After a false start in the public service, I worked through the 1980s and 1990s in academic and research positions in sociology departments and law schools New Zealand, England and Australia. Moving to La Trobe University in the late 1980s, I became Director of the National Centre for Socio-legal Studies and was involved in several large-scale crime prevention projects, including research into harm minimising projects dealing with illicit drug use. This resulted in career-formative experiences when I was appointed to two Victorian government drug commissions and to work on management of petrol sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities.
From this, I developed an abiding concern with the ways we constitute social ‘problems’ through the kinds of ‘problem’ we imagine them to be, and how in consequence we govern them and shape them. In 2002, after being Head of the School of Law and Legal Studies at La Trobe University, and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law and Management, I was appointed Canada Research Chair in Criminology in Ottawa. In 2007 I returned home to be Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney.
Retiring in 2013, I became Honorary Professor at Sydney Law School and Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University in Canada while continuing my research into criminal justice. In that year I was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and in 2016 was appointed Distinguished Honorary Professor at the ANU.
My research has focused on three closely linked questions:
• In what ways has a focus on risk-prediction and risk-taking come to shape how we governed, and how we are expected to live our lives?
• How far and in what ways has ‘neoliberalism’ shaped contemporary governance and how adequate is this idea for understanding contemporary political and social order?
• What have been the principal ways in which criminal justice has been changing over the past twenty years, and what broader social implications does this have?
This work has carried me into researching very diverse areas of life, including:
• Crime and punishment
• Accidents, law and insurance
• Terrorism and crime prevention
• The place of excitement and risk-taking in modern life
• The politics and technology of urban fire protection
• Money and criminal justice