Doctoral completions


Congratulations to the following members who have recently completed doctoral studies:

Name: Antonia Canosa

Title: Voices from the margin: Youth, identity and belonging in a tourist destination

Institution: Southern Cross University

Supervisors: Professor Anne Graham and Associate Professor Erica Wilson


Children and young people’s views have often been marginalised in social research about their lives, neglecting to focus on the myriad ways they play an active role in the construction of their social world. This is particularly so in the field of tourism studies where children’s voices have largely been absent. This study employed an ethnographic and participatory methodology to explore the lived experiences of young people growing up in the popular tourist destination of Byron Shire in Australia. Findings centred around a range of key issues including participants’ lived experience of their environment and the many subtle strategies employed to negotiate identity and belonging in a community with a continuous flow of visitors. [The full study can be accessed at]


Name: Natalie Hendry

Title: Everyday anxieties: Young women, mental illness and social media practices of visibility and connection

Institution: RMIT University

Supervisors: Dr Jenny Robinson, Professor Larissa Hjorth


This thesis focuses on four young women’s stories about social media in and around their experiences of anxiety and mental illness. It explores questions that draw from practice theories— particularly affective practices—and theoretical approaches to visibility that reorient this thesis from the spectacular towards the quotidian. I draw upon a series of paradoxes such as visibility and invisibility, authenticity and inauthenticity, and connection and disconnection, to examine:

  • What are the everyday social media practices of young women aged 14 to 17 years who are engaged with a youth mental health service?
  • What influences these practices—including the technological and social affordances of social media?
  • How do their practices relate to their discursive and affective experiences of mental illness?
  • How do these practices afford intimacy, sociality and connection for these young women and what are the implications of this for their experiences of mental illness?

I present an in-depth case study of the lives of four young women each engaged with a youth mental health service in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia. These case studies include image collections, social media platform analyses, and multiple, semi-structured and unstructured interviews. The research design is supported by a pilot study interviewing mental health practitioners and advocates.

This thesis illustrates that attention towards visibility for these young women is less about disclosing mental illness. Rather, visibility emerges as how these young women imagine, perceive or experience how others “see” them, and, in turn, how they negotiate, inhibit or transform this visibility and potential vulnerability and anxiety by controlling and curating it as an ongoing, quotidian process. At the same time, as connection and co-presence necessarily requires emotional work, restricting or managing visibility becomes important for them to escape conversation and critique, or to mediate peer demands and expectations of sociality. Their affective practices afford relief from anxiety and emotional work to instead establish affective authenticity and emotional recognition through lurking, scrolling, humour, and image curation. By connecting at a distance, or connecting with images and platforms, their practices afford communities of feeling that provide relief from distress and are potentially therapeutic.

The participants’ media practices highlight the inadequacy of current paradigms that inform prevention and intervention initiatives in youth mental health. It is not only a theoretical exploration of how we might rethink young women’s media practices but also it provides new frameworks for understanding their complex everyday emotional, visual, and social media landscape.


Name: Carmel Hobbs 

Title: Becoming Somebody: A constructivist grounded theory of marginalised young people re-engaging with education through an alternative school

Institution: La Trobe University

Supervisors: Dr Jennifer Power and Dr Priscilla Robinson


Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, this study examines the experiences of students attending The School, an alternative education setting in Melbourne, Victoria. Data were gathered through interviews with students and parents, an online survey of students, a focus group with six staff, and approximately 200 hours of participant observation.

The findings of this study highlight the significance of relational and affective processes in facilitating student educational engagement and inclusion. Themes of care, belonging and trust were central to students’ narratives about their experiences of both disengagement and re-engagement in school. Students experienced a shift in their views of themselves and their future as they moved from facing an uncertain future, to finding their place in a school where they felt accepted and cared for, a process many students described as ‘becoming somebody’. This positive experience of social inclusion at The School helped students to build a sense of hope for their future in all aspects of social life – employment, family and community. The findings demonstrate the benefit of the social justice approach to education, central to The School model in creating an emotional and social foundation that is necessary for students to build and maintain engagement in education.


