Episode 7: 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.

Produced by Dr Sarina Kilham with support from Charles Sturt University and The Australian Sociological Association for Social Science Week 2020.

Transcript of Sarah Redshaw

Redshaw episode

[00:00:00] Sarah Redshaw: [00:00:00] it is-is about looking at other aspects of the person, but also within their community. So how can communities contribute to people being better looked after?

 Sarina: [00:00:58] So thanks for [00:01:00] joining us on the podcast What’s Sociology Got To Do With It? Can you start by telling us about your research, please?

Sarah Redshaw: [00:01:08] Ah, okay. Yes, I do what I call social research and it best fits with sociology. And I started off with research with young drivers, car related research. How does sociology have anything to do with driving? It has a lot to do with it because driving’s a very social activity for a start.

And there are certain parameters around within which you can drive a car. There are social choices made by young people about how they take to a car, what they do with it. So we hear about things like peer influence, but there are also broader factors, like the way the car is framed, which is one way of putting it or articulate it.

And their sort of social concepts about-the car’s got a social context around it. Not only is it a physical object that is [00:02:00] limited in how you can use it, the roads limit how it can be used as well; if we didn’t have roads, cars would be virtually useless. And there’s also limits to how you can actually physically operate in a car. But socially, there are certain ways of approaching the car that you can group, if you like. So you can say that there are drivers who drive in this way and their drivers who drive in that way. And you can look at peoples’-you can call it attitudes, but it can be understood as social frames around how people understand cars.

Sarina: [00:02:32] So does that mean for things like when my daughter says to me, ‘mum, you’re driving like a city driver,’ as opposed to the normal country driver mode. Is that what you mean by ‘frames of driving’ or ‘frames of the car’?

Sarah Redshaw: [00:02:45] Yeah, well, that’s an interesting one. What does she mean by city driving versus country driving? Is that a-

Sarina: [00:02:53] I think city driving is where I’m being a bit more assertive on the road, according to her.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:02:58] So that means [00:03:00] you’re, ah, more likely to change lanes; and what other sorts of things?  

Sarina: [00:03:02] More likely to change lanes. Definitely. Probably I’m a bit more vocal at swearing at other drivers when I’m in city driving mode. Not that-

Sarah Redshaw: [00:03:12] So you find your-your impatience rising and you get into a more a-a mode where you feel like you’ve got to really assert your place in the traffic.

Sarina: [00:03:21] I think it’s not so much impatience. I’m probably just more critical of what other people are doing. Like ‘where is your blinker?’ and ‘do you not know how to use a roundabout?’

Sarah Redshaw: [00:03:33] Okay. Okay.

Sarina: [00:03:34] Those types of observational comments.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:03:36] So you notice more of what people are doing and where they’re not acting properly.

Sarina: [00:03:40] Mhm. Yes.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:03:43] Yeah, that’s-certainly city versus country driving is a popular one and people frame it in different ways. So the classic image of a country driver is someone, usually a bloke wearing a hat. He’s just moseying along, got all day. But it can also be, I’ve [00:04:00] heard things from focus groups, like, if you don’t go fast, it’s just really boring.

Sarina: [00:04:07] Oh okay .

Sarah Redshaw: [00:04:08] You could say, ‘that’s a country attitude’ or something, but, you can build these sort of frames out of people’s views like that. And they probably are some strong contrast between city and country drivers, but there’s also things like, commuters can be viewed as passive, if they’re not being aggressive in the traffic. So, changing lanes and moving ahead and coming back in and all this sort of thing.

So drivers who are, for example, into-maybe they’ve, played too many computer games where you doing this dodging in and out of the traffic. That’s a style of driving that a lot of young drivers will pick up because it seems ‘that’s  how you approach the car and you approach it very strongly and aggressively and the roads and all of this sort of thing. And, usually after a while, they’ll settle down and realize that, the traffic’s a reality and you’ve just got to live with it and you can’t [00:05:00] always be driving, like you’re on a race track-

Sarina: [00:05:02] Yeah, I have to say-

Sarah Redshaw: [00:05:03] Or a computer game.

