Research in Social Inquiry

Researchers in the Department of Social Inquiry are enhancing our understanding of social change, inequality and cultural diversity

Benefits of reading

Whether solo or as part of a group, reading is good for us, writes Dr Sara James, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, and Dr Juliane Roemhild, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing.

“People read to alleviate stress and boredom, to find answers to life’s problems, for entertainment, escape or company, to soothe, or to stimulate,” says Dr Roemhild. “Reading encourages us to reflect on our personal experience and life with the help of literature.”

But reading with others – such as in a shared reading group – also has advantages.

“When reading in a group we hear about the experiences of others, which can help us feel less alone in our anxieties,” says Dr James. “By sharing our views and interpretations of the text, we open ourselves to other viewpoints and deepen our engagement with the story – and with each other.”

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Transgender and gender diverse people and the criminal justice system

An Australian-first study has found that transgender and gender diverse people face systemic abuse in Victoria’s criminal legal system.

Published in the International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, the study of 42 participants shows that transgender and gender diverse people have been subjected to sexual and physical violence, harassment, abuse and neglect in all areas of the criminal legal system, especially in prisons.

The perpetrators have been police, lawyers, judges, corrections officers and other prisoners.

"Our findings highlight that changes to criminal justice policy and practice are needed urgently,” says lead author, Dr Matthew Mitchell.

“While governments are currently making substantial LGBTIQ-related reforms, current measures will not and do not promise to protect transgender and gender diverse people from the criminal legal system. Much more needs to be done.”

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Free range children

How can we rethink our cities so that children can once again get around safely on their own and benefit from diverse neighbourhood experiences?

In a Conversation article, Dr Hulya Gilbert, Dr Rebecca Clements and Dr Elizabeth Taylor have compared the culture and policy around “free range children” in Australia and Japan.

In Japan, children’s levels of independent mobility are among the highest in the world. Urban policies support low-traffic neighbourhoods with people-centred streets.

Australian children had similar freedoms before we became a car-based society. But more recently, the priority given to car traffic and street parking has led to cities being redesigned to accommodate cars rather than children and their needs.

“Perhaps the remarkably child-friendly outcomes we’re seeing in Japan can inspire us to rethink what kinds of neighbourhoods are possible – and what kinds of lives our children can have,” the authors say.

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The Catch - Forced labour in the seafood industry

Dr Sallie Yea, Tracey Banivanua Mar Fellowship recipient in the Department of Social Inquiry, has featured in ‘The Catch’, a new podcast miniseries from La Trobe Asia.

The series explores modern day slavery and forced labour in the seafood industry in Indonesia and Fiji, a recurring issue involving illegal fishing, forced labour and human trafficking.

Listen to the podcasts.