School autonomy reform and social justice: a policy overview of Australian public education (1970s to present)

Katrina MacDonald, Amanda Keddie, Jill Blackmore, Caroline Mahoney, Jane Wilkinson, Brad Gobby, Richard Niesche, Scott Eacott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides an overview of the policies of school autonomy in Australian public education from the Karmel report in 1973 to the present day. The key focus is on the social justice implications of this reform. It tracks the tensions between policy moves to both grant schools greater autonomy and rein in this autonomy with the increasing instatement of external forms of regulation. Utilising Nancy Fraser’s concepts of dis-embedding and re-embedding markets, we track key policy moments in three Australian states (Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales) along with federal interventions. We draw attention to the redistributive and representative justice implications arising from these policy moments as occurring within a consistent trajectory towards a market agenda and argue that future policy needs to consider the effect of past policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-327
Number of pages21
JournalThe Australian Educational Researcher
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Nancy Fraser
  • Public education
  • School autonomy
  • Social justice

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