Sarina: [00:05:04] -for any driver over forty I’m part of that group that tut-tuts and says ‘just wait. The traffic’s not going anywhere. You just move two spots to nowhere-

Sarah Redshaw: [00:05:15] Yeah.

Sarina: [00:05:15] -and here we are at the same red light together.’

Sarah Redshaw: [00:05:17] Just going to take time because there’s traffic. Yeah, and I think we’ve got a lot of impatience on the road. Partly, I like to blame the motor vehicle manufacturers because they like to promote increasing speed. You know that we’ve had all this naught to a hundred in however many seconds sort of stuff. And most cars these days easily pick up speed. Even the smallest cars.

To safely cross an intersection, say, and this has been one of the arguments of the ‘we need more speed, we need more acceleration.’ But these days we’re at optimum. We can’t actually afford roads to go faster, to enable cars to go faster. The idea of doing 150, 200 kilometers [00:06:00] an hour is just not feasible. You can’t. You can’t build the ride safe enough to do that. And everyone says ‘oh, the German autobahns will,’; it’s short stretches that are like that. And there’s a lot of fatalities and they’ve actually imposed a speed limit.

 There are real costs to speed that we have to weigh up, besides actually building a road that can cope with that kind of speed safely. But this is always being promoted by motor vehicle companies. So when you look at it, look at the picture broadly from a social perspective. You can include the whole way motor vehicle’s promoted. And I’ve seen motor vehicle companies unashamedly promoting ‘let’s increase the speed limit. Let’s increase. speed.’

When really for livable places, we just can’t do that.

Sarina: [00:06:49] So are you still-is this still your current research, Sarah? Looking at, driving and drivers, the social aspects of driving.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:06:58] No. I have been involved [00:07:00] in a project that’s to do with cycling, in regional towns, but all that I’ve been part of, with that really is connecting with the local Council and they’re keen to be  involved. The New South Wales government’s got some sort of interest in increasing cycling in towns.

 And what does it take to do that? So, we’ve been developing a survey for that and that’s about how cyclists and motor vehicle drivers see the whole issue of having bicycles on the road and bicycles in the area, how they can be accommodated. And that’s physically in towns, as well as on the roads and in people’s heads. How can we impact the way many more car drivers these days are tol-more tolerant of bicycles. Whereas there has been this view that roads are there for motor vehicles.

 No, actually roads are a way of getting from one place to another, whatever means, and it has to be worked out. It has to be possible. For someone who needs to walk, someone who needs to cycle or [00:08:00] prefers to cycle for whatever reason, for them to be able to get from one place to another.

Sarina: [00:08:04] This is a hugely controversial issue, almost the idea of cyclists on roads that are dominated by motor vehicles. I’m really interested in it because I’m a cyclist myself and I’m a commuter cyclist, which means I do it to get from A to B as opposed to wearing Lycra for exercise. And.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:08:29] A lot more people do these days.

Sarina: [00:08:31] I have noticed that. People have really strong views about it. I cycled with my young children on the back of my bicycle and some people were very angry at me. They thought I was putting my children’s lives at-at risk by choosing that as a commuter mode of transport.

  Sarah Redshaw: [00:08:52] Yeah. And-and those are the sorts of things that you can look at with a social lens or from a social perspective. Again, looking [00:09:00] at the bigger picture of, you know, what we do have this mix. So we’ve got to find ways to make those work.

And I think, uh, road safety research has moved more towards taking into account the social. It’s much more dominated by large data studies like epidemiology and engineering and psychology. But social research is making an impact there. That’s an impact. That’s an area that it’s increasing. It’s also increasing in health, social research. I’ve been involved in quite a few projects where, it might be about community nurses providing berevement care in the community ’cause they do, palliative care. And  how can they deal with the family once the family member that they’ve been looking after dies. Is there something they can do? You can talk to the nurses, you can talk to the bereaved family, and just start to have-to get a picture of what’s important there. [00:10:00]

 And that applies in a lot of areas of medicine. You know, how people experience things. What’s important to them. What happens for them when certain things occur? These are the things that social research can really help with.

