Woman Bryson, Lois

Academic and Sociologist

Written by Helen Marshall, RMIT University

Lois Bryson first encountered sociology, the discipline which underpinned her professional life, as a social work student at Melbourne University (1955-1958). In 1959, as a junior staff member at Melbourne, she was unwittingly caught up in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's (ASIO) 'spoiling operation' against supposedly subversive academics (Anderson 2005; Bryson 2005) and her university contract was not renewed. After employment as a social worker and teacher she joined the young department of Anthropology and Sociology at Monash University in 1965. She moved to the school of sociology at the University of New South Wales (1979) before returning briefly to senior positions in the Victorian public service (1981-1983). From 1990 to her retirement she was professor of sociology at the University of Newcastle, serving as dean (1991 -1993) and head of department (1994 -1997). In retirement she is an emeritus professor at Newcastle, and adjunct professor at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

Within sociology, she is a leader amongst Australian community researchers and in the professional association. Her PhD study of 'Newtown' (Bryson and Thompson 1972; Bryson and Winter 1999) was distinguished by insights into gender relations, and by focus on suburban rather than rural life. Later works on gender and the concept of community (Bryson and Wearing 1985) and on community as a 'spray on' policy solution ( Bryson and Mowbray 1981) have been highly influential, as has her work on gender and policy (Bryson 1992). From 1995 she was a founding researcher on the very large and important Australian longitudinal study of women's health. (http://www.alswh.org.au/)

Within the professional association of Australian sociologists - The Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand (SAANZ) later The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) - Lois served in many capacities. After a revolution in the somewhat conservative organisation, she became the first elected editor of the association's journal (1972-1975). She served several terms on the SAANZ executive and was elected president (1975-76). She was a founding member and influential presence in the association's women's section. Her work in these and many other positions was recognised by the inaugural TASA award for distinguished service to Australian sociology (I996).

Her leadership in research was recognised by her election as a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (1998), membership of the Australian Research Council's research training and careers committee, and the award of a Federation medal (2003).

Outside academe, she has contributed to many organisations, ranging from the Australian Association of Social Workers through the board of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the research standing committee of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, to the advisory committee on discrimination, Australian Defence Force and the Australia Council's national summit of ideas (1990). Her concluding remarks to the 2001 Barton lecture on 'The new differences between women', sum up her aspirations for collective work to redress gender inequalities. (http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/primary/hsie/assets/pdf/bartonlectures/bryson.pdf).

Published Resources


  • Bryson, Lois, Welfare and the State: Who Benefits, Macmillan/British Sociological Association, Basingstoke, England, 1992. Details
  • Bryson, Lois and Thompson, Faith, An Australian Newtown, Penguin Books, Richmond, Victoria, 1972. Details

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • Anderson, Faye, 'Into The Night: Max Crawford, The Labyrinth of The Social Studies Enquiry and ASIO's 'Spoiling Operations'', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 36, no. 125, 2005, pp. 60 - 80. Details
  • Bryson, Lois, 'Some Reflections on Australian Sociology and its Political Context', Histories of Australian Sociology, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria, 2005, pp. 29-41. Details
  • Bryson, Lois and Mowbray, Martin, 'Community: The Spray-on Solution', Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 16, no. 4, 1981, pp. 255 - 267. Details
  • Bryson, Lois and Wearing, Betsy, 'Australian Community Studies - A Feminist Critique', The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, vol. 21, no. 3, 1985. Details


  • Bryson, Lois and Winter, Ian, Social Change, Suburban Lives: An Australian Newtown 1960s-1990s, Allen & Unwin and the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Sydney, New South Wales, 1999. Details

See also