Top Menu

Timeline of Key Events

1830s to 1850s

The earliest writings displaying sociological insights into Australian society appear in the writings of travellers and early colonists. For example, in Jessie Ackermann’s social and political investigations of the early colonies, the Australian diaries of Beatrice Webb, and the studies of indigenous issues by Katie Langloh Parker and Daisy Bates (Collyer 2012b:117).


The first Australian (proto) sociological text was published in Melbourne by W.E. Hearn. The text was entitled The Ayran Household, and was part of the broader genre of studies of ‘social progress’ at the time, drawing on the evolutionary social science of Comte and Spencer (Connell 2005:6-8).


Francis Anderson delivered his lecture, Sociology in Australia: A Plea for its Teaching, to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. In what is commonly taken as Australian sociology’s ‘quasi-foundational’ speech (Mitropoulos 2005:102), Anderson unsuccessfully advocated for a Chair in Sociology to be established at the University of Sydney. He did, however, succeed in offering a course called Elements of Sociology, which was listed for one year as part of an undergraduate degree in philosophy, but later became only an option for a master degree in Philosophy until 1925 (Bourke 2005:151).


Meredith Atkinson introduced a sociology course in the Workers Educational Association (WEA) program (Bourke 2005:381). The WEA, an English movement that to this day aims to bring education to working women and men, was established in Australia in this year, and would prove fundamental in allowing sociology to make a brief appearance at the University of Melbourne (Bourke 2005:152) and several other Australian universities. Although classes took place on university campuses and were presided over by university-appointed lecturers, these were not part of the formal curriculum. George Elton Mayo was a slightly later, though still early WEA appointment. Holding the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Queensland from 1919 to 1923, Mayo delivered a series of lectures for the WEA on the militant radicalism of the working class as a form of mental illness (Mitropoulos 1999; Collyer 2012b:119).


Meredith Atkinson became Australia’s first self-styled Professor of Sociology at the University of Melbourne (Bourke 1981:31). In the same year, Clarence Northcote published the first Australian Sociology book, Australian Social Development (Bourke 2005:381).


Closely following the publication of his first book, Meredith Atkinson produced an edited collection: Australia: Economic and Political Studies. This was claimed by Atkinson to be the first authoritative work on the economic and sociological condition of Australia (Bourke 2005:150).


The University of Melbourne’s fledgling sociology faculty was dismantled. After a dispute between Atkinson’s replacement, John Alexander Gunn, and a chair of the university’s economics department Douglas Copeland, the prospects of sociology at the university was submitted to a faculty committee of inquiry (Western 2005:50). The inquiry concluded that sociology, due to its ‘vagueness’, be dissolved into other social sciences (Copeland 1927:33,36).


Adolphus Peter Elkin, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, founded the short-lived Australian Institute of Sociology and Australia’s first sociology journal Social Horizons. Just two volumes of the journal were published, the first in 1943 and the second in 1945.


Leading up to the establishment of sociology as an academic discipline in Australia, there was a flourishing of social surveys from researchers inside and outside the universities. Although most were untheorised and fairly rudimentary with regard to method (Ancich et al 1969:49), they targetted all areas of social life including the incidence of disease and poverty in the aftermath of the Second World War, wheat farming in the Mallee and Wimmera, the coal-mining communities of the Hunter Valley, educational opportunities in NSW gaols as well as topical issues of urbanisation, industrialisation and migration (Davidson 2005:177-8). Included in this group would be studies by the educationalist W.F. Connell, the social psychologist Oscar Oeser, and the many research studies of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence (Collyer 2012b:120).


A Department of Anthropology and Sociology was formed at the Australian National University in the Research School of Pacific Studies in Canberra. The first appointment was W.E.H. Stanner as Reader in 1949, followed by S.F. Nadel as Chair in August 1950 (Pemberton 2009). This department was staffed by anthropologists rather than sociologists, and did not enrol undergraduates. Sociology separated from this department in 1974 to become part of the proposed Department of Politics and Social Change, though this new entity was delayed until the appointment of Professor J.A.C. Mackie in 1977.


Formation of the Canberra Sociological Society at the Canberra University College in the Australian Capital Territory.


The first independently named Department of Sociology with undergraduate courses was established at the NSW University of Technology (subsequently becoming the University of New South Wales), with the first ‘true’ Professor of Sociology appointed, Morven Sydney Brown.


In September 1960 the Australian National University Council accepted a proposal for the establishment of a Chair and Department of Sociology in the Research School of Social Sciences. In 1961, Professor W.D. (Mick) Borrie acted as departmental head, Jerzy Zubrzycki (Research Fellow in Demography from 1953) was appointed Senior Fellow, and Mr. Redrup, Research Fellow. The search for a professor continued and a series of visits by ‘distinguished overseas sociologists arranged’ (Pemberton 2009).


A Department of Sociology was established at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW. This was headed by Associate Professor of Rural Sociology, James Harle Bell.


The Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand (SAANZ) was established in this year, with W.D. (Mick) Borrie elected as its first President, Jim H. Robb as Vice-President (New Zealand), Morven Sydney Brown as Vice-President (Australia), and J.J. Mol as Secretary-Treasurer. This was also the year of the first SAANZ conference, held at the Australian National University, convened by W.D. (Mick) Borrie.


A Department of Sociology was established at Monash University in Victoria.


SAANZ established the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology (ANZJS) with Jerzy Zubrzycki as the first editor. In the same year, the first Australian PhD in Sociology was awarded at the Australian National University to Robert Pike (supervised by Jerzy Zubrzycki). In addition, the first modern Australian sociology textbook was published by Alan Davies and Sol Encel, Australian Society, and a Department of Sociology was formed at the University of Queensland.