Sarina: [00:10:15] How would you say that social research is disrupting the normal hard science way of thinking about some of these issues? Whether that’s driving or medicine or-

 Sarah Redshaw: [00:10:28] Yeah, it is meaning that the bigger picture has to be looked at. It’s not-you’re not just treating a body or a disease or a homeless issue, housing issue. You’ve got to deal with many aspects of the person and in the context of communities and societies and how they contribute to the situations that exist.

But also taking into account people’s experiences is really important in a range of contexts. So I think it is challenging. It’s pushing those boundaries out all the time in terms of what gets considered. [00:11:00] Considering the ill person in the context of their family, and this is something that has been important to medical professionals, but not necessarily part of the health, the medical model.

It’s not just social research, but nurses might’ve also contributed to widening this perspective and other medical professionals as well. But social research, certainly challenges the medical model when it’s very diseased-focused.

Sarina: [00:11:25] Yes. Okay. Can you give us some examples of how that might be?

 Sarah Redshaw: [00:11:30] If you, say with drug issues, someone has a drug problem. You can treat that by medically, giving them a treatment.

Sarina: [00:11:40] So like –

Sarah Redshaw: [00:11:41] But you also need to-sorry?

Sarina: [00:11:42] I was gonna jump in and say, like, for a smoker, a nicotine patch or something, that’s a medical treatment.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:11:49] Yeah, smoking’s probably-well, possibly-more manageable within the sort of-it depends on the- it brings it back, I guess, to the person and their context. So what [00:12:00] is inducing the need for the drug, whether it’s cigarettes or harder drugs. What other factors in their lives need to be looked at to facilitate them being able to live without those drugs or whatever you want to call them. And that’s an area that social research and look at. Like it might be housing problems. It might be  family mental health problems, but, it is-is about looking at other aspects of the person, but also within their community. So how can communities contribute to people being better looked after?

Like, I did some research on community resilience and talked to people about-’cause I noticed that people in the fire situation, I had people telling me that, they’re looking after three or four older people in their street.

But if there was a fire, and they had to leave and-they’re not even home because they’ve got jobs-how are they gonna look after three or four older people? And we do have this idea that it’s okay to [00:13:00] think, ‘neighbors’ or- A neighbor sometimes can look after an older person, but they might also have animals and you might have animals. It gets very complicated and I think it’s –

When the government talks about individual responsibility around these things, some people don’t have the capacity, but want to live in their homes in the community. So how can we support that? It-It is better for them. It’s better for the community. It’s better for the budget to support people in their home. So how can the broader community-without just relying on, say a few neighbors-support  people living in their homes? And I think there are factors that as broader communities we can start to address, but that’s an area that I’ve been working in. It’s not easy.

Sarina: [00:13:44] No. And I think that’s the crux of much social research, you said. There are no easy answers to lots of this. It’s complex and multi-pronged.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:13:54] Yeah. It’s often dealing with the really sticky questions, isn’t it? The really sticky issues. And because we have [00:14:00] had such a-and this is one of the major social theory critiques-is we’re such an individual-focused society, Western societies. We forget that actually we’re social; we’re predominantly social and we only get to me  individual if we’re in a society that can promote and encourage that, but not at the expense of being social and communal. And I think to some extent, we have gone that far with this sort of individual responsibility idea that, it’s a lot of the time, at the expense of people who simply don’t have the resources to deal with things. And we, as a community could assist, could provide more resources.

Sarina: [00:14:37] I think this has become, really, a lot more in people’s face, say with the economic situation in Australia at the moment. Because of COVID-19, we are subject to wider economic and social forces. It’s not just about you as the individual and your individual choices. And I know for me, I’ve been thinking a lot about, the [00:15:00] times that my grandparents grew up in, which they were all born in the Great Depression.

And then, lived through World War Two. And so, the choices that you can make are subject to those wider social structures and what’s going on in the world, in your country, in your nation at the time and what your government thinks is okay to invest in policy-wise. We saw that with the, massive flip on childcare in Australia.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:15:27] Exactly. Yes. And the government, the way they’re funding, the way they’re spending some of this funding is a bit of a worry as to who they’re giving JobKeeper to and they don’t like to give it to individuals who are struggling.

