Research fueled by collaboration

Our sociologists conduct theoretically-informed research on global and local social issues.


Explore these examples of some current research projects:

Hang Young Lee’s research has focused on explaining social processes by which economic inequality is generated, maintained, and reproduced. Using two Australian household-level survey datasets (the Survey of Income and Housing, and the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey), his ongoing project studies social stratification and mobility of Australian economic elites.

The project identifies the top one percent income earners and wealth owners, investigates their economic, social and demographic profiles and assesses the relative contribution of these profiles to the top one percent membership. It also examines the extent to which and how top economic status is transmitted intergenerationally.

This project will shed light on recent changes in the Australian social stratification system and discuss how these changes have contributed to increasingly growing economic inequality.

Ben Spies-Butcher is currently researching the growing role of finance in social policy, and its impact on inequality.

Working with Adam Stebbing from Macquarie and Gareth Bryant from Sydney University, Ben’s research has explored how policy changes in student loans, housing, health insurance and pensions have integrated public provision and private finance.

Throughout this research, Ben has worked with peak bodies Shelter and COTA, unions and think tanks to better connect theory and practice.

The research highlights how financial accounting often drives policy change in surprising and contradictory directions, changing patterns of inequality across generations.

Much debate about the future of work and welfare has turned to the universal basic income as a solution to joblessness and a failed welfare paternalism that harasses clients into finding any kind of work.

While the basic income debate addresses problems of central importance, it overlooks quieter, and possibly more fruitful, achievements taking place to improve the quality of working lives for many low-paid workers in developed countries.

Shaun Wilson's research focuses on activist movements for living wages in the liberal welfare states, movements that have pressured politics into improving minimum wages and that have challenged policy assumptions that higher wages always come at the cost of jobs.

His recent article in Social Policy & Administration surveys these living-wage movements as well as improvements in minimum wages in five liberal welfare states, making the argument for living wages as a critical goal for progressive reform and one that needs to be taken as seriously as proposals for a basic income.

For better or for worse, traditional ideas about intimate relationships appear to be losing their orientating power. Friendship is not exempt from these changes. The very meaning of the word seems up for grabs.

Is Facebook friend number 456 really my friend? What about colleagues? And to what extent do assumptions around gender still inhibit close friendships between men and women? Yet, close or ‘true’ friendships persist. What we know about them is not only that they are significant to our sense of wellbeing, but also that they are becoming increasingly rare, especially amongst men.

Harry Blatterer’s research centres on the changing societal meanings of friendship as an intimate relationship that is ‘generative’ – potentially life changing, invaluable for integration into new environments, supportive of a sense of self as well as personal change.

Having outlined his sociological perspective on friendship in Everyday Friendships (2015), Harry is now embarking on expanding that research to write on intellectual, political and artistic friendships to understand and explain the generative potentials of this vital human relationship.

In this comparative project, Amanda Wise and Selvaraj Velaytham are looking at informal team sport as it relates to diversity, race, urban belonging and public space in Sydney, Singapore and London.

Through fieldwork in three global cities with large permanent and temporary migrant populations from asylum seekers to highly paid skilled migrants as well as long-established racial minorities, we explore how informal team sport contributes to patterns of urban belonging and exclusion among culturally diverse city dwellers, particularly amongst the most marginalised.

Through insights gained by international comparison, the project situates informal sport within its urban context to better understand the influence of different city forms and traditions of public space, and how new patterns of urban governance, privatisation and gentrification matter in the formation of diverse communities through sport.


At the core of our research endeavour is a strong emphasis on engaging with partners locally and internationally.

Members of the department are engaged in a range of local, national and international research collaborations.

Many are participating in research streams under the university’s Research Strategic Framework, and several are co-leading them:

  • Associate Professor Amanda Wise is co-leading with Associate Professor Chris Lyttleton (Department of Anthropology) the ‘Migration, Mobility and Diversities’ research stream;
  • Dr Justine Lloyd is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Media History;
  • Dr Adam Stebbing is co-convening, with Dr Adele Garnier and Dr Francesco Stolfi (both of the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations), the ‘Markets, Inequality and Policy’ research stream.

International collaboration

The department’s research is enriched by our strong ties with international partners, including: Frankfurt University, Hamburg University, the University of Graz, the National University of Singapore, the University of Berlin, the University of Auckland and Stockholm University.

Examples of current projects include:

  • Dr Toby Fattore is co-leading a 24-country qualitative study with Professor Susann Fegter (Technical University of Berlin, TUB) and Professor Christine Hunner-Kreisel (University of Vechta) on ‘Children´s understandings of well-being: global and local contexts’, with around 50 collaborators. For more information, visit the Children's Understandings of Well-being website.
  • Dr Norbert Ebert is collaborating with Professor Sighard Neckel (Hamburg University) as one of 40 international research fellows at The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies ‘Future of Sustainability’ with a particular focus on “The Sustainability of Work”. For more details on the project, visit Futures of Sustainability.
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Last updated: 17 Dec 2019