University of Tasmania
whole_WierengaAnitraMaree2001_thesis.pdf (14.85 MB)

Making a life

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:17 authored by Wierenga, AM
The challenges that Australian young people face as they go about 'making a life' are amplified for those who grow up in rural places. This is due to the specific nature of employment opportunities, educational provision, available public transport and community expectations pertaining to life in the country. The aim of this thesis is to explore the social processes involved as young people in a small rural community negotiate a series of life transitions - from school to work, from local settlement to residency elsewhere, from youth to adulthood, and so on. Issues of class and gender are examined from the point of view of socio-economic resources, family interactions, social networks and cultural milieux. Focussing upon the 'lived experience' of young people, as told through stories and as indicated in diverse trajectories, this thesis follows 32 young people 'making a life' in Geeveston, a small rural town in Southern Tasmania. This is a qualitative, longitudinal research project that spans the time from early high school to post-high school options and issues for the subject group. Data was collected through focussed interviews (1995, 1997, and 1999), observations, and essays. In theoretical terms, individual stories and intra-group comparisons highlight issues relating to human agency and social structure. That is, the study demonstrates the ways in which the activities of, and choices made by particular individuals are expressions of the societal resources (material, symbolic and cultural) available to them. It explores the ways in which wider social structures (eg., class and gender) are implicated in the allocation of these resources. Young people's lives are enmeshed within the lives of their families and communities. When respondents are asked about their futures, they tell rich stories about 'past, present, future and me'. Their stories reveal the different geographical, social and symbolic worlds (worlds of meaning) in which they live. Their accounts differ most across two axis: whether they are set in 'global' or 'local' worlds; and whether stories are 'clear' or 'unclear' (fragmented). On the basis of these differences, four ideal-types of cultural orientation emerge: 'exploring', 'settling', 'wandering' and 'retreating'. These orientations clearly reflect issues of individual and group history, and particularly, very specific class and gender experiences. The typology, developed from early interviews, is central to subsequent data collection and analysis. Re-interviews show how practices of 'story-ing' are central to lived experience, to individuals' ability to negotiate and to engage in the settings in which they find themselves. The lived experiences of those who have found institutional support for major life-projects contrast to those who are 'hassled', hemmed-in, are frustrated or 'doing-time'. As they make lives and make sense of it all, respondents are being creative but with very different resources. Their stories function as catalogues of 'resources-at-hand', or the different resources ,that they are accessing. Resources vary in type: practical (eg. food, shelter, health care, work), symbolic ( eg. language, conceptual frames, stocks of knowledge) and resources of habit and practice (eg. abstraction, reflexivity). Different layers of resources overlay and interplay, shaping individuals' situations, and multiplying differences in life-chances. Finally, the thesis explores social processes by which these different types of resources become available to respondents. In all cases, resource flows depend upon relationships of trust (with individuals, groups, and/or institutions), that in turn depend upon individual and group history. Again, local issues, and gender and class issues are vital. The implications of the findings for research, policy and practice are discussed.


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Copyright 2001 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2001. Includes bibliographical references

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