Published Papers

PAPER – Lengthy student placements and health and financial wellbeing

By | News Items, Published Papers | No Comments


Lisa Hodge, Nicole Oke, Heather McIntyre, Shelley Turner

Project Overview

This project explores the financial and other impacts of lengthy, unpaid work-integrated learning (WIL). It aims to build on the research findings of prior Australian studies that found long unpaid placements had a negative impact on women and diverse student groups, through financial and other stressors, at disproportionate levels. This research was based on a quantitative and qualitative study of students completing placements as part of the social work programme at Victoria University. There have been two key components in this research project. The first is an examination of the significant financial and health impacts students experienced from completing lengthy placements as part of their university course. The second component has focused on the ways these lengthy placements impact on the paid work students do currently, as most students worked while they were completing their course. We found that students engaged in more insecure and precarious work while completing their placements, and some students felt that this would have an impact on their engagement with the workforce after they finished their placement.

Publications and Theses

Hodge, L., Oke, N., McIntyre, H., & Turner, S. (2020). Lengthy unpaid placements in social work: exploring the impacts on student wellbeing. Social Work Education, doi: 10.1080/02615479.2020.1736542

PAPER – Psychology education and the neoliberal episteme in Australia

By | News Items, Published Papers | No Comments

New paper in Theory and Psychology by CIDRN researcher Samuel Keast.


This article investigates some of the ways in which neoliberalism and mainstream psychology intersect to maintain a dominant episteme in psychology education within the Australian context. It is argued that the ubiquity and logic of neoliberalism and the philosophical inclination of mainstream psychology create a “culture of positivism” and epistemic deceit within psychology education. Some of the features of psychology as it has developed in Australia are offered to more clearly define what mainstream psychology is, before outlining the current regulatory, political, and economic forces shaping psychology education and the neoliberal university. The article concludes by proposing some of the consequences for a psychology education system that does not interrogate the origins of epistemic power and proposes that a greater focus on epistemological ethics and historical–hermeneutic elements in psychology education may offer some resistance to the neoliberal episteme.


Keast, S. (2020). Psychology education and the neoliberal episteme in Australia. Theory & Psychology.


Link to Full Article

PAPER – In between two worlds: Colombian migrants negotiating identity, acculturation, and settlement in Melbourne

By | Published Papers | No Comments

New paper in Qualitative Research by CIDRN by Margarita Fierro Hernandez and Christopher C. Sonn


Latin American immigration experiences have been documented in terms of acculturation, settlement and belonging. While there is an increase in research interest, there is a need to recognise the diversity of the Latin American region, as well as within countries, in terms of culture, history, and histories of colonialism. This exploratory qualitative work examines the experiences of 15 Colombian immigrants living in Melbourne, Australia and considers implications for identity, acculturation and settlement. Thematic analysis of in depth-interviews generated three themes that represent their acculturation and settlement: identity negotiation between home and homeland, constructing Colombian identity in Australia and navigating barriers to settlement. Migration was mainly experienced as a loss and represented as a negotiation between home country and host country where the structures of support were crucial in making home in Australia. This has shed light on the meanings, expectations and challenges associated with the migration process to Australia. This analysis reveals how accents, cultural values, and discrimination play a role in the ways Colombians construct and negotiate identity and settlement in Australia.


Hernandez, M. F., & Sonn, C. C. (2019). In between two worlds: Colombian migrants negotiating identity, acculturation, and settlement in Melbourne Australia. The Australian Community Psychologist, 30(1), 65-80.

Link to Full Article

PAPER – Voices of displacement: a methodology of sound portraits exploring identity and belonging

By | Published Papers | No Comments

New paper in Qualitative Research by CIDRN by Alison M Baker, Christopher C Sonn and Kirsten Meyer titled “Voices of displacement: a methodology of sound portraits exploring identity and belonging”.


