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Emma Babbage
Southern Cross University

Let me suspend your disbelief and tell you that you, as the intended audience of this presentation, have the power to interpret whether the stories I share with you lead to a sense of utopia, dystopia or myopia of the law’s reach to wellbeing, or lack thereof. People who work for themselves in small business are in a unique position to control the external aspects of their working lives, as well as to perceive the internal aspects of their own feelings and affect. Law, particularly work health and safety law, can regulate the external aspects of one’s workplace, working conditions and working structures, but whether that law can reach those internal feelings or affect is cause for exploration. The purpose of this presentation is to share stories emanating from my doctrinal research and interviews with people who work for themselves in small business in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia, as to questions of whether the reach of the self-duty of care under the work health and safety law can extend to self-wellbeing at and through one’s work, why or why not, and if so, how. In applying Jean Francois Lyotard’s postmodern theory, I will present a ‘grand narrative’ of law and de-centre that narrative with a collection of ‘micro narratives’ of research participants which engage with these questions. I intend to explore the nature, purpose and possible consequences of law, as well as of wellbeing, and incite plural utopic, dystopic and/or myopic interpretations of these themes.

Emma Babbage holds a BA/ LLB (First Class Hons) (SCU) and BEd(Sec) (SCU) and is a Casual Academic and PhD Candidate at the School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University. Emma worked in legal firms for around nine years, having been a legal secretary while studying her undergraduate BA/ LLB. After completing her Honours year, Emma was admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2013 and practised as a solicitor for around two years. Emma then returned to Southern Cross University to pursue her BEd(Sec) before starting as a Casual Academic in 2016. Emma published her first journal article (J Health Saf Environ 2018, 34(1): 59-75) arising from her Honours research. Emma began her PhD in 2018, which is exploring whether work health and safety means or includes work wellbeing in the setting of small business in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.

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