Skip to main content
What's Sociology Got to do with it?

What's Sociology Got to do with it?

By Dr Sarina Kilham
Do you want to know more about how our social lives work? How human relationships and issues of class, gender, race are present in everyday interactions? In this podcast, we talk to experts from rural and regional Australia on everything from antibiotic resistance to teenage drivers- and we ask - What's Sociology Got to do with it? This podcast is part of Social Science Week 2020, and supported by Charles Sturt University and The Australian Sociological Association. Hosted by Dr Sarina Kilham. Full transcripts of each episodes are available at
Listen on
Where to listen
Breaker Logo


Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Overcast Logo


Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Merrilyn Crichton talks Social Isolation and Mental Health in Rural Communities
Merrilyn Crichton knows that her research touches on economics, hard science, sustainability, psychology and sociology--and she is the first to argue that to examine social isolation and mental health in Australia’s rural communities, all these fields are needed. In this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Merrilyn speaks about the disparate spread of resources between the city and the country. In her work studying Australia’s rural communities, Merrilyn has realised that rural Australians face a unique set of challenges in building and maintaining their support networks than city Australians do. And while the pandemic has seen telehealth and similar infrastructure become a priority across Australia (and yes, in the bush), she sees the pandemic-triggered lack of social interaction as another stressor for rural Australians. And it’s this lack of social interaction that, more broadly, Merrilyn sees as dangerous. As social creatures, humans need that interaction--so what happens when that is taken away and we can’t see each other? It’s this human element in her research that Merrilyn attributes to sociology and sees as incredibly valuable. If you want to contact Merrilyn, she can be reached by phone at 02 6933 2396, or at her e-mail
September 4, 2020
Sosheel Godfrey talks middlemen in Pakistan's Dairy Industry
Sosheel Godfrey warns against making a bogeyman out of an alternative banking system. That is, he doesn’t see the so-called ‘middlemen’ of Pakistan's dairy industry as evil collectors that rob farmers of profit, rob the chance to sell milk urban consumers. Rather, he sees them as a part of the community, investing back into their communities through the farmers. Living alongside the local farmers, they extend cash advances to farmers, sometimes providing loans to small hold farmers. And so, their motives are not just making a profit, but rather helping other members of their community to survive and thrive. In this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Sosheel shines a spotlight on how an outsider’s preconceived notions of economics and a farmer’s behaviour can quickly vary from what is actually happening on the farm. In other words, every farmer and every region has its own economic, cultural and social context around farming–and these must be taken into consideration when research try to analyse farming behaviours and the risk involved in farming. For Sosheel, a farmer who hasn’t had rain in several months would act differently to a farmer living through a monsoon. Both are facing different risks, and so are going to need different advice and resources when making decisions or preparing for the future. And it is a qualitative research approach that is needed for this, he argues. If you want to contact Sosheel, give him a ring on (02) 6933 2921 or e–mail him on
September 4, 2020
Nicola Wunderlich talks Cultural Sensitivity in Para-veterinary training
Nicola Wunderlich, in her work in capacity building, is the first person to advocate for tailoring your content to your audience. In other words, Nicola calls on scientists and researchers to personalise their content to their audience, and how their audience is most likely to absorb (and use) the information. In this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Nicola argues that if the local community and its norms aren’t considered, then any recommendations will simply fall on deaf ears. She argues that, as a result, folks in roles like social scientists and science communicators should be involved in projects from the beginning. To Nicola, bringing them in at the end is little help, as they could have given valuable advice in designing the project itself. Without cultural sensitivity and this fundamental connection to what the community wants and needs, the research is simply going to be dismissed; not from a place of malice, but because the reason why someone should follow the recommendation hasn’t been explained properly (if at all). Above all, Nicola calls on researchers and scientists to treat the communities and their needs and their wants as central to academic research. If you want to contact Nicola, she can be reached at the Graham Centre or at Charles Sturt University, where her e–mail is The Pacific PARAVET Training Project also has its own Facebook page.
