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Frances Flanagan

BA (Hons); LLB (dist) UWA; MSt Oxon; DPhil Oxon
University of Sydney Fellow
+61 2 8627 8804

Frances is an early career researcher with an interdisciplinary background in work studies and history. She holds a University of Sydney Fellowship based in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies and she is affiliated with two of the University’s interdisciplinary research hubs, the Sydney Policy Lab and the Sydney Environment Institute. Her research concerns the crucial and changing role that work has played as a source of social cohesion, identity and belonging in the context of ongoing changes to employment relationships, technology and the environment.

Between 2015 and 2018, Frances was the National Director of Research at United Voice, one of Australia’s largest unions, comprising cleaners, aged carers, early childhood educators and a range of other occupations.  In this role, she wrote numerous reports and submissions to government on subjects including the future of work, gender segregation in Australian workplaces, and worker exploitation.  Prior to her work at United Voice, Frances was a researcher and lecturer at the University of Birkbeck, a Marshall Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, and a Senior Scholar at Hertford College Oxford.  Frances also worked as a lawyer for an Aboriginal Land Council in the Pilbara, Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia between 2001 and 2005.

Frances’ work has been published in leading industrial relations journals and history publications, including the Journal of Industrial Relations and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Her book, Remembering the Revolution was published by Oxford University Press and was short-listed for the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Prize for the best monograph on a subject of British or Irish history published within the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland in 2016.

Frances is a publicly-engaged researcher who has co-convened a number of Sydney-based public seminars that seek to link academic research with the public and communities of practice in civil society.  She is also the author of a number of long-form essays that have been published in the Griffith Review, Arena and Inside Story.  In February 2019, she was invited to deliver the inaugural Iain McCalman lecture on the environment and culture, on the subject ‘Climate Change and the New Work Order’.

Frances is a research associate of the Centre for Future Work (Australia Institute), as well as a member of the Australian Historical Society and the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand.

Frances is interested in the changing ways in which work has functioned as a source for individual and collective identities and as a source for belonging, citizenship and social cohesion. Her approach brings approaches from history, geography and industrial relations to gain a deep, and historically-inflected understanding of contemporary work issues in their wider social context.

Frances’ postdoctoral research program considers how changes in work and employment relationships (including the rise in non-standard employment, outsourcing and gig economy work) impact social cohesion in Australia.  Her analysis will reflect on the potential of the concept of ‘social citizenship’ to guide policy-making on the future of work, and ensure that that the use of technologies occurs in a manner that enhances social cohesion, engagement, productivity and trust. The particular empirical focus for her project will be on the experiences of service workers in what have come to be known as ‘non-core’ occupations (such as cleaning, maintenance and security) who work in selected ‘sites of belonging’, such as public schools, hospitals and justice institutions.

Frances also has written about the gig economy in home-based service work, the impacts of gig-based employment on women, and the uses of digital technologies by unions.

Frances’ research speaks to the challenges faced by policy makers who must conceptualise and respond to changes in employment relationships and technology in ways that support not only economic productivity but also wider social cohesion, belonging, worker engagement and development. Social inequality, alienation and mistrust are all ‘wicked’ policy problems that demand big picture, multi-factor analyses; by drawing out the conceptual links between these issues and work, her work endeavours to offer a credible and practical gateway for policy makers to bring about change.