Automating the Social: Digital Futures for Welfare, Disability, Social, and Health Services

Friday 10 May, 3.00pm – 4.30pm

MECO Seminar Room, S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney

RSVP via Eventbrite

This event will be live streamed with captions on Facebook. To view, follow the MECO Research page on Facebook.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of automation, and associated developments in digital technology, data, and AI, being imagined and deployed to reshape the face of welfare, disability, health, and social services. Major programs in governments departments such Social Security and Health, the ambitions and realities of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and initiatives by private, not-for-profit, and NGO providers and organizations, involve reconfiguring service delivery and support via automation and digital innovations. Already there are many changes and benefits in people’s lives from these new systems and digitally-supported economies of care and support, yet there are key challenges and potential losses also – not least from the kind of new power relationships, failures in accountability and participation, and foreclosure of the complex aspects of people’s lived experience that such systems and practices are supposed to respond to and enhance.

In this timely event, we will hear from leading figures in various areas where new regimes of automation are rapidly proceeding – and will have the opportunity for an interactive discussion to identify and debate key issues to be addressed, and options for how we might shape these emerging technical and social systems in humane and fair ways.


Paul Henman is Associate Professor of Digital Sociology and Social Policy, and Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Policy Futures, The University of Queensland. For over 20 years, his research has examined the nexus of information technologies, public administration and social policy. His publications include Governing Electronically (Palgrave 2010) and Performing the State (Routledge 2018). His current research deploys novel digital methods to understand the web ecology of government and human service delivery.

El Gibbs is Media and Campaigns Manager at People With Disability Australia. PWDA is a national disability rights, advocacy and representative organisation that is made up of, led and governed by people with disability. Founded in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, People with Disability Australia provides people with disability with a voice of our own. PWDA has a cross-disability focus representing the interests of people with all kinds of disability and is a non-profit, non-government organisation.

Leanne Dowse is Professor and Chair in Intellectual Disability and Behaviour Support [IDBS] at UNSW where she has been a researcher since 1995 and an academic since 2008. Leanne’s research and publications apply models of critical inquiry to the study of disability and in particular, intellectual or cognitive disability. Her work utilises a multidisciplinary approach to investigate social justice issues for people with complex needs. In particular her work addresses the intersections of disability with mental illness, acquired brain injury, homelessness, social isolation, early life disadvantage, experience of out of home care, substance misuse and violence. Her work is particularly concerned with the ways these intersect for Indigenous Australians with intellectual disability, for women with disabilities, those in the criminal justice system, and people with complex behaviour support needs. Leanne has been and is chief investigator on a number of major Australian Research Council, NHMRC, and Federal and NSW government funded grants over the past 10 years.

Wayne Hawkins is Disability Policy Advisor with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). Wayne has led ACCAN’s work on telecommunications access for consumers with disability, telecommunications affordability and emergency services. Prior to joining ACCAN Wayne was National policy officer with Blind Citizens Australia. Wayne is a doctoral candidate at Sydney University researching Australian telecommunications and disability policies.

Gerard Goggin is the inaugural Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, a position he has held since 2011. Gerard’s research focusses on social, cultural, and political aspects of digital technologies, especially the Internet and mobile media and communication, and disability and accessibility. He has published 20 books and over 170 journal articles and book chapters. As well as his academic roles, Goggin has had a twenty-year involvement in communications and telecommunications policy, including appointments as a board member of the Disability Studies and Research Institute (DsaRI), foundation board member of the peak organization Australian Consumer Communication Action Network (ACCAN), deputy chair of the self-regulatory body Telephone Information Services Standards Council (TISSC), and member of the Australian e-Research Infrastructure Council (AeRIC).


Live Captioning for Media@Sydney

Posted by MECO Research on Thursday, 9 May 2019