People, Power, Participation: living community development

A memoir and reflections on community development

by Mary Lane

marylanecoverThis book contributes to a history of community development in Australia and to debates about its future as a strategy for social change. The author's lived experience, told through stories of activism, practice and teaching from the 1960s on, is a means for identifying changes in community development theories/practices and factors influencing those changes. Highlighted are positive outcomes for disadvantaged people as well as tensions and contradictions, notably those arising from government patronage.

The author calls for re-affirmation of community development as a significant means for tackling social problems. Increased sponsorship by non-government organisations committed to social justice and ecological sustainability is prioritised, as is deconstruction of an understanding of community development as a paid occupation only. Rather, it is seen as a way of doing things that emphasises connection, participatory democracy and common good, a way which can inform all aspects of human activity. 

About the author


Mary Lane is an honorary senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney. In 2012 the University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in Social Work. Her involvement in community activism began in the 1960s and from 1974-1982 she was employed as a community development worker in western Sydney. In 1983, she joined the staff of the Social Work Department at The University of Sydney where the primary focus of her work has been community work and peace and conflict studies.

A keen interest in the development of practice theory has entailed extensive documentation and analysis of community practice. Her work has been widely published, nationally and internationally, in academic journals, books and practice booklets, and includes the production of audio-visual material. Mary is married, is a mother and grandmother.