Sound portraiture blends audio-documentary techniques and qualitative arts-based and narrative
methods, privileging participants’ voices and conveying the complexity of their stories through
the layering of sound. We created sound portraits that negotiated the multiple and often
conflicting voices, histories and subject positions for South African migrants who psychologically
straddle home and host lands. Sound portraits speak to the history of colonialism, Apartheid,
displacement, and the continuities of power and privilege in people’s lives. We argue for the use
of sound portraits as an aesthetic representation of lived experience and as a medium through
which research knowledge becomes democratised.


Baker, A. M., Sonn, C. C., & Meyer, K. (2020). Voices of displacement: a methodology of sound portraits exploring identity and belonging. Qualitative Research

Link to Full Article

PAPER – The Performative is Political: Using Counter-Storytelling through Theatre to Create Spaces for Implicated Witnessing

By | Published Papers | No Comments

Project: African Australians negotiating belonging and identity: Examining the role of participatory arts practice

Citation: Maxwell, C. (2019). The Performative is Political: Using Counter-Storytelling through Theatre to Create Spaces for Implicated Witnessing (Unpublished masters thesis). Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.

Author: Christina Maxwell

Summary by: Christina Maxwell


Moral panics have been fuelled by the media in white dominant nations to position those perceived as African as violent, delinquent, and dissimilar to the white majority (Windle, 2008). In Melbourne, Australia AMKA (previously ‘Afrobeat’) was an initiative of the cohealth Arts Generator (cAG) that used theatre to depict the African diaspora in Australia. These accounts sought to challenge the dominant narratives that frame their community in Australia while presenting alternative knowledges situated within historical, political, and intergenerational discourses. The intention of the artists was to create an art piece that spoke to their communities and to counter these prevailing narratives with ones that are complex, strengths-based, and diverse, i.e., to engage in performative counter-storytelling (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002). AMKA provided an opportunity for the current study to investigate the impacts of performative counter-storytelling for those who are in a position of power by examining what insights spectators’ reflections provided into the meaning-making processes of the aesthetic encounter.

What was done?

Guided by a critical whiteness lens, the study explored how white audience members interpreted AMKA, and the implications of this meaning-making process for transformation of the self and the relationship with the ‘other’. Thirty-four self-identifying white spectators completed mixed closed- and open-ended surveys at the completion of one of three public performances. Of particular interest were the free-response questions which aimed to elicit responses regarding spectators’ learnings from and interpretations of the performance.

The qualitative data were subject to thematic analysis and interpreted using key literature on critical whiteness scholarship, performative counter-storytelling, and processes of transformative witnessing.

What we learnt

Two themes were developed with each theme containing several sub-themes which aimed to provide further elucidation on how ‘awakening’ was experienced and what it meant to be an audience member in AMKA, as summarised in the following table:

Summary of themes and sub-themes identified through thematic analysis

Thematic Category Sub-Theme
Understanding the Counter-Narrative in Context 1.      Aesthetics and the counter-narrative

2.      Outsiders on the inside

3.      Reflections on political realities


Engaging in Reflective Practices 1.      Seeing what one has been taught not to see

2.      The discomforting process of confronting privilege

3.      Theatre as a reminder and prompt for action



White audience members who responded to the survey appeared to make connections between the content of AMKA and the contemporary political and cultural contexts in which it was performed and began to examine their responsibilities in disrupting these systems of oppression. They became aware of the incompleteness of their current lenses and turned to the alternative narratives offered by AMKA as more truthful portrayals of reality with audience members using this performance as a springboard for considering issues of whiteness, belonging, coloniality, and racism more broadly. Further, some spectators demonstrated awareness of the power implicit in geographical space by noting how AMKA was diversifying and reclaiming white spaces of theatre in Melbourne while challenging the racist structures that uphold them. These spectators therefore demonstrated progress in becoming ‘implicated witnesses’, that is, attentive, action-oriented, and critically engaged listeners who engage in the processes that facilitate ‘transformation’ of the self and that contribute to transforming one’s environment (Sajnani, 2012). Indeed, some witnesses declared intentions for post-performance actions provoked by a new sense of responsibility.