Name: Blue Jaryn Mahy

Title: Speculating on science and ethics in Australian secondary school education: A posthumanist approach

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Emeritus Professor Jane Kenway, Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen


Science provokes ongoing complicated ethical questions about the world and humanity. Much research suggests, however, that science in Australian secondary school education may not effectively address this ethical complexity. In contrast, the emerging frameworks of posthumanism and feminist materialisms do critically interrogate the connections between science and ethics. Despite this, research on science and school education, especially within Australia, has tended to overlook these emerging frameworks. Furthermore, little attention has been paid to ‘speculative’ fiction and its potential contribution to creative ways of researching the ‘science–ethics nexus’. This study therefore brings science education into conversation with posthumanist and feminist materialist thinking, and with speculative fiction as method.

The main question addressed is: how does posthumanism/feminist materialism, combined with speculative fiction as a creative research practice, help to renew thinking about the science–ethics nexus in Australian secondary school education? Ideas are drawn from three main theorists, including two scientists/theorists, Karen Barad and Donna Haraway, as well as posthumanist philosopher, Rosi Braidotti. Their ideas, along with my original speculative fiction short story, allow me to conduct a ‘diffractive’ analysis of major research reports about Australian science education, the Australian Year 7–10 curriculum, Years 7–10 science textbooks, and interviews with beginning secondary school teachers. These teachers are a mix of those intending to teach humanities and science subjects. Humanities teachers were chosen to reflect the nature of the science–ethics nexus in school education to be more than the specific science curriculum.

This study contributes to knowledge about secondary school science and ethics through the realisation of four main propositions. The first concerns the use of speculative fiction as a research method. I contend that this allows usually unrelated areas and ideas to be brought together and, thus, to renew thinking. Secondly, I employ posthumanist and feminist materialist concepts to facilitate alternative ways of thinking about the current constitution of the science-ethics nexus in secondary school education. In so doing, I illustrate why ethics should be a major concern in secondary school education. Following this, I examine the idea of ‘world–science–education’ relationality, to emphasise the inconsistencies and limitations of a humanist, masculinist, and Euro-Western-centric definition of ethics.

Thirdly, this study proposes a renewed way of understanding teachers’ views of science and ethics. My approach views teachers’ agency as an ‘intra-active’ process involving assemblages of matter-discourse-bodies-environments-emotions-experiences-identities. Additionally, I present the implications of their ‘becomings’, due to such assemblages, as relevant to their views of science and ethics. The fourth proposition outlines the potential benefits of critically interrogating cultural and disciplinary boundaries by addressing the posthumanist and feminist materialist concept of ‘relationality’. Ethics, here redefined through a posthumanist lens, re-situates the human as ‘of the world’ rather than at its centre. Overall, this approach acknowledges ethics are ‘messy’ and relational and insists on the inseparability of ethics and ‘knowing-being’.


Name: Yvette Maker

Title: Beyond breadwinners, caregivers, martyrs and burdens: A new framework for managing competing claims in care and support policy

Institution: University of Melbourne

Supervisors: Dina Bowman (Brotherhood of St Laurence/University of Melbourne); Paul Smyth (University of Melbourne)


Using a case study of an Australian income support policy, Carer Payment (child), this thesis proposes a set of principles for designing care and support policy to advance the rights of multiple constituencies. The principles address two long-standing sources of tension in this field. The first is the tension identified by feminist social policy scholars between supporting women’s unpaid caring roles and supporting women’s participation in paid work. The second is the tension between the claims of carers for policy support and recognition on the basis of the burden of their caring roles, and disability rights claims for policies that afford choice, control and independence to people with disabilities.

