If Vocational Education and Training is the answer, what was the question?
theorising public policy and the behaviour of citizens

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Australian technical and vocational training is an under-theorised, publicly-funded activity that is frequently contested between the State and Commonwealth levels of government, partly in response to the federalist nature of the Australian Constitution. In making policy and political decisions, training is irresistible to these governments. The Northern Territory of Australia provides the site for this narrative summary due to the parallel development of State-type government and the national system of vocational education and training as a sector separate from schools or universities. It is proposed that vocational education and training’s flexibility and useful social role has arisen because it was defined by what it was not.

    This story identifies how a banal industry-led common sense system has been sanctioned by governments to enact a set of power relationships that conduct the behaviour of the Australian population in a manner that ignores the headline reason for its existence – the formation of technical and vocational skills required for national prosperity in a highly competitive globalised economy. The discursive formation of the unique Australian citizen-worker-consumer, who must make themself transparent to government, is also built upon a rationality of absence.

    The training scheme demonstrates an extraordinary capacity to absorb and simultaneously hold a wide variety of theoretical positions that are frequently incompatible with each other. The system’s famous intricacy and usefulness in public policy arises from its ability to be ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or’. The vocational education and training system serves to mediate the complex web of power/knowledge relationships between the citizens and those who are elected to govern. These connexions, considered to be the best form of social welfare, are based upon a social contract in which governments ensure the availability of jobs and individuals must continuously train in order to be employed.
    Date of AwardJun 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRuth Wallace (Supervisor)

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