La Trobe
42496_SOURCE01_2_A.pdf (10.03 MB)

Ageing Australian farming couples’ retirement decision making in the contemporary context

Download (10.03 MB)
posted on 2023-01-19, 09:36 authored by Heather Lee Downey
Submission note: A thesis submitted for the total fulfilment of the degree Doctor of Philosophy to the La Trobe Rural Health School, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

Thesis with publications.

Significant contemporary demographic, social, environmental and economic change is resulting in over half of all Australian farming families now comprising of a couple living alone, without a younger generation to follow on the land. Thus, older farming couples considering retirement face unprecedented challenges as they negotiate a life stage change as well as changing relationships with place and unfamiliar social landscapes. This thesis explores these issues by asking: How is ageing Australian farming couples’ retirement decision making affected by the contemporary context? This is a complex question calling for multiple theoretical perspectives, methodologies, methods and analytic frameworks to enable deep understandings of the topic. Firstly, this study utilised a Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine the discourse surrounding the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan; a major water policy reform impacting on older farmers and their plans for the future. This approach developed understandings of the environmental, social, economic and political contexts in which this study is embedded. Secondly, critical theory guided the reflection on the research process. Finally, this thesis utilised social constructionism as a theoretical approach and lenses of generativity and place identity to explore how these concepts influence and are influenced by older farming couples’ constructions of retirement within a rapidly changing context. This research has shown how the unique Australian family farming culture has been mythologised over time to form a grand narrative. The utilisation of a ‘narrative practice’ (Gubrium and Holstein, 1998) approach and Bamberg’s (2006) small story approach permitted nuanced analysis of the ways older farming couples co-construct their social world within the tight confines of a dominant culture. Findings include that some older couples construct new scripts for ageing to meet their needs in the contemporary context and these counter narratives form new strands of the dominant discourse.


Center or Department

La Trobe Rural Health School.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

Data source

arrow migration 2023-01-10 00:15. Ref: latrobe:42496 (9e0739)

Usage metrics

    Open Theses


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager