Development Studies Association of Australia to Launch

The Development Studies Association of Australia (DSAA) is to be officially launched on 12 June 2019 at the Research for Development (RDI) Network conference on Leadership for Inclusive Development. The conference will take place in Melbourne, Victoria.

Representing the community of scholars and practitioners engaged in research, teaching, and training in, and in relation to, Development Studies, “The purpose of DSAA is to promote critical inquiry, reflection, research, teaching, and the value of Development Studies in Australia.”

Unlike practices such as medicine and accounting (which can also have their own associations or networks), Development Studies, is often considered to be a more contested field. As a multi-disciplinary field of research, it seeks to address social, cultural, ecological, economic and political change as well as the different people, organisations, practices, and areas of knowledge that engage in these development-related processes.

Recognising that it is somewhat contested , the DSAA will “seek ways to progress the discipline by providing a space for ongoing and inclusive dialogue and debate about the complex nature of development – what it is, what diverse actors think it should be, and how to get there.” It also acknowledges that “all notions of development are relational global processes that occur in between all countries and are influenced by, and have consequences at, local and individual scales.”

Mapping done by the RDI Network shows that Development Studies is currently being taught at 24 Australian universities. Yet, students who study Development Studies at both undergraduate and/or postgraduate levels can take a wide variety of courses precisely because of its interdisciplinary nature. Development subjects, issues, and themes can include agriculture, conflict and crisis management, economics, gender, monitoring and evaluation,  refugees and displacement, terrorism, and security studies along with many others not listed here.

Similar associations to the DSAA exist elsewhere around the world. In the United Kingdom, the Development Studies Association (DSA) holds an annual conference and offers and promotes other development-focused conferences, study groups (domestic and international), workshops, and publication opportunities.

Wikipedia describes the DSA as “the largest and most coherent national platform for development studies in the world” and notes that “it facilitates access to world leading research on development and its application to policy and practice.”

Closer to Australia, there is the Aotearoa New Zealand International Development Studies Network, which has over 2,000 members from New Zealand and elsewhere. Founded between 1995 and 1997, it is older than the DSAA, and aims to “facilitate the exchange of ideas, information and research amongst Development Studies’ (and related disciplines’) staff, students and other stakeholders in development. These include aid and development NGOs, private sector development practitioners and government (especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade).”

As “genuine partnerships” are recognised as being critical to the success of development initiatives, programs and policies it should be seen as important that the DSAA intends to “work with and alongside” both the DSA and the Aotearoa New Zealand International Development Studies Network. Other organisations the DSAA will partner with include the RDI Network (whose conference the DSAA will be officially launched at) as well as the Critical Development Studies Network and the Critical Development Study Group of the Institute for Australian Geographers. Other partnerships may arise once the DSAA has been launched and begins to build traction.

Importantly, the DSAA and its members also acknowledge and pay their respects to the First Peoples of Australia. Recognising that colonisation has had, and continues to impact, Indigenous Peoples in Australia, the DSAA note that they are “honoured to work on the lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and extend our respects to their ancestors and knowledge holders.”


Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on June 6, 2019.


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