Rural 'education for sustainability' through the Australian vocational education sector

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It is widely acknowledged that Australia faces complicated challenges and transitions in response to the impacts of climate change. Responses to climate change will require new ways of thinking, living and working across all areas of society. Education has a critical role in addressing these issues. This paper draws upon policy and secondary sources, alongside preliminary descriptive figures from the vocational education database, VOCSTATS, to critically analyse the emergent contribution of vocational education to adult education for sustainability (EfS) from a rural standpoint. It commences by outlining the socio-ecological significance of rural EfS in the vocational education and training (VET) sector, followed by consideration of some general features of its practical operation. The paper contends that there are signs that rural Australians are facing particular barriers to obtaining EfS learning opportunities in the VET sector, which require closer attention. Hence, rural communities are generally unprepared and ill-equipped to meet the multi-faceted socio-ecological challenges and opportunities they confront. After decades of corrosive neoliberal policies and global economic pressures many rural communities are beleaguered and in need of far greater support from public institutions, such as the vocational education sector, if they are to be part of the solution to these challenges. This, in turns, requires acknowledgement that market mechanisms are an inadequate substitute for the political leadership necessary to bring about the required social, economic and cultural transformations. Based on the ecological needs of the environment, and the social consequences of not addressing them, rural communities are likely to be at the centre of these transformations; it is vital that they have the capacity for proactive engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2013 Proceedings of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference
Subtitle of host publicationReflections, Intersections and Aspirations: 50 Years of Australian Sociology
EditorsNick Osbaldiston, Catherine Strong, Helen Forbes-Mewett
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherThe Sociological Association of Australia (TASA)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780646911267
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event2013 TASA Conference - Monash University, Caulfield campus, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 25 Nov 201328 Nov 2013


Conference2013 TASA Conference
Abbreviated titleReflections, intersections and aspirations: 50 years of Australian sociology
OtherThe conference celebrates 50 years of Australian Sociology and is hosted by the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University. The conference will be held at the conveniently located Caulfield campus directly opposite the Caulfield train station – a short train ride to Melbourne city centre. Monash last hosted the conference in 1999 and has since continued to develop a national and international standing with the capacity to advance sociology as a discipline.
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