Social and Public Policy

Responding to the critical social problems confronting societies requires evidence-based approaches to social policy, public policy and governance.

figurines protesting

Our research provides solutions for governments, institutions, businesses and individuals which focus on building social capacity, human enterprise and equity through policy. Legitimate and evidence-based policy is essential for making effective socioeconomic change. Our researchers are globally connected leaders in evidence-based research and evaluation of policy in a range of fields, including security policy, gender politics, voter impact, Indigenous experience and diversity and inclusion. Our research utilises stakeholder engagement and co-design principles to evaluate and support implementation of innovative and ethical social and public policies.

The problems that societies face are increasingly international, from the threats of violent extremism and disruption of the democratic process to virtual assaults on critical infrastructure.  Because these threats cross borders easily, we explore both national security decision-making and how security officials collaborate with other states to tackle cross-border issues such as violent extremism, cyber security and critical infrastructure protection. Yet, cross-border collaboration is far from straightforward. Security agencies operate in very different ways according to national laws, resources, capabilities and priorities. Our research attempts to identify how cross-border collaboration occurs and where it is vulnerable to failure in tackling security problems in order to build a stronger, safer society. With better understanding of how states can collaborate across borders, we are better placed to resist threats to our society’s safety.

Australia’s social and public policy landscape is made even more complex because we are a highly multicultural country with over 26% of Australians born overseas. Our research explores ‎ways to support and foster cultural diversity in Australia while also promoting social inclusion and belonging. ‎Through an inter-generational approach to cultural identity, we aim to develop an understanding of the issues facing older migrant generations, and assist in strengthening health and wellbeing. To provide optimum care into old age with aged care service providers we need to examine expectations of ageing and the role of family for non-English speaking ‎first generation parents.

Our research in social and public policy also addresses themes relating to Indigenous experience, land rights, ethnicity, intangible cultural heritage and the emotional geographies that accompany homelands. Social engagement is the cornerstone of this research methodology. Through Indigenous community appointed consultancies, co-authorship and expert advising, we strive to ensure that our research impacts positively on the lives of those with whom we work. By contributing to the evidence base about Indigenous lived experiences and the ongoing impacts of disadvantage and marginalisation, our research raises timely questions on the problematics of Australian national identity with clear policy implications.

Recent events in Australia and overseas highlight the complexities faced by women in leadership positions, particularly in the political sphere. Our Social and Public Policy researchers explore key questions such as what are the qualities of a leader, what possibilities are there for social change, and whether current models of leadership inherently gendered or can be adapted to enable women to be successful leaders. This is a critical time to develop and broadcast new ways of progressing leadership styles that allow for men and women to achieve success.

Research in social and public policy also investigates the ways in which people understand and engage with politics in its different forms, with particular interest in young people’s relationship with politics and growing dissatisfaction with contemporary politics. Thinking about how citizens understand politics and democracy is particularly important at this time when many citizens seem untrusting and dissatisfied with politics and political leaders. Our work provides insights into why young citizens and others may be disengaging from electoral politics, and has implications for debates about civic education as well as wider debates about how forms of citizenship may be changing.

We also explore compulsory voting and other means to ensure the maximisation of electoral inclusion of all social groups, not just the well-off. High voter participation and inclusion preserves the democratic way of life which, in turn, brings many benefits including the protection of human rights, social stability, more social, economic and political equality, lower levels of corruption, lower levels of social isolation and higher levels of political happiness. The health and survival of democracy is therefore of great and urgent importance. Our researchers are engaging with our state and federal electoral commissions to find ways of enhancing voter inclusion among our most disadvantaged citizens.

Our key researchers in this area:

  • Professor Lisa Hill - Politics and international relations. Lisa’s areas of interest are democracy and electoral inclusion, compulsory voting, youth disengagement from politics, raising voter turnout among those experiencing homelessness and among indigenous citizens.
  • Professor Susan Oakley - Head of the School of Social Sciences and a research member in CHURP. Susan’s research expertise centres on applied social research with a focus on citizenship and public policy issues around homelessness and housing in Australia.
  • Associate Professor Wayne Errington - Politics and international relations. Wayne is an expert on Australian federal politics.
  • Associate Professor Melissa Nursey-Bray - GEP and ACE, Melissa works on social and public policy relating to adaptation to climate change, and resource and protected area management, particularly in Indigenous communities.
  • Dr Tim Legrand - Tim’s research is concerned with national and international dimensions of security decision making, particularly in transnational networks and institutions, including cyber-security and critical infrastructure, terrorism, political violence and political exclusion.
  • Dr Pam Papadelos - Head of Sociology, Criminology & Gender Studies. Her research focuses on constructions of femininity and masculinity in relation to leadership, and ethnic identity and belonging.
  • Professor Adam Graycar – Professor of Public Policy. Adam’s current research focuses on understanding and preventing corruption in Australia and internationally. Adam also has extensive policy experience, acquired from over 22 years in the various senior level posts held in government in Australia, both in the Federal and the South Australian Governments.

Our research groups working in this area

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