Institutions and Social Change: implementing co-operative housing and environmentally sustainable development at Christie Walk

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Susan McClean
Jenny Onyx


How can institutions contribute to the building of civil society in the twenty- first century? It is clear that the old laissez-faire approach and the more recent neo-conservative reliance on the market have failed to deliver housing for many people. On the other hand the state-based welfare housing model espoused by the Australian Labor Party over the twentieth century has also been beset by problems. Social alienation, and the crisis in affordable housing make the case that individualist approaches to urban living are not working. More communal solutions are needed - solutions attuned to a complex view of civil society outlined by Michael Edwards' tripartite definition. At the same time the onset of global warming now prompts Australians to create more environmentally sustainable ways of living. Addressing the theme of responsibility, this paper focuses on citizenship in its broader environmental, social and active forms. It analyses interviews and documentary evidence concerning the planning and development of Christie Walk, an innovative, medium density eco-city development in Adelaide. The investigation reveals the effects of some Australian institutions on residents' efforts to live socially and environmentally sustainable lives in an urban environment. The paper offers transdisciplinary research and analysis, linking the fields of history, urban housing, community development and environmental theory.

Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Susan McClean, University of Technology Sydney

Susan McClean's interests are grounded in cultural history and public history. She completed her doctorate in 2006, and graduated in 2007. She is writing and publishing on that topic: the history of the preservation movement (the built environment) in NSW in the first half of the twentieth century, and its relationship to both modernity and national identity. Susan's research interests in the history and sociology of other social movements have developed from her doctoral work, along with an interest in their relationship to civil society. She is currently investigating social capital, as well as the emergence of eco-city movements and cohousing projects across Australia and will produce a joint paper on this at the 4Rs Conference. Susan is employed in the School of Management as a researcher for Prof Jenny Onyx and in the Faculty of Humanities as a casual lecturer and tutor.