September 4, 2020
Sarah Redshaw and focusing on our community responsibility for each other
Sarah Redshaw thinks our healthcare model is sometimes too focused on disease. On the surface, this seems like a weird thing to say, given how we go to doctors when we’re ill; we expect them to make it about disease and illness. But Sarah argues that this approach can divorce the individual from any financial, social and cultural pressures they’re is facing outside the consultation room. In other words, the individual is separated from their lives outside the hospital, which can lead to an incomplete picture of the individual’s life and times. On this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, that is the logic Sarah applies to arguments of ‘well, take responsibility for yourself!’ She argues that there are large–scale problems many Australians face which limit their available opportunities. For example, homelessness or mental health struggles can stop holdback even the brightest. From this, she argues that some Australians need different resources, advice and support, which must move beyond ‘I did it without any supporting, so why can’t you?’ And so, simply asking our fellow Australians to pull themselves up by their bootstraps becomes problematic (and increasingly impossible) if all Australians are treated like we’re on the same playing field. She calls on Australians to re–focus on community responsibility for each other, for supporting and thinking of each other as a first instinct. If you want to contact Sarah Redshaw, she is on LinkedIn. Sarah’s work can also be found through her ResearchGate profile or her Academia page.
September 4, 2020
Monica Short and the Anglican Church community in rural Australia
For many towns in rural and regional Australia, it’s normal to see a church on the corner. You drive by, maybe slow down to take a look. But to Monica Short, the role of religion in Australia’s rural communities goes much beyond old buildings. In her work on the Anglican Church in rural Australian communities, Monica sees religion as a force that provides a sense of belonging and community. And more than that, she argues that these seemingly abstract concepts–community, social wellbeing, belonging–can and do influence an individual. And so, in times of hardship and struggle, the local church becomes a place of connection and support. On this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, a bunch of philosophers and sociologists are name–dropped as Monica also explains how sociology allows individuals to see each other in a more critically and reflective manner. That is, rather than looking at others and our societies through our own norms and values, Monica argues that sociology allows us to step out of our heads and look at the bigger picture. And through the sociology of religion, Monica argues that academics and researchers can tie religion to its effects on cultures and communities across the world. Monica can be contacted through her e–mail,
September 4, 2020
Vaughan Higgins and Farmers adopting technologies
Ever thought about how your food makes it way to your plate? In his work as a sociologist, Vaughan Higgins studies the local, national and international forces that impact on farmers. That’s a fancy way of saying that he looks at why or why not farmers adopt certain technologies or change practices. But to Vaughan, this work cannot be done without thinking of the realities facing farmers. Adopting new technologies goes beyond simply knowing the technology exists, he argues--the farmers must know how it will benefit them and their farms and believe in its potential. Without this understanding and optimism about new technologies, according to Vaughan, farmers will continue doing things the way they always have, not interested in any alternatives. And so, this is how Australia ends up with the stereotype of the old man farmer, the guy not interested in anything sustainable or renewable--just because it’s new, he’ll reject it. In this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Vaughan calls on Australians to move beyond this stereotype and consider why farmers may not be able or willing to adopt new technologies--and the role researchers and scientists play in this. If you want to contact Vaughan, he can be reached through the University of Tasmania, where he is an Associate Professor of Sociology. His e-mail is Vaughan’s work can also be found through his ResearchGate profile.
September 4, 2020
Larissa Bamberry and Donna Bridges explain Women in Trade
To Larissa Bamberry and Donna Bridges, asking why more women don’t move into male–dominated fields is much more complicated that it seems. On this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Larissa and Donna argue that rural Australian women face attacks from two sides: judged for leaving their communities yet often facing limited opportunities and strict gender roles if they remain. Larissa argues that there is a social and cultural element that shapes what fields we go into and how others respond to our career decisions. In other words, if you’ve ever judged a man for becoming a nurse, then you’re responding to the ideas of who a nurse is. For Larissa, these ideas around what work is appropriate can shape the opportunities an individual feels they can go for and still be accepted by their community. Building on this, Donna argues that even if one tries for a feminist interpretation of sociology, they’re often hamstrung by an upholding of the wisdom of old white men. And while there is no doubt these men have done a lot for sociology as an academic discipline, she argues that this focus often leaves out … well, everyone else. Together, they call on Australians to think about how their expectations of each other (and yes, their gender) see us judging and critiquing each other. From this, they believe that Australian workplaces can move to accommodate a far wider variety of norms and sociology can move beyond positioning male whiteness as universal. As mentioned in the episode, Larissa and Donna wrote a piece called Risky Business: how our ‘macho’ construction culture is killing tradies. If you want to contact Larissa, she is on Twitter @elby326, while Donna is @DonnaVBridges.
