Professor Rob Watts
Professor in Social Science
Global, Urban and Social Studies
+61 3 9925 8247
Design & Social Context
Rob Watts is currently Professor of Social Policy and Discipline Director, Social Sciences at RMIT University. Like many of his colleagues in the School of Global studies Social Science and Planning, he believes it is important that university teachers aim to be good teachers, maintain an active research and writing program and engage with the community - provided they are able and willing to sleep fast. He is passionate about the music of J.S. Bach, cycling and his many grandchildren.
Rob’s work as a teacher and a writer has been driven by deep intellectual curiosity and a desire to make better sense of how humans can both understand themselves and their world better so that all may lead flourishing lives. This has led to a necessarily interdisciplinary approach to his research work and a willingness to teach across any number of disciplinary and intellectual traditions. Cowardice, laziness and a persistent capacity to either deny the obvious or flee into fantasies of one sort or another are the only obstacles to this program. That modern universities, governments, the corporate sector (including the mass media) and the community sector all provide examples of both the possibilities and the constraints on thinking better and doing better provide a constant source of provocation for all his work.
As a teacher he wants to inspire all of his students especially first year students and to show them something of the delights that come from thinking well, and why that has everything to do with doing well as professionals employed across the whole range of community services and public policy where our graduates work.
- Social History of Ideas
- Advanced Policy Theory
- Ethics and Human Rights
- Education, Practice and Human Rights
BA. (Hons); MA: Dip. Ed. (LaTrobe); Ph. D (Melb)
Professional interests and links to industry
Rob’s community work has included:
- designing an integrated TAFE Diploma-Higher Education degree in Community development (1987-8);
- foundational work in setting up the Victorian Greens Party;
- founding editor for the VCOSS based journal Just Policy 1994-2006 ;
- developing and establishing the Australian Center for Human Rights Education (ACHRE) at RMIT (2008)
Research and Scholarship
Rob is author or co-author of dozens of research articles and reports. His many books include Foundations of the National Welfare State (1987), New Economic Directions for Australia (1989), Arguing About the Welfare State (1992), Making Groups Work (1996), Youth Studies: an Australian Perspective (1998), Discovering Risk (2004), Abuse of Trust (2005), Talking Policy: Australian Social Policy (2006), Violations of Trust: How Schools and Welfare Systems Have Failed our Young People (2006), and Sociology Australia (1999; 2003; 2007), International Criminology: A Critical introduction (2008). Most recently he has written texts including States of Violence, When the Boat Comes In: Towards a culture of Human Rights, and Pox Britannica: Race and Biological Warfare on the Frontier (all currently with publishers).
Current research interests include:
- auditing the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities in Victoria;
- the role of ethical reasoning in social transformation;
- evidence informed practice and policy;
- new design principles for social policy
- sources of authority in the modern Australian university
Books and monographs
A Researchers Glossary, PIT Press, Bundoora 1978.
Regional Policy - Who Benefits?, (with J. Wiseman, et al.), PIT Press and Western Regional Council for Social Development, Melbourne 1985.
The Foundations of the National Welfare State, Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1987.
Arguing About the Australian Welfare State (with Considine, M., & Beilharz, P.,) Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1992.
Making Groups Work: An Introduction, (with Bessant, J., & Benjamin, J.,) Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1997.
Youth Studies: an Australian Perspective, (with Bessant, J., & Sercombe, H.,) Addison-Wesley-Longman, Melbourne1998.
Sociology Australia, (with Bessant, J.,) Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1999.
Sociology Australia (2nd rev. ed), (Bessant J.,) Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, 2002.
Discovering Risk: Social Problems in an Era of Globalization, (with Bessant, J., & Hil, R., ) Peter Lang, New York, 2003.
Sociology Australia, (with Bessant, J.,) (2nd ed.) Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2004.
Violations of Trust: How Schools and Welfare Systems Have Failed our Young People, with Bessant, J., and Hil, R.,) Ashgate Press, London 2006.
Talking Policy: Australian Social Policy (with Bessant J., Dalton, T., & Smyth, P.) Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2006.
Sociology Australia, (with Bessant, J.,) (3rd ed.) Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2007.
International Criminology: A Critical Introduction, (with Bessant, J., & Hil, R.,) Routledge, Abingdon, 2008.
Pox Britannica: Empire, Racism and Biological Warfare at Sydney Cove 1789, (with B. Bessant) (Forthcoming)
States of Violence: Ethics Social theory and Crimes Against Humanity, (Forthcoming)
When the Boat Comes In: Towards a Culture of Human Rights, (Forthcoming)
From Charity to Industry (with J. Wiseman) (eds.), VCOSS, Melbourne 1989.
