About the Department of Social Inquiry

The Department of Social Inquiry continues La Trobe’s proud history of addressing issues of social inequality and cultural change in Australia and abroad.

We offer undergraduate majors and postgraduate supervision in Aboriginal Studies, Anthropology, Crime, Justice and Legal Studies, Criminology, Geography, Regional Planning, Sociology, and Sustainability and Development Studies, as well as a Master of International Development and a Master of Regional Planning.

Our Anthropology and Sociology programs have been ranked in the top 100 and top 150 in the world by QS World University Rankings by Subject.

Our goal is to produce outstanding graduates and research outcomes that contribute to our understanding of social change, inequality and cultural diversity.

Our students learn from academic staff who are also experienced researchers and educators. Theory is put into practice in local and international fieldwork opportunities, where students are exposed to dynamic, contemporary issues in real world settings.

Our staff are research leaders who produce high impact outcomes that support communities, organisations and governments to improve access to wellbeing and opportunities for all.

Photo of Associate Professor Raelene Wilding

Our best students are not just here to learn, they are here to find ways to make a difference. Our staff share that passion and support our students to achieve their goals through education and research.

Associate Professor Raelene Wilding
Head, Department of Social Inquiry

Learning about the real world

Whether you are wanting to become an anthropologist or criminologist, or work as a planner or social researcher, a La Trobe degree is the gateway to a rewarding career.

Our students benefit from our flexible approach to teaching that allows them, where possible, to engage in learning at a time and place of their choosing. We offer on-campus, online and hybrid learning opportunities, in semester-long study or shorter, block-mode options.

Our students are exposed to the ideas that shape our disciplines, then immerse themselves in diverse social and cultural communities.

Aboriginal Studies students, for example, have an On Country learning experience in Shepparton, where they are introduced to Indigenous topics that relate to the region. They then travel to the Barmah Forest to meet and hear from representatives of the local Indigenous community.

Planning students are taken out of the classroom and into the workplace, where they apply their knowledge and skills in planning, place-based research and project management to develop solutions to challenges facing the community.

And, in international fieldwork opportunities, students work with communities and experts in countries around the world including India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Our Crime, Justice and Legal studies students, for example, complete six-week work placements in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, funded by the Australian Government New Colombo Plan.

Find out more about our courses and our distinctive student experience.

Research with impact

Our researchers are tackling some of the big issues of our time, partnering with industry, government and community organisations to improve access to wellbeing and opportunities for all.

They are sought after to inform government reviews and policy changes. Their findings improve individual lives and entire communities. Their advocacy promotes human rights and social justice.

Our graduate researchers are also helping to address issues of social inequality and cultural change in Australia and abroad.

Our Higher Degree Research and Postgraduate Coursework programs give candidates the opportunity to join a vibrant community of researchers who use robust methods and cutting-edge ideas to address all aspects of the human social and cultural experience.

The Department is home to the Thesis Eleven Forum for Social and Political Theory, which represents an international network of scholars exploring issues of culture, society and power.

We also have close links to La Trobe Asia, which provides leadership on all aspects of La Trobe University’s engagement with Asia, including the Philippines-Australia Forum, which supports research, engagement and teaching initiatives to increase awareness of Philippine politics, culture and society.

Our research is grouped into five key areas:

Our researchers explore major cultural and social shifts in Australia and abroad. Projects include new technologies, religious tourism, public inquiries, and modern forms of sorcery and witchcraft.

Our researchers explore the ways we shape our environments and our environments shape us. Projects include climate adaptation and food security, children’s access to the cities in which they live, the trade unions that shape mining activity in Africa, and precarious work in food supply chains in Australia and Asia.

Our researchers examine the complex social and cultural dimensions of health and wellbeing. Projects include maternal health in Aboriginal communities, transnational aged care, health inequalities in Pacific Island nations, human-animal relationships, medical tourism and bibliotherapy.

Our researchers examine the experiences and governance of migrants in Australia. Projects include migrant workers in regional and rural Australia, forced displacement and resettlement, irregular migration, forms of population movement and border controls that shape the lives of Indigenous Australians, transnational migrants in Australia and abroad.

Our researchers undertake critical socio-legal research on the justice system in Australia and internationally. Projects focus on gender-based violence, homelessness, courtroom architecture, the remand-system, racism and anti-queer violence.

Research centres

Our staff make key contributions to the Institute of Human Security and Social Change and the John Richards Centre for Ageing Research.

The Institute for Human Security and Social Change works for inclusive social change. Staff work with a wide range of individuals, organisations and networks that are involved in social change with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on Indigenous Australia, the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Find out more about the Institute.

The John Richards Centre for Ageing Research seeks to develop and implement programs of research that make a difference to the wellbeing of a diverse range of older people living in rural communities.

Find out more about the Centre.

Meet the Department's leadership and find out more about our research.