A new age of automation has rekindled the promise of more leisure time and provided an opportunity for discussion about what makes a "good life", says Professor Greg Marston, a keynote speaker at the Australian Social Policy Conference at UNSW Sydney next week.

Marston will question the placement of paid work at the heart of Australian culture and policy when he speaks on the opening morning of the conference.

“Automation and advanced artificial intelligence raise profound social, economic and ethical questions about the meaning of work and humanity, the role of governments in managing new risks, the purpose of education systems, and what values and principles will define the ‘good society’ of the future,” says Marston, who is head of the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland. 

"If the transition is managed well, there will be an opportunity to recalibrate the centrality of paid work in our lives. If it is managed poorly, the cost will be widespread technological unemployment and greater inequality and economic insecurity.” 

The conference, hosted by UNSW's Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), will address the challenges facing policy makers, practitioners and researchers, says the Centre's Acting Director Professor Carla Treloar.

“Understanding how our populations, institutions and governments think about society, work and poverty is central to shaping our futures,” Treloar says.

Other keynote speakers during the three-day conference are Lane Kenworthy, Professor of Sociology and Yankelovich Chair in Social Thought at the University of California, who will speak about social democratic capitalism; and Jill Manthorpe, Professor of Social Work at King's College London, who will draw on examples from UK social policy to highlight the need for greater financial literacy among policy and social welfare practitioners and commentators.

Leading social policy and governance expert Bingqin Li from the SPRC will focus on social and economic inequalities across China. Robert Fitzgerald, one of the six Commissioners at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, will talk about the unprecedented scope and achievements of the Royal Commission’s research program.

A special lunchtime session on the opening day will show the multi-media project Silent Tears based on the stories of women with disability subjected to violence and women who have acquired disability from violence. 

What: Australian Social Policy ConferenceWhen: Monday, 25 to Wednesday, 27 September 2017Where: John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW Kensington

Details: The full conference program is available here

Wendy Frew