New Economic Directions for Australia (with J. Camillieri et al.), CASPA, Melbourne 1989.
Work in the New Economy (with Probert, B., & Lee, J., ) CASR, RMIT, Melbourne, 2000
Chapters in books
‘The Origins of the Australian Welfare State’, in Kennedy, R., (ed.), Australian Welfare History: Critical Essays, Macmillan, Melbourne 1982.
‘The Origins of Family Allowances in Canada and Australia 1935-1945’, in Berry, R., (ed.), Regionalism and National Identity, University of Christchurch, Christchurch 1987.
‘Prospects for Personal Change’, in Fisher, F., (ed), Gaia: Towards a Deep Ecology, Spring Publishers , Melbourne 1988.
‘As Cold as Charity; Welfare in Australia’, in Burgman, V., & Lee, J., (eds.), A Peoples' History, (Vol. 2), Penguin, Ringwood 1988.
‘Sorting the Sheep From the Goats: Conceptualising the Social and Community Services Industry’, in Watts, R., & Wiseman, J., (eds.), From Charity to Industry (with Weeks, W., et al.), VCOSS, Melbourne 1989.’
‘In Fractured Times: Social Policy and the Hawke Government 1983-1988’, in Kennedy, R., (ed.), Australian Welfare, Historical Sociology, Macmillan, Melbourne 1989.
‘Jam Every Other Day: Free Market Policies and Australian Living Standards, 1983-1989’, in Taylor, I., (ed.), Free Market Policies and Their Social Impact, Harvester Press, Brighton 1990.
‘Reviewing the Review: Social Policy in Fin de Siecle Australia’, in Jamrozik, A., (ed.), Social Policy in Australia, Vol.2 SPRC, Sydney 1990.
‘Gentle Hands Intervening: Mother State and the Provision of Social Services’, in Weeks, W., et al (eds.), ‘Innovations in Social Work with Families’, Longman-Cheshire, Melbourne 1990.
‘A Response to Ian Gough: The Welfare State and International Competitiveness’, in Benn, C., (ed.), The Welfare State and Economic Competition, University of Melbourne, Melbourne 1991.
‘Politics of discourse: The Universities and Dawkins; Considerations on Academic Discourse 1945-1992’, in Stockley, D., (ed), Rationalising Education, (Melbourne Studies in Education), LaTrobe University Press 1992.
‘Doing Ethnography with Young People’, in White, R., (ed),Youth Subcultures: Theory, History and the Australian Experience, National Clearing House, Hobart 1993.
‘Crime and unemployment: Deconstructing the Obvious’ in Hicks, R., Creed, P., Keogh, D., & Tomlinson, J., (eds), Unemployment: Challenges and Solutions , Australian Academic Press, Sydney 1994.
"One Damnable Simplification after Another: Beyond the Idea of Youth Culture’, in Bessant, J., Cook, S., Coventry, G., Maunders, D. & Wyn, J. (eds), Rethinking Policies for Young People: Towards a National Perspective Conference Proceedings, Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne 1994.
‘On Cultures of Violence: the Nightwatchman State and Modernity’, in Bessant, J., Carrington, K., & Cook, S., (eds), Cultures of Crime, La Trobe University Press, Bundoora 1995.
‘Unemployment, Citizenship and Agency: Considering Innovations in Policy’, in Hicks, R., & Tomlinson, J., (eds), Unemployment: Challenges and Solutions, Australian Academic Press, Sydney, 1995.
‘Young people and violence: A Focus on Schools’, (with J. Bessant), in Chappell, D. and Egger, S. (eds) Australian Violence: Contemporary Perspectives II, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra 1995.
‘Educating for Citizenship and Employment in Australia’, in Yates, L., (ed) Citizenship and Education, LaTrobe University Press, Bundoora 1995.
‘Laborism, Statism and the Australian State’, in Emy, H.V., & James, P., (eds), The State in Question, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1996.
'Running with the Bodgies; An Ethnographic History of Masculine Gang and Bodgie Culture in Australia 1948-1956', (with Bessant, J., ) , in Hazlehurst, K., (ed), Justice and Reform Westview Press, Boulder, 1998, pp.165-189
'Unions and Young People,' in Bessant, J., & Cook, S., (eds) Against the Odds: Young People and Work in Australia, National Clearing House of Youth Studies, Hobart, 1998, pp. 131-142.
'In the Silence of the heart: Youth Suicide and Unemployment', in Carson, E., Jamrozik, A., & Winefield, A., (eds), Unemployment: Economic promise and Political Will, Politics and Promises, Australian Academic Press, Brisbane 1999, pp. 166-180.
