The trope of the vulnerable child in conditional welfare discourses: An Australian case study

Publication Name

Journal of Sociology


Conditional welfare policies are frequently underpinned by pejorative representations of those they target. Vulnerable children, under physical or moral threat from their welfare-dependent parents, are a mainstay of these constructions, yet the nuances of this trope have received little focused attention. Through a discourse analysis of parliamentary debates at the introduction of compulsory income management (CIM) to Australia, this article explores the complexities of the vulnerable child trope. It shows how the figure of the child was leveraged to justify hard-line welfare reforms in Australia, and offers a deeper and more intersectional understanding of how social and economic marginalisation is reproduced through welfare discourse.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)