Sociologist, musician and Sydney ‘explorer’: Andrew Clarke

08 Jul 2024
Dr Andrew Clarke, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences

Happenstance led to an UG degree and PhD in sociology, and to his research in homelessness and housing.

A sociologist with an undergraduate degree and PhD from the University of Queensland (UQ), Dr Andrew Clarke is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences and a Fellow with UNSW’s City Futures Research Centre. His area of research lies at the intersection between housing and social welfare.

“Everything's interesting when you look at it through a sociological lens,” Andrew says. “Opportunities have come up to research different things, which is a nice way to pursue your interests.”

Andrew’s “opportunities” can be traced back to high school in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. When his then girlfriend returned to Scotland with her parents to live, he decided to take a gap year and spend it with them.

“My girlfriend started uni while I was there and studied sociology, among other things. We'd look at her assignments together and I thought ‘that sounds interesting’. Before that I thought I was going to be a maths teacher.”

After Andrew returned to Australia, he started an arts degree with “a whole bunch of different courses” but sociology was where he “found the ideas really fascinating”.

While working on a project on neighbouring and neighbour disputes and talking with council staff, he realised they kept speaking about “our customers”.  It struck Andrew that their ‘customer’ was someone they also regulated, and this led to his PhD in urban sociology, looking at changes in the way local governments viewed their constituents. 

“Then in 2016, I happened to get a job with a colleague who is an expert in homelessness, which got me into the housing space,” he says. 

“I started off researching responses to homelessness, the most acute form of housing deprivation. Since then, housing has become such a crucial social issue, and I've been pulled further into that space and the impact it has on the core issues that sociologists have always studied, like social inequality and social wellbeing.”

While Andrew still researches homelessness, he now has a broader focus, looking at social housing provision, the management of social housing tenancies and other forms of housing assistance. He’s currently working on a study on evictions from the private rental market.

From Brisbane to Sydney 

After three post doc roles at UQ, Andrew says he “finally broke the institutional chains” in 2022 and moved to UNSW for a lecturing position. He and his partner, Nadia Razzhigaeva who is Media, Comms and Events Officer at NDARC, have “really embraced the move and going on adventures exploring Sydney”.

‘Sydney musicians wanted’

As 13-year-old Andrew started to play guitar and was in his first high school band at 15.

“When I moved to Sydney and was trying to join a new band, I realised no one needs another guitarist so I've picked up bass. I logged on to the ‘Sydney musicians wanted’ Facebook page and now play indie rock with a group of guys – one from Canberra, one from the US and one from the Central Coast.

“We are missing a drummer at the moment – in case anyone wants to apply? – so we are playing small venues. We played at a record store called ‘Lazy Thinking’ recently and the last gig was at a bar in Enmore called ‘Midnight Special’ which was fun.”

Can you tell us something about you that might surprise your colleagues?

I really like everything to be clean and tidy, and ordered and organised. My partner and I are expecting our first child in August, so I am anticipating that could be challenged.

What's the best advice you ever received?

A senior colleague and mentor at UQ said, think about the times of day where you are most alert and think about how you want to spend that time – do you want to be answering emails or writing and doing research? Prioritising those things in the time I am most alert has worked for me.

What's one thing that makes you happy?

Spending time with my partner Nadia.

What day in your life would you like to relive?

I would say our wedding. While we social scientists can be a bit cynical about these kinds of traditions, I was really taken aback at just how enjoyable and moving the whole day was. 

What's the best thing you've read in the last year?

Black Marxism, a history of black radical thought by Cedric Robinson, which my reading group read.