Macquarie University
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Unravelling risk in child protection

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:48 authored by Katharine Claire Williamson
This thesis looks critically at risk management and its dominance in child welfare policy. The Knightian and Keynesian view of risk compared to uncertainty is used to show that 'risk' is not the correct term for understanding capitalist economies because they are always unpredictable. This thesis takes the Keynesian view of radical uncertainty into the social policy field to demonstrate that the term 'risk' is even less useful. An analysis of major historical developments and recent changes to child welfare policy in New South Wales sees dangers to children framed as risks capable of measurement and prediction. Rather than accept this notion, this thesis casts dangers to children as unknowable and unpredictable to show that attempts to quantify risk in policy ignore uncertainty. It argues that any model relying on risk is unlikely to strengthen child protection systems as intended. In an effort to conceptualise an alternative framework, I consider what it means to look out for and welcome children into the world and suggest how child welfare policy might adopt models from this standpoint.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. The futility of risk in child welfare policy -- 2. Historical origins of 'risk' in child welfare policy -- 3. Contemporary child welfare policy in New South Wales -- 4. Response to the Wood Inquiry - heep them safe? -- Conclusion - child welfare as radically uncertain.


Bibliography: pages 63-67 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Toby Fattore

Additional Supervisor 1

Jocelyn Pixley


Copyright Katharine Claire Williamson 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




New South Wales


1 online resource (67 pages)

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