Woman Cass, Bettina

Policy adviser, Sociologist and Women's rights activist

Written by Helen Marshall, RMIT University

The career of Bettina Cass combined traditional sociological and policy studies with 'applied' work for government and public bodies both nationally and internationally. Her academic research was always informed by understanding of how policy works, and her policy development work was always informed by sociology and both have gender equity as a central focus.

After a period as a sociology lecturer at University of New South Wales (UNSW), she began to combine academic work with policy appointments by holding a post as a part-time commissioner on the NSW Law Reform Commission concerned with NSW family and cohabitation law while also a researcher at UNSW's Social Policy Research centre (SPRC). From 1986 to 1989 she was Director of the Commonwealth government's Social Security Review, coordinating research on the social security system that resulted in recommendations to the Minister Brian Howe in the areas of family income support, sole parent family policy, unemployment policies, income support for illness and disability, and retirement incomes policy. She then returned to academic work, again often working simultaneously for other public bodies, including the OECD. During her time as Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Sydney University she was also a Director, of Western Sydney Area Health Service Board (1997-2000) and Chair of its Research Committee.

Cass's academic publications deal with research and policies that affect women's lives in Australia and internationally, covering issues such as women in academia (Cass et al, 1983), the gendered nature of work in Australia (Smyth and Cass (eds) 1998), and housing (Cass, 1998). Her text, Women, Social Welfare and the State in Australia, co-edited with Cora Baldock, was much used by students in sociology, gender and policy. She has written important reports for government, on areas such as policies for single parent families, (Cass and O'Loughlin 1984) and carers (Cass, B., Smyth, C., Hill, T., Blaxland, M. and Hamilton, M. (2009).

Bettina Cass was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (1989) as a result of her academic contributions, and in the same year was awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for services to welfare policy. Her most recent positions are emeritus professorships the University of Sydney and New South Wales. Her long relationship with UNSW's Social Policy Research Centre continues in retirement.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Bettina Cass interviewed by Nikki Henningham in the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia collection, 2006, ORAL TRC 5759; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published Resources


  • Baldock, Cora Vellekoop and Cass, Bettina, Women, Social Welfare and the State in Australia, 2nd edn, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1988. Details
  • Cass, B; Dawson, M; Temple, D; Wills, S and Winkler, A, Why So Few? Women Academics in Australia, Sydney University Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 1983. Details
  • Smyth, P and Cass, B, Contesting the Australian Way: States, markets and Civil Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1998, 280 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Cass, B, 'Reshaping Housing Policy and the benefits of Urban/Regional location: Why Gender Matters', in Gatens, M and Mackinnon, A (eds), Gender and Institutions: Welfare, Work and Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1998, pp. 38 - 54. Details

Conference Papers

  • Cass, B and O'Longhlin, M A, 'Social Policies for Single Parent Families in Australia: An Analysis and a Comparison with Sweden', in Social Welfare Research Centre Reports and Proceedings, vol. 40, The University of New South Wales (UNSW), 1984, p. 86. Details

Edited Books

  • Cass, B and Couch, R (eds), Divided Work, Divided Society: Employment, Unemployment and Income Distribution in 1990s Australia, The University of Sydney: Research Institute for the Hummanities and Social Sciences, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998, 145 pp. Details


Online Resources

See also