This one-day symposium, held by the Centre for Applied Social Research, sought to explore the different forms and implications of individualisation as it relates to core areas of social policy.

The concept of individualisation is one that shifts in meaning between different social policy sectors and processes. However, recent practices and policy trends indicate a rising focus on individual agency, rights and responsibilities, and users’ capacity to make choices about services and support.

The event was held on 4 December 2015. Four sessions throughout the day focused on aged care and care work, homelessness and disability services, children and families, and active labour markets. A number of presentation slides have been made available for online distribution by the presenters and can be found below.


Care work and aged care

Professor Gabrielle Meagher, Macquarie University

Challenging choice: interrogating a key organising concept in contemporary social services (PDF 736 KB)‘Choice’ has become a central and apparently unassailable concept in social service discourse and practice in recent years. This presentation explores the concept and discusses its relationship to individualisation, with a focus on care for older people.

Professor Sara Charlesworth, RMIT University

Rethinking minimum employment standards for paid care workers: Challenges and opportunities (PDF 704 KB)The presentation outlines recent Australian policy shifts to ‘cash for care’ funding models, the ramifications of these shifts for paid care workers and canvasses innovative regulatory proposals emerging out of international scholarship on domestic work.

Disability services and homelessness

Associate Professor Paul Ramcharan, RMIT University

Can choice be individualised? Reflections on choice in an NDIS era (PDF 919 KB)Drawn from a study of choice-making funded to support implementation of the NDIS, this paper examines some of the prior theoretical assumptions relating to three empirically generated forms of choice, everyday, lifestyle and pervasive.

Associate Professor Guy Johnson, RMIT University

Dr Heather Holst, Launch HousingHomelessness and the NDIS: Same old or an opportunity?The implications and impact of the NDIS on homelessness services and people experiencing homelessness remains unclear. This presentation focuses on three issues. First it describes the homeless population drawing attention to the fact that the homeless are a diverse population with different issues and needs. It then explores the implications of this diversity for homelessness agencies seeking to engage with the NDIS. Finally, it turns our attention to the challenges and opportunities individualised funding packages might create for homelessness agencies, and whether it might make any difference at all.

Children and families

Dr Michelle Brady, University of Queensland

Experiences of childcare inflexibility in the context of individualisationAustralian families with young children increasingly have two earners. Furthermore, one or both of these earners are more likely than ever to work rotating shifts or non-standard hours. Yet our formal childcare system does not address these realities, leaving families scrambling to develop individual solutions. While families, service providers and policymakers all agree there is a flexibility problem, they appear to have different perspectives regarding the nature of the problem and how to address it. Drawing on interpretive policy theory (Yanow, 2000), this presentation begins the work of identifying where “synchronies” (Hajer, 2003) and tensions exist between the experiences and framings of childcare flexibility across families, providers and government.

Dr Kay Cook, RMIT University

The gendered individualisation of financial support for children post-separation: The rise of and resistance to child support policy (PDF 458 KB)The financial support of children post-separation is increasingly becoming a gendered and individual responsibility, borne disproportionately by lone mothers. While these processes mirror trends in the individualisation of financial risk in welfare policy internationally, Australia’s ‘income shares’ approach to the calculation of child support liabilities disrupts Australia’s original model of familialisation of children’s financial support post-separation. Internationally, Australia stands out as a new policy type; one that is eroding the value of women’s financial support from both the state and children’s fathers. Australia’s gendered individualisation of children’s financial support post-separation mirrors to some extent the rollback of institutionalised child support in the UK, but is a policy approach that is out of step with the expansion of familialised child support internationally.

Welfare policy and service delivery

Professor Greg Marston, Queensland University of Technology

Individualisation or individualism?: A critical refection on agency and identity in contemporary social policy reforms (PDF 758 KB)This paper examines tensions and contradictions in constructions of citizens and professionals in major social policy reforms, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Compulsory Income Management programs.

Dr Sonia Martin, RMIT University

The moralisation of welfare recipients in the 21st century: A critical examination of welfare arrangements post-Howard (PDF 818 KB)This paper examines the continuities and discontinuities in Australian welfare provision since the years of the Howard-led coalition government (1996-2007). In particular, it explores how the framing of welfare has moved from a social issue to an individual issue that is more to do with the behaviour and morals of recipients than the provision of an adequate social safety net.


4 March 2017