September 4, 2020
Jennifer Manyweathers and how humanity is connected to the natural world
Jennifer Manyweathers can see a problem. It’s the problem of how, in her work on foot and mouth disease, she’s seen the assumption that if someone is included in policy guidelines or if people are told by experts to do something, they’ll do it. In this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Manyweathers calls on policymakers, researchers and scientists to remember that raising awareness or issuing guidelines doesn’t equate automatically to action. For Manyweathers, there needs to be a baseline understanding of how even the most well-intentioned people can be waylaid by competing priorities. In other words, will you choose between money, your family, what guidelines are telling you to do or something else entirely? For Manyweathers, her work as a vet has seen the realisation that while the relationship between animals, humans and disease is on our minds at the moment because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there needs to be an ongoing discussion of how humanity is connected to the natural world. But when a large part of this is disease management and risk reduction, how can we ensure we follow guidelines? In other words, how can we fix issues before they become problems and solve the problems themselves? If you want to contact Manyweathers, she can be reached through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation or on her e-mail A transcript of this episode is available at Produced by Dr Sarina Kilham with support from Charles Sturt University and The Australian Sociological Association for Social Science Week 2020.
August 30, 2020
Kellie Thomas, mental shortcuts and antibiotic resistance
Ever wondered why your work friend always takes short-cuts at work, saying she’s saving time by doing so? Wondered why so many interventions and programs seem like they’ll work in a boardroom but have massive failures when implemented? That’s a question Kellie Thomas, a pHD candidate at Charles Sturt University, is making sure to focus on in her work. Studying antibiotic resistance may seem like a hard science topic, something that’s just data and chemicals, but she says that it is critical that the human element--that is, the people--are considered in academic research. On this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Thomas argues data becomes meaningless when it is divorced from its context and the stresses we face in our professional lives. She calls on scientists and policy makers to move beyond the numbers and to remember that there are individuals behind the numbers--individuals with experiences that can’t always be reduced down to a ‘y value’ or a statistical phenomenon. In other words, how do people respond to the stressors of their jobs, and what impact does this have on their work performance? If you want to contact Thomas, she can be reached through e-mail at or at, which will launch later this year. A transcript of this episode is available at Produced by Dr Sarina Kilham with support from Charles Sturt University and The Australian Sociological Association for Social Science Week 2020. 
August 30, 2020
Wes Ward and the challenges facing Australian Farmers
For Wes Ward, adjunct research fellow at Charles Sturt University, researchers must move beyond the idea they’re separate from the individuals and communities they are studying. In this episode of What’s Sociology Got To Do With It?, Ward challenges researchers to recognise the web of individuals involved in agricultural systems. That is, he challenges them to think of the shearers, the contract workers, the farm managers and everyone else involved in running a farm. He says that this ‘thinking of the big picture’ is the only way organisations, researchers and farmers can move towards shared goals, building trust and fixing the challenges actually facing Australian farmers. He argues that researchers and organisations cannot become truly embedded in their communities when trust is missing from that relationship. In these scenarios, Ward says there can be no effective sharing of knowledge, skills and technologies. If you want to contact Ward, he can be reached by e-mail at, or by contacting Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society. A transcript of this episode is available at Produced by Dr Sarina Kilham with support from Charles Sturt University and The Australian Sociological Association for Social Science Week 2020.
August 30, 2020