ICS Seminar - Kathleen Mee

Careless infrastructures: Robodebt and welfare reform

Presenter: Kathleen Mee

Discussant: Louise Crabtree-Hayes

Chair: Emma Power


In recent years, geographers have turned their attention to practices of care. Care is a relational practice which David Conradson defines as ‘a movement towards another person in a way that has the potential to facilitate or promote their wellbeing’ (Conradson, 2003, p.508). In our work we have explored “the care practices that sustain life and the infrastructures that sustain them” (Power et al 2022). What has received less explicit attention from geographers is the ways that care practices and the infrastructures that sustain them operate in relation to careless practices and the infrastructures that sustain them. In this paper we understand careless practices to involve at least three aspects: acting heedlessly, negligently or in an unconsidered way; acting with inattention to the consequences of activities; and acting without care/ uncaring. We draw on the example of Robodebt, the unlawful automated raising and recovery of debts from welfare recipients by the Commonwealth Government. Examining Robodebt through a feminist care ethics, the paper argues that we can understand the framing and implementation of Robodebt as operating through what Joan Tronto (2013) defines as a “protection pass”.


Associate Professor Kathy Mee is a cultural geographer who works in the Discipline of Geography and Environmental Studies and the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research explores housing and urban change, with a focus on care infrastructures. She is currently working on several projects exploring care infrastructures including an ARCDP grant exploring shadow care infrastructures in Western Sydney and a University of Newcastle grant examining the Grow a Star program of community housing organisation Home in Place as a care infrastructure.

Event Details

Date & Time: Thursday, 4 May 2023, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Venue: Female Orphan School, EZ.G.22, Parramatta South Campus