The annual conference of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) was hosted by the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University during the period of 25-28 November 2013.  Celebrating its 50th anniversary the conference was aptly themed ‘Reflections, Intersections and Aspirations’, highlighting key sociological issues from the past, present and for the future.  Thus the aim of the conference was to show case studies that observed a vast array of components in modern society including education, economics, rural issues, religion and youth.  Among these were a number of studies undertaken by PhD students whose studies were grounded in western Sydney.

Throughout the conference there were keynote speakers who presented a range of topics that were both intellectually stimulating and interesting.  These keynote sessions were held each morning over the duration of the conference.  Speakers included Professor John Holmwood from the University of Nottingham, Professor Raewyn Connell from the University of Sydney and Professor Celia Lucy from the University of Warwick.  Professor John Holmwood spoke about recent reforms in higher education that have shifted the position of education as a social right in civil society to an entity that is seen as an investment in human capital.  His observations were framed within the intensification of neoliberal rationalities, underpinned by increased market theories and practice.  In a very different presentation, Professor Raewyn Connell reflected on some of the historical poignancies in Australian sociology that have shaped the way sociologists have understood their science.  She discussed the challenges faced by sociologists in changing political contexts and how this affected the future directives of sociological thinking.  Focusing on an aspect of these changes was Professor Celia Lury, who in her keynote speech elaborated on sociological methods, an area of mounting interest and debate in sociology.  Overall these key note speeches were invaluable for shedding light on some of the factors that shaped the trajectory of sociology.

In addition to these keynote, and as mentioned earlier, there were a huge array of studies undertaken by sociologists across the country and abroad.  A number of these studies were undertaken in New South Wales with a select few focusing on western Sydney.  One of these studies, still in its early stages, was presented by PhD candidate Desiree Gaillard from Macquarie University.  Her study entitled Exploring Partnerships between Non-profit Social Enterprises and Refugee Women in Western Sydney aims to study the role of non profit social enterprise programs in reducing long term unemployment for refugee women in Western Sydney.  This study contributes to the growing body of knowledge around the resettlement of refugees by focusing on employment programs and employment outcomes that emerged within the phenomenon of social enterprises.  Her study was an important reminder of how capitalism, in relation to social enterprises, was affecting the relationships between civil society organisations and refugees that are on the path to becoming citizens.

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