‘The Persistence of Unemployment is the Work of Economists: Australian Employment Policy, 1983-1996’, National Social Policy Conference Proceedings (vol.2), Social Policy Research Centre UNSW, Sydney July 1999
‘A Circus Run by the Clowns’ in Burning Down the House: The Bonfire of the Universities, (ed. James, P.,), Association for Public Universties, Melbourne 2000 pp.25-32.
‘The Right Thing: Globalization and the Policy Process- A Case Study’, Globalization and Its Discontents, (eds. McBride, S., & Wiseman, J.,) Macmillan, London, 2000 pp. 69-83
The Work of Art in an Age of Mass Destruction’, in W. Kelly (ed), Art and Humanist Ideals: Contemporary Perspectives, Macmillan, Melbourne. 2003:173-82
‘State Violence and Child Welfare: Two Case Studies’, in Bessant, J., Hil, R., & Watts, R., (eds.), Violations of Trust: How Schools and Welfare Systems Have Failed our Young People, Ashgate Press, London 2006.
‘The Welfare State’, in Galiigan, B., & Roberts, W., (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics, Oxford University Press, Melbourne 2007.
‘Children and the Law: An Historical overview in Monahan, G., & Young, L., (eds) , Children and the Law in Australia, (with Bessant, J.,), LexisNexis Butterworths, Chattswood 2008
Articles in refereed journals
‘On Imperialism, Lenin and the Whatnot’, La Trobe Historical Studies, Number 1, 1971 pp. 17-35.
‘The Unemployed Men and the Footscray City Council, 1929-1932’, La Trobe Historical Studies, Number 3, 1973 pp. 2-13.
‘Invitation to Conviviality: New Approaches in Learning’ (Part I) , Contemporary Social Work Education, Volume 1, Numbers 2, 1977/1978 pp. 35-49.
‘Invitation to Conviviality: New Approaches in Learning’, (Part II) , Contemporary Social Work Education, Volume 1, Numbers 3, pp. 25-36.
‘The Origins of the Australian Welfare State’, Australia and New Zealand Historical Studies, Number 3, 1980 pp. 35-49.
‘The Jargon of Evaluation: Consideration on the Baume Report’, Australian Journal of Social Work, Number 3, 1981 pp.29-39.
‘The Student as Client: Reflexions on Dependency and Liberation’, Australian Journal of Social Work, Number 2, 1983 pp.11-23.
‘Revising the Revisionists: The ALP and Liberalism, 1941-1945’, Thesis Eleven, Number 7, 1983, pp.31-48.
‘Considerations on B. Frankel's Beyond the State’, Thesis Eleven, Number 10, 1984 pp.56-63.
‘Regional Policies: Critique and Alternatives’, Regional Journal of Social Issues, Number 15, Bundoora, 1985, (with J. Wiseman, et al.) pp. 13-24.
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark: A Comment on Canadian Social Policy’, SPAN: The Canadian Review of Social Policy, Regina, Canada, 1986, pp.27-38.
‘Introduction of Family Allowances in Canada, 1930-1945’, Journal of Canadian Studies, 13, March, 1986, pp.3-18.
"Industry Policy: Making History?", Politics, March 1986 (with P. Beilharz), pp.17-28.
‘Avoiding a Kick in the Rear: The Introduction of Family Allowances in Canada and Australia, 1939-1945’, Journal of Social Policy, vol.13, no.3., 1987, pp.45-59
‘Bringing them home: Vietnam and the Sixties Revisited', Journal of Australian Studies, Number 40, November 1992, pp.58-63.
‘Being Bad is Good: Explorations of the Bodgie Gang Culture in South East Australia; 1948-1956’, Gang Journal: An Interdisciplinary Research Quarterly, (University of Chicago),Vol.1, No.1, November 1992, pp.34-52.
‘Australian Standards of Living: Some Gender Considerations’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, January 1993, pp. 1-13.
‘The Cost to Victorians of Economic Rationalism: Private Investment in Public Infrastructure’, Urban Policy and Research, vol.11, no.1., 1993, pp.41-43.
‘Government and Modernity: An essay on Governmentality’, Arena Journal , New Series, 2/3, February, 1994 pp. 105-156.
‘A Century of Laborism, 1891-1994: An Historical Interpretation’, Labour History, Number 69, 1994, pp. 37-69.
‘Eugenics and Australian History: A Revisionist Essay’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 37 (3), November 1994 pp. 43-59.
‘Violence, Schools and Young People: A Preliminary report’, (with Bessant, J.) Discourse: The Australian Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 15, (2), 1995 pp. 49-58.
‘Myths of the Deficit and the $8 billion Hole’,Just Policy , Number 7, August 1996 pp. 43-48.
