Carmen Lawrence

Winthrop Professor, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia

Carmen Lawrence completed her PhD in experimental psychology at the University of Western Australia in 1983. She then entered State and Federal politics, becoming Premier of Western Australia in 1990 before entering the Federal arena in 1994. Immediately on entering the House of Representatives she was chosen to serve in the Keating Ministry and held the portfolios of Human Services and Health as well as Assisting the Prime Minister for Women's Interests until the government fell in March 1996. She remained in Parliament until 2007 and then returned to academia at her alma mater.

Carmen currently holds a position as Winthrop Professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Western Australia. She is also currently the Chair of the Australian Heritage Council.

Blog Posts

Indigenous Heritage: Case Studies in Western Australia

Posted on 27 September 2012 by Carmen Lawrence

One of the common tactics used by both corporations and governments to gain the consent of Indigenous people to the destruction of their heritage is to “divide and conquer”, as the Fortescue Mining Group has done to the Yindjibarndi people of Roebourne and the W.A government has done in the Kimberley. 

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The State of Indigenous Inheritance

Posted on 25 September 2012 by Carmen Lawrence

The progressive, cumulative destruction of Indigenous cultural resources as a result of the cumulative impact of individual development was highlighted in the 2011 recent State of the Environment (SOE) report[1], largely ignored by the mainstream media. In the chapter on heritage, two main threats to Indigenous heritage were identified: the disruption of knowledge and culture and the disturbance and destruction of sites due to urban expansion and resource extraction. 

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Development at any price? The case of Australia’s Indigenous heritage

Posted on 21 September 2012 by Carmen Lawrence

This is the first of a series of three posts addressing issues surrounding Australia's indigenous heritage. The content is based on the 2012  John West Oration to the Launceston Historical Society given by the author.

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Unexpected connections: Income inequality and environmental degradation

Posted on 13 February 2012 by Jaqueline Haupt & Carmen Lawrence

Ensuring that natural resources are consumed and waste is produced at sustainable rates represent major contemporary challenges. Recognition of these challenges resulted in the endorsement in 2000 of environmental sustainability as one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015. However, by 2003 global rates of consumption and waste production were estimated to be at least 25% higher than the capacity of the planet to provide resources and absorb waste (Kitzes, et al., 2007) and this rate may have risen as high as 50% by 2007 (WWF, 2010). A vital aspect of achieving sustainability is widespread social change, yet the current theoretical knowledge of societal transformation processes is limited. In order to improve nations’ environmental performance, a better understanding of socioeconomic and behavioural forces driving such unsustainable development is required.

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Reducing Electricity Use in Households (and Businesses)

Posted on 20 July 2011 by Carmen Lawrence

Well before the recent fuss about increases in energy prices, the reduction of electricity use by households and businesses had already been identified as an important national policy goal, with benefits for the climate, the electricity supply sector, business costs and household budgets. However, despite increasing costs to both users and producers and warnings about the impacts of climate change, consumption of electricity continues to rise and is predicted to continue rising over the coming decades. This increased demand, and the need to shift away from fossil fuel sources, is driving costly investment in the electricity generation and distribution networks, further increasing the cost of power. These higher electricity prices, in turn, are causing heightened community sensitivity to price, and problems for some household budgets, particularly those of low income earners (although as a proportion of household budgets, power costs are not rising). While the probable effects on prices of the introduction of a price on carbon are being wildly exaggerated by the tabloid press and political opportunists (and the compensation overlooked), it is clear that helping households and businesses cut their electricity consumption would assist in reducing the impact of rising prices. And by all accounts, there is plenty of room to move without compromising current standards of convenience and comfort.

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What rising inequality and materialism does to us

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Carmen Lawrence

The emphasis on growth as the pre-eminent social goal has seen rises in inequality within societies. In developed economies, the degree of income inequality has been shown to be associated with a wide variety of health and social problems, including reduced trust and civic engagement, which may themselves reduce overall well-being.  One of the consequences of the tendency for people to assess their position relative to others – rather than in absolute terms - is that high levels of inequality in wealth and income are likely to produce greater levels of unhappiness. More people see themselves as losing out, even when they are well off. While there is continuing debate about the exact nature of the relationship, a recent study (Verme, 2011) which investigated a very large global sample found that income inequality has “a negative and significant effect on life satisfaction” and that the result “persists across different income groups and across different types of countries” (p 111). Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) argue that such ill effects of income inequality are not the result of income differences per se but rather are a consequence of social stratification and the associated “social evaluative stress” people experience.

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Economic Growth and Human Wellbeing (Part III)

Posted on 5 May 2011 by Carmen Lawrence

(This post is the final post of a three-part series. See Part 1: Introduction and Part 2: Revisiting Limits to Growth.)

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Economic Growth and Human Wellbeing (Part II)

Posted on 3 May 2011 by Carmen Lawrence

(This post is the second of a three-part series. See Part 1: Introduction and Part 3: The Psychological Down Side of Growth.)

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Economic Growth and Human Wellbeing (Part I)

Posted on 1 May 2011 by Carmen Lawrence

Economic Growth and Human Wellbeing in Three Parts

The current debate about our planetary future is infused with fear that we may lose some economic prosperity during the transition to a low-carbon economy. Although those fears are largely misplaced, it is nonetheless important to examine to what extent our wellbeing as a species relies on economic growth. Do we need growth to be happy?

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