Symposium: Social and legal studies of addiction concepts

June 2016

Since it began in 2013 NDRI’s Social Studies of Addiction Concepts (SSAC) research program has conducted research on a wide range of topics including Australian, Canadian and Swedish alcohol and other drug policy, personal experiences of addiction in Australia, addiction concepts on Twitter, legal interpretations of addiction, the Victorian drug court, compulsory drug treatment in China, and young people in drug treatment. Drawing on a range of social scientific research methods such as in-depth interviewing, policy analysis, cultural studies, ethnographic observation and international comparative collaborative techniques, these projects aim to advance scholarship, inform policy, and tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with drug use in Australia and elsewhere. Many of the projects in the program are now well advanced and the team is keen to share its progress and findings.

In collaboration with the Monash University Faculty of Law, SSAC will hold a research symposium on Friday, 7th of October at the Monash University Law Chambers, Melbourne.

As SSAC Program Leader Suzanne Fraser explained:

SSAC was established to encourage constructive critical thinking on the ideas central to official responses to drug use and to public reactions to drugs and people identified as drug users. We’ve always seen drug use and addiction as fundamentally social phenomena, and our research works hard to make use of this insight for rethinking existing responses and challenging the assumptions – some of them more obvious than others – that are routinely made about drugs. This event will inform researchers and interested professionals about our progress so far, but we’ll also hold an open discussion on emerging approaches and issues in critical social and legal studies of addiction. I hope alcohol and other drug researchers in all fields, researchers working in related areas, and professionals of all kinds will be there to help us refine our findings and set new coordinates for future research.

 Speakers include:

  • Professor Suzanne Fraser (Program Head): analysing and comparing addiction concepts across Australia, Canada and Sweden through her ARC Future Fellowship
  • Dr Kate Seear (Adjunct Research Fellow with SSAC and Senior Lecturer in Law at Monash University): examining addiction in the Australian and Canadian legal systems through her ARC DECRA Fellowship
  • Dr Robyn Dwyer (Research Fellow): analysing the assumptions and limits of addiction screening and diagnostic tools
  • Dr Kiran Pienaar (Research Associate): exploring experiences of addiction treatment and recovery
  • Eliana Sarmiento (PhD Student): examining the role of drug treatment courts in defining addiction
  • Liz Normand (PhD Student): exploring marginalised young people’s understandings of drug use and addiction
  • Judy Chang (MPhil student): analysing the place of addiction in China’s compulsory drug detention policies

The event will be chaired by Associate Professor Helen Keane (School of Sociology, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University).

Download the symposium flyer here.

For event enquiries, contact Dr Robyn Dwyer, SSAC Research Fellow, Email:

NDRI Melbourne

As a national centre, NDRI aims to maintain a strong presence outside Western Australia. In this context, and to facilitate some of the key research being undertaken by the Institute, in 2007 NDRI’s Melbourne office was established. Located with Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, the Melbourne office initially housed Ethnographic Research Program leader Professor David Moore and four PhD scholars. Over time the Melbourne team has expanded, and in 2013 Professor Suzanne Fraser established the Melbourne-based Social Studies of Addiction Concepts Research Program funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. The current NDRI Melbourne staff are Professor David Moore, Professor Suzanne Fraser, Dr Robyn Dwyer, Dr Anne-Marie Laslett, Dr Kiran Pienaar and NDRI Adjuncts Dr Kate Seear, Dr Cameron Duff and Dr Peter Higgs. The current PhD scholars are Adrian Farrugia, Renae Fomiatti, Aaron Hart, Elizabeth Normand, Eliana Sarmiento Guerra, Shelley Walker and James Wilson.