The power in the performative-counter narrative was also found to come not only in the construction of the narrative itself, but also by its delivery. For AMKA, the art forms, the venue, the production quality, the performers, and the special effects all worked together to enhance the receptivity of, and connection to, the narrative. By moving beyond a superficial level of engagement with the production, spectators entered a ‘zone of discomfort’ (Sajnani, 2010) where they could productively grapple with ideas of difference and privilege while enabling opportunities for growth-oriented encounters. This discomfort often arose from a personalisation of the content whereby spectators shifted in their self-knowledge as they connected individual-level behaviours to political events and began to understand how their behaviour upholds and conforms to oppressing narratives. Accompanying these changes were shifts in the relationship with the ‘other’, although not necessarily in the productive way discussed by the community arts literature. The ‘space of encounter’ (Mayblin, Valentine, & Andersson, 2016) created during AMKA instead resulted in awareness about and amplification of the social distance between lived experiences. Yet for others, AMKA provided much-needed reminders for continued vigilance and engaging in critical thinking while also reiterating the capability and responsibility of one to act.

However, not all spectators willingly entered into a space of transformation and potential for deeper engagement with the performance. It was observed that some instead deliberately distanced themselves and their whiteness from being implicated, reflecting a disconnecting strategy toward the content and risking becoming a voyeur in another’s story.


This study has provided evidence for the potential of political theatre in facilitating the responsible listening positions that can catalyse action toward dismantling personal, and potentially structural, racially-based injustices. Indeed, AMKA was found to ‘awaken’ some white audience members by de-centring whiteness and re-centring African lived experiences. This performative counter-narrative can be said to have held a mirror up to other African Australians while providing a window for white Australians to critically engage with difference. Although it cannot be claimed that a single performance has the power to revolutionise deeply embedded structural inequalities (Madyaningrum & Sonn, 2011; Sonn et al., 2015), the transformations that are observed at the level of the individual are by no means inconsequential. The magnitude of these impacts can never be truly captured; they may spread like ripples triggered through post-performance conversations or continue across the lifespan in the form of vigilant struggles with privilege, thereby “set[ting] a process in motion” (Boal, 2002, p. 275). Through the integration of aesthetic excellence with expressions of lived experience, the community arts are a powerful tool for rupturing oppressing knowledges and enabling counter-possibilities of hope, resilience, and justice to both be imagined and realised.


Boal, A. (2002). Games for actors and non-actors. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Madyaningrum, M. E., & Sonn, C. (2011). Exploring the meaning of participation in a community art project: A case study on the Seeming Project. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 21, 358-370. doi: 10.1002/casp.1079

Mayblin, L., Valentine, G., & Andersson, J. (2016). In the contact zone: Engineering meaningful encounters across difference through an interfaith project. The Geographical Journal, 182(2), 213-222. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12128

Sajnani, N. (2010). Mind the gap: Facilitating transformative witnessing amongst audiences. In P. Jones (Ed.), Drama as therapy volume 2: Clinical work and research in practice (pp.  189-207). New York, NY: Routledge.

Sajnani, N. (2012). The implicated witness: Towards a relational aesthetic in dramatherapy. Dramatherapy, 34(1), 6-21, doi: 10.1080/02630672.2012.657944

Solórzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2002). Critical race methodology: Counter-storytelling as an analytical framework for education research. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 23-44. doi: 10.1177/107780040200800103

Sonn, C. C., Quayle, A. F., Belanji, B., & Baker, A. M. (2015). Responding to racialization through arts practice: The case of participatory theater. Journal of Community Psychology, 43(2), 244-259. doi: 10.1002/jcop.21676

Windle, J. (2008). The racialisation of African youth in Australia. Social Identities, 14(5), 553-566. doi: 10.1080/13504630802343382