Small town schools

Project title: Small town schools – Australia

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Scott Eacott (UNSW), Dr Amanda Heffernan (Monash), Prof Tanya Fitzgerald (UWA) & Dr Melyssa Fuqua (UNSW)

Research Assistants: TBC

Higher Degree Researchers: TBC

Funding source(s): Pending

Overview: Small towns in Australia are in crisis. Socio-demographic and economic decline combined with environmental fragility are bringing about significant social and cultural transformation. However, images of the small bush town are deeply rooted in Australia’s national character and mythology (Corbett, 2015). This makes small towns a cultural rather than just a geographic category (Eversole, 2016). Central to this cultural category is the local school. Often described as the heart of the community (Halsey, 2018), small schools assume a social and not just education function (Kroismayr, 2019). They are a catalyst for a sense of community, social cohesion, and building resilience (Schafft, 2016; Slee & Miller, 2015; Oncescu, 2014). The small school therefore provides powerful insights for a broader reflection on the constitution and emergence of Australia’s cultural imagery. Theoretically informed by the relational approach this project advances knowledge by reorienting our understanding of the local school and its role in community building and identity formation. In doing so, this project adds vital missing depth to our understanding of Australian society, history, and culture.

Status: ongoing – including plans to expand the project internationally.

Outputs: pending – with multiple publications under review or in-preparation