Researchers call for study participants: How do workers in the Illawarra respond to industrial change?
Dr Chantel Carr begins four-year project exploring experiences of region’s coal and steelworkers
Since the late 1800s, the Illawarra has been linked with coal mining. The metallurgical coal found in the region has supplied the steelworks at Port Kembla and international markets for generations.
However, there have been many changes during that time, and there is inevitably more to come.
Dr Chantel Carr, a researcher in the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space, whose PhD focused on the post-retirement lives of former steelworkers, is interested in the experiences of the Illawarra’s coal workers. .
“For more than a century, the Illawarra’s fortunes and economic hopes have ebbed and flowed with the global steel and coal markets,” Dr Carr said. “This continues to be an important part of our region’s economy, but we know the region has diversified over the last 30 years and will continue to change.
“When I speak to workers in the coal industry I’m reminded of how dynamic the environment is, and has always been. We’re interested in how workers and their families respond to change in their everyday lives.”
In a research project that looks set to span the next four years, Dr Carr is searching for coal workers and their households to participate in the study.
“The home is often where we discuss and make important decisions about jobs and careers. Moving in and out of the industry or even things like changing shift patterns can have a big impact not only on workers, but also on partners and children.”
Working with UOW PhD student Natasha Larkin, Dr Carr is also exploring the intergenerational nature of local employment change, and how workers discuss career choices with their children.
“The Illawarra is really at a turning point. Our skilled industrial workforce and proximity to Sydney will almost certainly bring new opportunities. We know very little about how the region’s young people see their future working lives. We are really interested in how parents, schools and local employers all play a role in those decisions.”
Dr Carr and Ms Larkin aim to interview 70 households in the Illawarra, with the hopes that their research findings will inform governments and institutions on how to better support regional workers and manage transitions in areas like the Illawarra, that have traditionally been built on the back of industry and resources.
“If you have any experience working in the coal industry over the last 20 years, we would love to hear from you,” Dr Carr said.
Born and raised in the Illawarra, Dr Carr is an experienced qualitative researcher and ethnographer. She began her career as an apprentice electrician at Bluescope Steel (formerly BHP), an experience that has deeply influenced her research and interest in the region’s industrial workers.
If you are interested in taking part in the project or for more information, contact Dr Carr on email@example.com or +61 4298 1215.