Sarina: [00:15:41] Yeah. And yet those people are often the ones that could get the most benefit. The doubling of JobSeeker is really to the amount that it should have been, in my opinion. Before COVID-19 hit, because it was well below the poverty line before then.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:15:58] Yeah, and it contributes to the [00:16:00] overall economy, much more than giving more money to the wealthy who-great, are they going to be able to ship more money off to the Cayman Islands or buy a Ferrari or something? That’s not gonna help the economy a great deal, but people who don’t have much and need more, we’ll spend the money in areas of the economy that create more jobs, if not all of that sort of thing. So, not only it can assist lifting people out of poverty-that can increase their sense of wellbeing and enable them to be able to apply for more jobs. And give them more capacity to be able to actually do that.

Sarina: [00:16:35] I think that’s, for me, most of the stories coming out from people who’ve been on JobSeeker, pre-COVID and then recieve the  increase amount was about they’re feeling human again and being able to feel that like they could live with dignity and make some active choices in their life.

I mean, that has been the biggest-that increase in wellbeing has really [00:17:00] been the story that’s come through very strongly in the media about that increase payment.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:17:05] Yeah, exactly. When you feel like you’ve got a-a little bit more petrol to be able to go and source things or go and apply for a job or reach a job-

Sarina: [00:17:16] That was one of the articles I had about, was-

Sarah Redshaw: [00:17:18] -you get a hair cut and get some more clothes that make you more presentable at a job interview. They’re so many things that people don’t realize you can’t pay for on a few hundred dollars a week. And these are social issues. So it’s not just down to the individual, it’s we as a society. And there’s always been charities and that sort of thing, but that tends to keep the system as it is, whereas, broader critiques from a social perspective can look at how society is structured in ways that keep poverty, that keep people in poverty, that keep people struggling  and can start to chip away at that and improve things.

Sarina: [00:17:56] Sarah, we’re almost at the end of the time for our [00:18:00] interview. Can you just, as I know, this is the wrong end of the stick, but can you tell us your name, where you’re talking to us from and what is your current role?

 Sarah Redshaw: [00:18:09] Sarah Redshaw, I’m a Research Gellow with the Faculty of Arts and Education at Charles Sturt University.  I’m currently located in Katoomba. And, I worked through Bathurst campus.

Sarina: [00:18:20] Fantastic. Have you got any final points that you would like to talk to our listeners about what’s sociology got to do with it?

Sarah Redshaw: [00:18:29] I think it’s important to realize that a lot of the social research methods have enabled other disciplines to pick up on some of the things that I was talking about earlier, like nursing being able to research around people’s experiences of health treatments and so on. I think the social methods of research are important in being able to take into account more of these sorts of things.

 There’s a struggle around va-validity, you, when you compared with randomized controlled trials, but. It’s a different kind of thing, and it [00:19:00] doesn’t need to be measured against those. Some of those sort of approaches are just not appropriate and don’t glean the sort of information that we need to take into account social issues.

Sarina: [00:19:11] Fantastic. If have people interested in reading your research or getting in contact with you, where’s the best place for them to do that?

 Sarah Redshaw: [00:19:19] I’m on academia. My publications are on academia and ResearchGate. I think there’s a public view of those. Or do you have to join them?

Sarina: [00:19:28] Possibly public. I will look it up and pop it on the show notes. And maybe via your Charles Sturt University profile page?

Sarah Redshaw: [00:19:36] Is that in Crow?

Sarina: [00:19:37] No, that’s just the link. If people Google, Sarah Redshaw Charles Sturt University, they should find you.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:19:43] Yeah, I don’t know what would come up then. ‘Cause I’m only on a contract and my contract is about to expire. So I don’t know that there’s much on the sort of public web.

Sarina: [00:19:53] Are you on Twitter? Instagram? LinkedIn?

Sarah Redshaw: [00:19:58] LinkedIn. Yes. I [00:20:00] don’t have a lot on them though.

Sarina: [00:20:01] Alright, I’ll find that your contact details, your public ones and pop them on our show notes for the listeners.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:20:07] Alright,

Sarina: [00:20:08] Thanks so much for joining us, Sarah.

Sarah Redshaw: [00:20:10] Okay, bye.

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