Jean Martin (neé Craig) became foundation Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, John Nalson becomes the foundation Professor of Sociology at the University of New England in New South Wales, and sociology is established at Macquarie University (also New South Wales).


The first special interest section of SAANZ, the Medical Sociology Section, was established. It was organised by Katy Richmond and Rosemary Otto (Richmond 2010). The first national meeting of the section was opened by Sol Encel, the Chair of Sociology at the University of New South Wales (Collyer 2012a:125).


Jean Martin (neé Craig) became the first female President of SAANZ. In the same year, a new special interest section of SAANZ, the Sociology Teachers’ Section, was established.


The first SAANZ newsletter was published and for the first time the annual conference proceedings of SAANZ were published, edited by Zubrzycki, as The Teaching of Sociology in Australia and New Zealand. ANZJS also moved to three issues per year. In the same year, the Department of Sociology in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University was finally provided with a Chair: Professor Leonard Broom (University of Texas). Broom commenced as Chair in 1971. Undergraduate teaching also began in this year in the Faculty of Arts at the Australian National University, with Jerzy Zubrzycki appointed as Professor of Sociology (Pemberton 2009).


The SAANZ General Meeting passes a constitutional amendment to make the ANZJS editor and editorial board elected positions.


The special interest section, the Women’s Section, was established.


The SAANZ Women’s Section Newsletter was first published.


A short-lived (2 issues) Student Section of SAANZ was born, and it had its own newsletter. This was also the year of the creation of the ‘Jean Martin Award’, granted bi-annually to the best PHD thesis in a social science discipline at an Australian Tertiary institution and submitted to the Award Committee. The inaugural recipient was Claire Williams, whose PhD was published as Open Cut by Allen and Unwin.


Birth of the Labour & Industry journal co-sponsored by SAANZ/TASA (until 1996) and the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand.


TASA was established at the 1988 AGM (and formally incorporated in 1989) after New Zealand sociologists seceded to form an independent association: the Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand . In the same year, the SAANZ Newsletter was renamed the Nexus Newsletter.


The second of TASA’s journals was established in this year: the Annual Review of Health Social Sciences. This was an independent development of the Medical Sociology Section, and was not, at this time, recognised in the association’s constitution nor given financial assistance. The journal’s first editors were Jeanne Daly and Allan Kellehear.


A new award was created by TASA for the best paper in the ANZJS. The inaugural recipient was Eric Livingstone.


The TASA website and email list was established by John Germov on 22 July and hosted on the University of Newcastle server. In the same year, the Distinguished Service to Australian Sociology Award was created with inaugural recipients Lois Bryson and John Western.


Two-year terms for the TASA Executive Committee began.


The name of TASA’s journal changed from ANZJS to the Journal of Sociology (JOS). In the same year, Fully Refereed Conference Proceedings were published at the TASA Conference, held at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.


For the first time Refereed Conference Proceedings were published in CDROM format. The Health Sociology Section website was also established in the same year.


JOS began to be published by SAGE and moved to four issues per year (including a thematic issue), with full content simultaneously accessible via online journal databases. The TASA website moved to its own domain in December, This was also the year in which the Annual Review of Health Social Science underwent a change of name to the Health Sociology Review. The editors at this time were Jane Shoebridge and Eileen Willis, and although the publication was briefly ‘adopted’ by TASA as one of its official journals, publishing rights were given to a local company, e-Content Management (Collyer 2012a:161).


A member-only section of TASAweb was launched in February, including access to online versions of Nexus and refereed conference proceedings. This was also the year when TASA hosted the ISA XV World Congress of Sociology at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, July 7th to 13th. On the TASA Executive Committee, a co-opted temporary position was created for a postgraduate representative.


This year was the 40th anniversary of TASA/SAANZ, with a number of new features added to TASAweb: an online membership directory with an Update My Profile tool; secure online payment facilities, online conference registration, and online discussion forums. In addition there was an inaugural Postgraduate Workshop and a new set of conference scholarships; the Stephen Crook Memorial Prize award was launched to acknowledge the best monograph by an Australian sociologist over the previous two years (the inaugural recipient was Michael Pusey); further constitutional amendments created a permanent postgraduate member position on the TASA Executive Committee (effective for the 2005-06 Executive term as an elected position); a revised TASA Code of Ethics was adopted after consultation with members; and the Most influential books in Australian Sociology (MIBAS) survey was conducted.


A new record of TASA membership was reached by December 10 with 635 members. A new TASA Strategic Plan was adopted after consultation with members and TASA became a foundation member of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS).


The TASA executive established ‘Thematic Groups’ to facilitate networking across the membership and provide some financial assistance for networking activities. These Thematic Groups replaced existing sections, though the change-over was relatively seamless for existing members of the sections. National Convenors were established for each Group, with some, such as the Health Thematic Group, appointing additional state convenors.


The constitution of TASA was finally modified at the annual general meeting to acknowledge both Nexus and the Health Sociology Review as official journals of the association (Collyer 2012a:161).


The Raewyn Connell Prize was established in this year and awarded biannually to the best authored first monograph within the discipline of Sociology. The first recipient was Peter Robinson for his book The Changing World of Gay Men. 2010 also marked the year of the inauguration of the Outstanding Service to TASA Award, given to a TASA member who has demonstrated an outstanding level of participation in, and promotion of TASA, over a number of years. The inaugural recipient was John Germov.