners in solving and addressing social problems. The University Beyond Bars will be the first ever university collaborative learning project offered in a prison setting in Australia.

Equal Access to Justice in the Far West

Convenors: Garner Clancey, Duncan Chappell, Greg Martin, Jenny Bargen

This project will support local lawyers and access to justice for regional Australians in the Far West of New South wales. Lawyers in the Far West NSW report being isolated from their urban colleagues. They are required to possess expansive legal skills with few frameworks of support in remote and rural communities, and experience an absence of opportunities for professional development. Correspondingly, regional Australians in rural and remote communities are under resourced with legal services and under serviced in terms of legal needs. This project will support legal professional development, service delivery and research in the region corresponding directly with Strategy Fourteen on the University’s Strategic Plan, to ‘develop and implement a coordinated university-wide framework for local and rural community engagement’. This will be achieved by furthering links with the Far West Community Legal Service Inc. to support professional development, reciprocal information exchange and research partnerships with Far West service providers.

Academics Stand Against Poverty

Convenors: Danielle Celermajer

While the research and teaching of many Australasian academics engages with issues around the alleviation of poverty and social justice, there is often a gap between what happens in the academy and the development of policy and practice in the field. Indeed, while academics frequently express the aspiration to contribute to poverty alleviation and a range of social justice concerns (such as legislative changes concerning asylum seekers or Indigenous peoples), there are no Australasian networks of academics working in the field of social justice, other than at the sub-disciplinary level. This absence of a permanent infrastructure makes it very difficult to effectively organise to influence public policy debates even on an ad hoc basis.
This project will seek to assist scholars, teachers and students to enhance their impact on global poverty by encouraging collaborations with each other and relevant agencies and translating their work into impact through specific intervention projects. Specifically, it will provide the foundation for n Australian chapter of the international organisation Academics Stand Against Poverty, which currently has chapters in the USA, Canada, the UK and India. Specifically, it will gather data on academics working in the field, examine how other chapters of ASAP have been constituted and what they have done, develop proposals for a local chapter and hold an initial constituting meeting in 2013.

Environmental and Climate Justice in New South Wales

Convener: David Schlosberg
‘Environmental Justice’ developed as both a concept and a movement in the United States beginning in the 1980s. Originally focused on the inequity in the distribution of environmentally harmful activities and risks, the concept rapidly expanded to encompass the rights to recognition and participation by citizens and communities in decisions affecting their health, quality of life, and general well-being.

Oddly, the term ‘environmental justice’ has not been applied much in the Australian context. This, however, is rapidly changing. The Environmental Defenders Office in Victoria has developed an environmental justice project, focused on applying the concept to a range of issues in the state. EDO held a major workshop in Melbourne that brought together environmental lawyers, academics, community activists, and government officials. Likewise, the Australian Wild Law Alliance and EDO Queensland are working with QUT and Griffith to develop an environmental justice network in Queensland. That, too, began with a similar, and inclusive, major workshop on environmental justice in the state. In both states, the idea is to give support to community groups making arguments around environmental vulnerability and citizen inclusion in decision-making; the focus is a bridging of university, community, NGO, and state concerns.

To date, there has been no organizing or coordinating across the numerous environmental justice concerns in NSW – even though there is much activism on what could be called environmental justice concerns, from coal seam gas mining to climate adaptation to environmental health. This project will organize aone-day workshop at the University of Sydney to bring together academics, community groups, NGOs, service organizations, and government officials. On the one hand, the goal is simply to hear about a range of environmental and climate concerns within an environmental justice framework. But, more broadly, the idea is to create a network of concerned academics, community members, and government officials on the interrelated issues of environmental and climate justice in NSW. Given the recent organization on the issue in Victoria and Queensland, we also have the opportunity to develop a national network on environmental justice.

A Social Justice Focus on Historical and Institutional Child Sexual Abuse

Convenors: Judy Cashmore, Rita Shackel & Lesley Laing
Child sexual abuse is a serious concern for the community and only a small proportion of perpetrators are ever ‘brought to justice’. The criminal justice approach provides only one avenue of redress and one that many victims are not keen to use or do not see as an adequate means of resolution. This forum will generate discourse around how best to address the legal and societal “justice gaps” in and outside the criminal justice system and how to minimise the trauma of those who have been sexually abused.

The betrayal of trust inherent in child sexual abuse is a key element of the abuse and contributes to the often very long-lasting impact on the victims. Many victims suffer in silence. There is very little reliable information to guide those involved, including professionals, about the ways in which these cases are dealt with, and the likely benefits, pathway and outcomes of any prosecution. There is also little information about other ways of coming to an appropriate resolution. These questions are particularly significant in relation to historical cases of child sexual abuse and those that occurred in the context of institutions as little research has focussed specifically on understanding such abuse.

This forum is particularly timely given the Federal Government is currently establishing a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. The forum will inform debate about alternative innovative approaches in responding to child sexual abuse and has the potential to enhance services for victims and enhance research capacity in the field.

Organising Migrant Workers: Non-Government Organisation, Community Based Organisation, and Trade Union Collaboration around Social Justice for Migrant Workers in Australia

Convenors: Nicola Piper, Sanushka Mudaliar, Sohoon Lee
Refugee and asylum seeker policy has dominated the discussion of Australia’s immigration policy for more than a decade. During this time largely unnoticed restructuring of laws and policies governing the entry of temporary migrant workers has been taking place. Today, 5% of the Australian population, or more than one million people, live and work in Australia but are not citizens or permanent residents. Approximately 100,000 of these people are working without authorisation. The announcement in May 2012 of the Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) heralded yet another step towards opening Australia’s borders to temporary workers from overseas. Despite certain benefits, the rise of temporary migration for work has deepened and entrenched existing abuses of labour rights. It in this context that a coalition of civil society organisations from Australia and the world launched a renewed call for Australia to ratify the 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families In October 2011.

This project builds upon this initiative and aims to generate debate on the meaning of social justice for migrant workers in Australia. Given the direction of Australian immigration policy and the challenges migrant workers face, an ‘alternative’ form of organising that strengthens collaboration between trade unions, NGOs, CBOs and other civil society actors is greatly needed. Thus, activities put forward in this proposal seeks deepen the engagement of various actors with the topic of migration for work to Australia.

Disability Rights Research Collaboration

Conveners: Dinesh Wadiwel, Gerard Goggin

This is a collaboration with People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA), a national peak disability rights and advocacy organisation. As part of this project, the Disability Research Rights Collaboration will seek to build links with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) working to further rights recognition for people with disability in Australia and the Asia Pacific. This research collaboration would centre upon developing an ongoing disability rights research capacity between the University of Sydney and PWDA, which aims to identify emerging rights relevant research needs within a changing political and social policy landscape, and share expertise between researchers and civil society practitioners. The project will develop knowledge on how to improve disability rights monitoring for political participation and key social policy initiatives, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme; how to develop research capacity in DPOs to support rights monitoring work; and how to build media justice in promoting the rights of people with disability to access all forms of media, communications, and information.