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Making a life

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Wierenga, AM (2001) Making a life. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Community education, Rural development, Rural youth
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2001. Includes bibliographical references

Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2015 23:28
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2017 01:30
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