Origins of workplace gender inequality

The origins and legacy of sex-segregated workplaces in Australia and the UK – which excluded women for more than 150 years – is being examined in a new study led by La Trobe historian Professor Diane Kirkby.

Professor Kirkby and Bendigo Campus colleague Dr Emma Robertson have just received a $277.000 grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to explore issues that still shape pay inequities and our approach to gender in the workplace today.

Theirs is one of eight ARC research awards to the University worth a total of $2.8 million.

The researchers say their study goes right back to the roots of workplace cultures that excluded women, and the spread of ideas about certain occupations designated as 'non-traditional' for women.
'We will identify the processes and agents of change and document the experiences of women to help recast our current understandings of gender in the workplace for the benefit of future generations,' Professor Kirkby says.

Legacy of the gold boom: all the rivers run – or do they? 

While we know a lot about how gold mining helped fuel Victoria's prosperity and rapid population rise during the 19th century, we know little about the impact gold mining has had on our rivers.

In the first systematic study of the impact of historic mining on Australian rivers, archaeologist Dr Susan Lawrence and Albury-Wodonga Campus environmental chemist Dr Ewen Silvester have received more than $650,000 to evaluate how gold mining has shaped Victoria's river systems.

As the State faces the possibility of yet another drought, Dr Lawrence says gold mining has led to extensive and long-lasting changes to waterways across the state. 

She and her team will identify and map the extent of these changes, including increased sedimentation, erosion caused by the altered water flows, and how many contaminants from mining still remain.
'We aim demonstrate how historical mining continues to influence chemical and physical processes in Victorian streams to this day,' Dr Lawrence says.

'Documenting the types of landscapes that existed before and at the height of the mining boom, can make a valuable contribution to the way our catchments and reservoirs are managed into the future.' (Read more about this project here)

Globalised industry and lessons for Australia

Professor Timothy Minchin is working on the first book-length history of foreign-owned car manufacturing in the US. Starting with Volkswagen in 1976, he says by 2009 the sector produced a quarter of all cars made in the US. Exploring why these factories thrived, when Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler laid off workers, will provide insights into capital mobility and lessons for Australia and other high-wage labour markets.

Boosting rice and cereal crops

By combining the latest technologies and molecular approaches with genetics, botanist Dr Reena Narsai aims to improve seed germination in cereal crops for agricultural production.  She says every year alterations in the rate of germination cause significant crop losses world-wide in rice and other cereals crops.

Better understanding of the Big Bang

Mathematician Professor Philip Broadbridge is working on new methods for numerical approximation and statistical estimation of random fields, applying the results to improve our knowledge of cosmic microwave background radiation. He says the results will improve our understanding of the early stages of the universe.

Gay rights and death sentences

Public health researcher Dr Tiffany Jones is exploring global rights-based policy processes for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer students. Paradoxically, she says, such processes appear to have contributed to the criminalisation of, and even capital punishment for, education on homosexuality in several countries.

Insight into India and Myanmar

The complex and under-researched linguistic diversity of the newly opening India–Myanmar borders will be examined by Dr Stephen Morey. He says learning more about the rich, complex ritual and poetic tradition and diversity of Tangsa Wihu people will enhance our knowledge of India and Myanmar.

Balancing awareness

Olga Tennison Autism Researcher Dr Darren Hocking is investigating how the cognitive demands of balance control during walking changes from childhood to adolescence. He says being able to perform cognitive and motor tasks simultaneously is a critical skill for daily living. Children who have problems with such tasks show increased inattention, hyperactivity, psychosocial difficulties and negative perceptions of self-worth.

For interviews with any of the researchers, please contact Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications, Tel: 0412 261 919 or Email:

Photo: Mrs Kitchener, a female gravedigger at Aley Green Cemetery, Luton UK, worked to support her large family during her husband's three years' absence in World War One.
Courtesy Imperial War Museum

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