Some scholars have proposed ways to overcome these tensions and avoid the negative consequences of policy approaches that support either care or paid work, and either carers or people with disabilities.  However, these attempts have not fully resolved disagreements and inconsistencies between competing perspectives. Drawing on and extending previous academic efforts, I propose six principles for designing care and support policy that overcomes these limitations and addresses the concerns of multiple care and disability perspectives. Using a citizenship rights framework, the principles provide detailed guidance for formulating policies that recast care, support and interdependence as core elements of social citizenship, place the interests and voices of all parties to care and support relationships on an equal footing, and offer greater flexibility and choice about care, support and paid work to all.


Name: Jie Wang

Title: Quality-Oriented Education policy in urban China and its association with social reproduction of educational inequality

Institution: University of New South Wales

Supervisors: Professor Deborah Brennan and Professor Ilan Katz


This thesis explores the impact of Quality-Oriented Education (QOE) policy in urban China on social inequality. To do so, the thesis examines the association between the family background of students and their transitions from junior high school (JHS) to regular senior high school (RSHS) (Transition One) and from RSHS to university (Transition Two). The original hypothesis of the study was that the social reproduction of educational inequality would intensify during and after the implementation of QOE. This hypothesis was partially confirmed, but QOE was shown to have inconsistent effects on the two transitions. Alongside the implementation of QOE was the unexpected rise in popularity of commercial extracurricular tutoring (CET). The study found that sufficient hours of CET reduced differences in academic achievement between students with different levels of family cultural capital. QOE shortens the time of students spend in school for primary school and JHS more than for RSHS. Transition One results in rejection of large numbers of underprivileged students and therefore CET has less effect on students in RSHS, because those who are likely to be less competitive have already been selected out. QOE is associated with the increase in educational inequality in Transition One but with the decrease in inequality in Transition Two. The mechanism for this is that students from families with lower cultural capital are more likely to attend CET for sufficient hours in RSHS than in primary or JHS due to the difference in at-school time and the Transition One rejection. Thus, as CET became more popular during and after the implementation of QOE, the effects of family cultural capital decreased but only in respect of Transition Two. The amount of CET required to make a difference in primary and JHS is too expensive for families whose resources are diluted by multiple children and thus the effects of sibling number on Transition One increase in Periods Two and Three compared with Period One. Parents as the indirect educational service receivers are interviewed since they should play a key role in the QOE reform and might be expected to be concerned about the justice of this significant educational reform. The continuation of the examination-oriented system keeps parents evaluating the current educational system as just. Parents also deny the injustice of CET by blaming the victim with the Neoliberalism discourse and arguing there is no absolute equality.


Name: Kythera Watson-Bonnice

Title: “You can play with the ball, but don’t get dirty”: A hierarchy of heterosexual women’s gender expressions

Institution: Swinburne University of Technology

Supervisors: Dr Lucy Nicholas, Dr Paula Geldens and Dr Karen Farquharson


This research examines how femininities are understood and experienced by Australian heterosexual women, and develops language for conceptualising the hierarchies within femininities, and femininities and masculinities. Furthermore, through analysis of gender manoeuvring this research provides insight into the intricacies of the relationship between structure and agency in expressing one’s gender. Motivated by a lack theoretical works on multiple femininities, this thesis uses focus groups with different communities of practice to understand how women’s gender expressions are constructed hierarchically, and to examine the complexities around embodying various forms of femininities.


Name: Melinda Herron

Title: Reconfiguring racism: youthful dynamics of conflict and conviviality in a culturally diverse, working-class high school

Institution: The University of Melbourne

Supervisors: Associate Professor Dan Woodman, Associate Professor Tamara Kohn, Dr Jessica Walton

Summary: This research investigated how teenagers negotiate issues of cultural difference and racism in a multicultural Melbourne high school. Taking young people’s perspectives seriously, the thesis offers new conceptual frames for understanding the place of racism in contemporary youth multiculture. In doing so, this research highlights the need for revised approaches to and conversations about racism and multicultural living in academia, schools and in the public sphere.