‘Gendering the Youth work curricula in Australia’, (with J. Bessant) Youth + Policy: The Journal of Critical Analysis, Number 54, Autumn 1996 pp.26-37.
‘The Several Purposes of Learning: Reflections on a New Social Science Curriculum’, Ulti-base, July 1996.
‘Commentary on G. Sharp and the Autonomous Mass Killer’, Arena Journal, (New Series), Number 5, December 1996, pp.13-17.
‘Their Sins Remembered": Warfare, economists and Australian Social Policy, 1939-1945', Journal of Australian Studies, no. 49, December 1998, pp. 13-28
'History, Myth Making and Young people in a Time of Change, (with J. Bessant), Family Matters, Autumn No. 49, pp. 5-10.
'Trust and State Violence' Arena Magazine, February-March 1998, pp. 34-39.
‘Towards the Virtual University? From IT To ART’, Melbourne Studies in Education, Vol.40. no.1, May 1999, pp.1-22
‘Australia’s Welfare Policy and Latham’s Third Way: A Critical Commentary’ Just Policy no. 17, 1999, pp. 21 -32
‘An Interpretative Approach to Understanding Violence Among Young People', (with Bessant, J., & Webber, R.,) Interface, Vol. 2, no.2 1999, pp.95- 114
‘The Persistence of Unemployment is the Work of Economists: Australian Employment Policy, 1983-1996’, Journal of Economic and Social Policy , vol. 4, no.2., 2000, pp. 48-70
‘Politics and Social Action in an Era of Globalisation’, Special Issue of Just Policy Nos19-20, 2000,
‘Making Numbers Count: The Birth of the Census and Racial Government in Victoria, 1835-1840’, Australian Historical Studies, 2003 , vol. 33, no 118, 33-58.
‘The ‘idea of the University’: Australian conservatives and the public university’, Melbourne Studies in Education, 2002, vol.43, no.1, May pp.25-48.
‘Down and out in the Modern University: The Discourse of Quality Assurance and the fate of language and truth’, Journal of Institutional Research, December 2003.
(with Marston, G.,), ‘Evidence-based policy: An essay in disruption’, Just Policy, No 29, July 2003 : 32-48.
‘Headlining heroin’: Of Moral Panics, Press reportage and the heroin problem in Melbourne, 1995-2001’, Australian Media Studies, vol 22, September 2003: 45-67
‘The Census and The Origins of Racial Government in Port Phillip, 1835-1840’, Canadian Social History , vol 38 October 2003: 34-68
Socrates at the tech: On Higher education in the Age of the Mass University, Melbourne Studies in Education Vol 45, (1): 67-88, 2004
‘Dawkins and the Discourse of University Policy’, Fifty Years of Melbourne Studies in Education , Melbourne Studies in Education, November 2006 : 112-35
‘The Problem with Neo-Conservative Social Policy: Rethinking the ethics of Citizenship and the Welfare state (with G. Marston), Just Policy, No 33, 34-45
‘Of Dim Sims and Social Policy’, Just Policy, March, 2007: 11-15
‘Risk and heroin Use: The Value of Ethnograohy’, Journal of Scottish Youth Issues, vol 4. 2, 22-38 2007
Accomplishments and achievements
Grants and prizes
1975-78, Commonwealth Postgraduate Award for work on Ph.D Thesis: ‘The Light on the Hill The origins of the Australian Welfare State, 1930-1945’
1989-90, Canadian Studies Association Travel Grant for Travel and Research in Canada at National Archives, Ottowa ($2,500.00)
1998, Small ARC Grant ($12,000.00) with Bessant, J., and Webber, R.,) for project on:‘Interpreting Youth Violence: New Approaches’.
1999, Large ARC Grant ($80,000.00) (with Bessant , J,. Dalton, T., & Smyth, P.,) for project:‘Social Policy and Globalization: the Hawke-Keating Governments 1983-1996’.
2000, RMIT Postgraduate Association Supervisor of the Year (Masters)
2000, AHURI Research Grant ($112,000.00) (Bessant. J & Dalton,T)
2001, RMIT University Teaching Award -Research Supervision
2003, ARC Institutional Linkage Grant ($77,000.00) (with Dalton,T.,)
2004, Research Grants Media reports and young heroin users ($15,000.00)
2006, Competitive Grant of $300,000.00 from Handa Foundation to establish a National Center for Human Rights Education
2007, Grant of $110.000.00 from H.Macpherson Smith Trust to fund human rights research
2007, ARC Institutional Linkage Grant ($156,000.000): “Auditing The Victorian Charter of Human Rights”
2009, National ALTC Citation Award for Teaching Excellence ($10,000.00)