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Type: Thesis
Title: The social production of loneliness amongst women of refugee background living in Adelaide, Australia.
Author: Rodeghiero, Jane Frances
Issue Date: 2015
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: This thesis problematises the Australian government’s current settlement model which aims to develop social networking and social capital for new arrivals in order for them to become ‘fully integrated’ into society and achieve a sense of Australian national identity. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into why so many women of refugee background are experiencing social disconnection and loneliness for protracted periods. Six months of ethnographic fieldwork was undertaken to explore how existing policies and practices relate to the everyday experiences and priorities of a small group of women as they endeavored to rebuild their fractured social world in Adelaide. I centrally argue that the government’s current settlement model is flawed for five key reasons. Firstly, its assimilationist-integration agenda can produce or exacerbate feelings of social alienation. Secondly, it undermines relations with family and people of similar ethnic-cultural background through highly restrictive family reunification policies and the withdrawal of government support and resources to ethno-specific organisations. Thirdly, the assumption that this will inevitably lead to the increased development of relations with the wider population is erroneous. The current political and social conditions have produced an environment where these relations do not easily evolve through informal social interactions or active participation in work and study and there is a lack of effective and properly resourced facilitated opportunities. Perversely then, the very process of social networking and building social capital, considered to be vital to the current settlement model, is likely to be disrupted. Fourthly, current settlement policies are unsound because they are based on unrealistic assumptions about the capacity of women from a refugee background to develop trusting, reciprocal and durable relations. In doing so, they fail to acknowledge the structures that produce disadvantage and exclusion and the complexity of issues such as changed family dynamics, mistrust, and prejudice. Policy makers need to take more account of the experiential dimension of network building. Finally, the current settlement model is defective because it overlooks the subjective goals of the women in this study. Essentially, they wanted to feel part of a nourishing and inclusive social world with family and friends. However, and despite their best efforts, many found themselves to be deprived of immediate close supportive ties, often for many years after arrival and the attainment of citizenship. This generated or exacerbated feelings of profound loneliness, social disconnection and emotional distress, which complicated further network building. This has important implications for policymakers. A lonely, socially disconnected and alienated woman can be seen as being the obverse to one who is socially ‘well integrated’, and productively building social capital and a sense of Australian national identity. Moreover, these women are unlikely to feel ‘well settled’ or a sense of social inclusion if they cannot identify with people through intimate relations. Consequently, the government is failing to fulfill its settlement agenda as well as the critical social needs of many women of refugee background. More attention to this issue is necessary to improve settlement outcomes.
Advisor: Vokes, Richard
Szorenyi, Anna Veronica
Dissertation Note: Thesis (M.Phil.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2015
Keywords: Refugee women; loneliness; social disconnection; policy; social capital
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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