Name: Michelle Peterie

Title: The trauma machine: Volunteer experiences in Australian immigration detention facilities

Institution: University of Sydney

Supervisors: Dr Susan Banki and Professor Stephen Castles


This thesis is based on in-depth interviews with volunteers who support asylum seekers in Australia. It compares the experiences of volunteers who visit asylum seekers in immigration detention facilities with those of volunteers who support asylum seekers in the community. This comparison foregrounds the impact of institutional technologies not only on detained asylum seekers, but also on their supporters.

While Australia’s detention regime has received considerable academic attention in recent years, few scholars have examined the experiences of volunteers. The testimonies presented here provide a valuable window onto the operation of power within Australia’s detention system. They show that the Kafkaesque mechanisms through which detention centres produce powerlessness, disruption and emotional distress in asylum seekers also extend to affect volunteers negatively.

The traumatising dimensions of Australia’s detention network, this thesis argues, should be understood not as evidence of the system’s dysfunction but as indicators of its key purposes. In the context of Australia’s deterrence policy, the production of anguish is politically expedient as it damages networks of resistance and support. In making this argument, this thesis dialogues with broader scholarship regarding carceral institutions and the deprivations and frustrations of imprisonment.

In addition to contributing to the literature regarding the negative impacts of immigration detention, this thesis challenges two prominent critiques of care-based volunteer work. It provides evidence to contest the charge that friendship programs are not ‘political’ because they lack universality and do not entail a structural critique. It also disputes the claim that this form of volunteering reduces to an exercise in privilege and emotional gratification.


The thesis can be accessed online via the University of Sydney library:


Name: Danielle Couch

Title: Body weight and social control in Australian media: Panoptic and synoptic perspectives

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Professor Paul Komesaroff, Monash University; Associate Professor Gil-Soo Han, Monash University; Adjunct Associate Professor Priscilla Robinson, La Trobe University


This study examined portrayals of body weight in contemporary popular Australian media; including how different body weights are presented and problematised and what solutions are presented. It also examined how obese people respond to different types of body weight media. Three data sources were included: weight loss stories from a men’s magazine, a public health campaign and interviews with obese people. Predominantly qualitative methods were used. The findings provide an in-depth understanding of body weight in the media, presenting how various media formats are interlinked with one another as part of a system of social control, and how this system draws upon and interacts with surveillance systems.


Name: Allegra C. Schermuly

Title: Community perceptions of Victoria Police: Implications for legitimacy, satisfaction and cooperation

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett and Dr Asher Flynn


This PhD study was based around the idea that positive police/community relations can lead to greater public compliance and cooperation with law enforcement. The methodology was qualitative, which is relatively novel in police legitimacy studies. Community representatives in the Monash Local Government Area in Melbourne were asked to give their detailed views about Victoria Police and the factors that influenced both positive and negative opinions of police. The research found that structural and demographic change in Monash, perceptions about the legitimacy of the police and levels of trust in Victoria Police were the three key areas that shaped these views. To improve police/community relations, the data suggested concentrating on interventions in these three areas.


Name: Olivia King

Title: Role boundaries and scopes of practice: The interdisciplinary diabetes educator role

Institution: Southern Cross University

Supervisors: Professor Susan Nancarrow, Associate Professor Sandra Grace and Professor Alan Borthwick


Numerous different types of health professionals can provide diabetes education. Historically the nursing profession has been preeminent in the field of diabetes education and is perceived to have a wider scope of practice than the allied health professions in this area of clinical practice. This thesis determines the nature of the role boundaries between diabetes educators of nurse and allied health background. Three research methods were employed: systematic literature review; documentary analysis and stakeholder interviews. Neo-Weberian theory provided the main analytical framework. This thesis illustrates strategies of occupational closure and exemplifies professional dominance in a horizontal direction.




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