Micro-aggressions, single mothers and interactions with government workers: The case of Australia’s child support bureaucracy

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    Abstract

    This article analyses single mothers’ experiences of Australia’s child support bureaucracy, shifting the focus beyond problematic individual interactions to the discourses that shape them. Drawing on data from semi-structured interviews with 37 Australian single mothers, I argue that women’s interactions with Department of Human Services – Child Support (DHS-CS) are expressions of gender-focused micro-aggressions. These are interactions that express and reinforce social hierarchies and power differentials in sometimes subtle and often taken-for-granted ways. I argue these interactions are structured by the dominant gendered welfare discourse that constitutes the welfare mother and legitimates masculine financial discretion. Thus, any attempt to address client concerns about the failings of DHS-CS, and by extension other government bureaucracies, must extend beyond ‘training’ and administrative processes, and engage with the more challenging strategies of socio-cultural change.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)622-636
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Sociology
    Volume53
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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