Marina Khan, Western Sydney University. Please note, this article was originally published in the online TASA publication Nexus. It has been reprinted here with the Editors’ permission.
It was a great pleasure to receive a scholarship to present my study at my very first TASA conference in 2017. I had just submitted my Master’s thesis and was awaiting the PhD scholarship announcements. The timing couldn’t have been better, because I was in the process of applying for scholarships and working on possible publications from my research. At the same time, the idea of presenting my work to field experts and academics was a bit nerve-wracking, especially since this would be my very first presentation ever. However, the beautiful surrounds of the UWA campus and the extremely supportive group of people at TASA calmed my nerves, and the Conference resulted in my having an intellectually and socially stimulating experience.
The conference theme ‘Belonging in a Mobile World’ resonated closely with my research study, which was an exploration of the Australian migration industry. My paper titled ‘Contested ground: Migration intermediaries and the state’ was a part of my Master’s thesis project, in which I explored the role of Australian migration intermediaries in the network governance (or arms-length management) setting of the Australian migration industry. Education and migration agents have long been identified as key actors in Australia’s migration industry. However, it has been argued that they are largely unregulated and the role they play has been described mostly in negative terms by the media or in scholarly research, seeing them as part of an exploitative system that ‘commodifies’ vulnerable migrants. There has not been much work inquiring into their own understandings of their position in this sector as mediators between mobile migrants and the state. I argue that from the perspectives of migration intermediaries, network governance of the migration advice sector is characterised by contested relationships at various levels intensified by continued negotiation over law, regulation, and professional legitimacy.
As an early career researcher, presenting my study at TASA allowed me to obtain valuable feedback on my study and future directions for my research. The events at the Conference, especially the women’s breakfast and the conference dinner were extremely enjoyable and allowed for networking opportunities, which have resulted in some great connections and possibilities for collaborative work. Many thanks to TASA, the organisers, the presenters, and all attendees for your support, encouragement and dedication. I look forward to my continued involvement as part of this amazing network.