Creativity and wellbeing PhD top-up grants awarded


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COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented financial impact on the research community, with graduate research students particularly affected.

To address this, the Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative has awarded A$15 000 in top-up grants for PhD students working in our theme area.

The grants were awarded to eligible applicants based on:

  • the relevance of the applicant’s PhD research to the topic of ‘creativity and wellbeing’
  • the importance of the funds to the progression of the PhD.

Successful research projects include how technology supports wellbeing and ageing, the social and civic use of cemeteries, and how circus programs can improve outcomes for children with developmental impairments.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to apply.

Successful projects

Risking it: Designing and building with kids

Clare Walton, Architecture, Building and Planning

A participatory action research project. I collaborated with children aged 9-11yrs to design and construct ephemeral installations in their school grounds to examine how the process supports the development of their active citizenship. In addition, I examined the risk to the socially engaged practitioner when working inside a traditional institution.

Posthuman methodologies in art and art research

Jessica Williams, Fine Arts and Music

Studies have revealed compelling relationships between experiences of the natural environment and positive health outcomes. With advancements in virtual reality technologies, there arise new possibilities for artistic, conceptualised nature interventions. The CAWRI PhD Top-Up Grant will enable completion of Inner Forest: an immersive, multisensory virtual nature artwork.

Exploring the space of music, music therapy and trauma in the adult mental health context

Kirsten Hillman, Fine Arts and Music

This PhD project aims to build theory in the area of music therapy and trauma, with attention to the concepts of timing- both therapeutic and musical; and silence- both as it manifests as an absence of sound, and as an oppressive force of silencing experienced through traumatic events or while traversing health systems during recovery.

Exploring Chinese international students’ conceptualisation and language used around wellbeing

Lanxi Huang, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

The current project focuses on Chinese international students’ understanding and the language used around the concept of wellbeing, exploring how they create their narratives of wellbeing experience, examining the role of creativity in supporting wellbeing, and identifying students’ needed supports that strengthen their wellbeing.

Art-based inquiry into participants’ experiences of a community-based trauma-informed art therapy program for adolescent and mother dyads in single-parent families

Jane Song, Fine Arts and Music

My research explores participants’ experience and meaning-making of the community-based art therapy program situated in their local community centres. A small number of mother-adolescent pairs in single-parent families whose lives have been impacted by intergenerational experience of adversity and resilience are invited to participate in creating mosaic and collage, and construct narratives about self and family through this art-based inquiry.

The ethics of multiplayer digital games: Players, industry, and online media

Lucy Sparrow, Melbourne School of Engineering

Lucy’s work explores the ethics of how we play, design and talk about multiplayer digital games. Through a constructivist lens, her project aims to investigate how multiple understandings and values surrounding gameplay align, overlap, and conflict. In turn, this work examines ways of developing and managing multiplayer games and communities given the ever-shifting plurality of voices that co-construct them.

Looking for the gold - A critical ethnographic study using drama therapy to explore voice, agency and power at the intersection of private and public in aged care.

Maya Ercole, Fine Arts and Music

This is a critical ethnographic, practice-based research using drama therapy to explore the power dynamics in an aged care system and its impact on the everyday lives of the residents. The study examines the unique affordances that drama therapy offers in the field of aged care where its purpose can be both therapeutic and activist-oriented.

Cemeteries as civic spaces: Public participation in the planning of urban burial sites

Samuel Holleran, Arts

This project focuses on how neighbours use their local cemeteries and how the future cemetery might accommodate more modes of use, balancing a respect for the site with the recreational and civic needs of local residents. It foregrounds community participation processes, with a focus on the communicative tools used by cemetery managers, urban planners, and others.

Reading images: Creating a visual experience for complex emotion words and descriptive adjectives through illustration – A study of Persian miniatures

Nedasadat Sajadi

This research aims to examine the powers and limitations of visuals by addressing text, meaning, and image relations. The main inquiry is whether a discussion of diverse meaning-making approaches and artistic practices may result in new insight to promote visualisation methods and the reception of visualised concepts among readers.

Positive gaming: The use of tabletop role-playing games for mental health

Patrick Mclaren, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Tabletop roleplaying games (TRPG’s) are creative, collaborative, social gaming systems which have enormous potential, yet remain unresearched. This mixed methods project seeks to explore TRPG’s and their impacts on mental health and well-being through creativity, social connectedness and positive experiences. The results will assist in the development of gaming-based interventions.

The Circus Project: Co-designing a circus intervention for pre-schoolers born preterm

Frances Coulston, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

This research asks whether circus programs can enhance participation and motor outcomes for children with developmental impairments. Circus arts are a unique and creative way to enhance wellbeing for these children in a naturalistic leisure setting. Circus arts may facilitate development of fundamental motor skills, social connection and physical literacy. The PhD will co-design a circus program with key stakeholders, and then implement a feasibility study.

The transition to innovative learning environments: A systems view of design and organisational factors

Raechel French, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Drawing on an inter-disciplinary collaboration between architecture and education, this research explores how taking a holistic, systems-based perspective when implementing innovative and flexible learning spaces in schools can ensure the new building design helps students develop their capacity for creativity and collaboration, as well as improve teacher wellbeing.

People with and without refugee experience co-creating a shared world through narrative practices

Sarah Strauven, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

In my research, I look at Australian grassroots community initiatives where established citizens and people with refugee experience co-create a shared world through narrative practices. More particularly, I discuss the creative practices of storytelling that people find most meaningful to them and most generative for new ways of living together and enhancing individual and community wellbeing.

Exploring and understanding openness to experience: Theories and neural correlates of the fifth factor of personality

Hayley Jach, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

My thesis investigates mechanisms of openness, a personality trait describing individual differences in creativity, imagination, and intellect. Thus far, I have found tentative evidence that people higher in openness are more likely to curiously explore the unknown, not fear the unknown. The grant will allow me to conduct confirmatory studies to assess evidence for curiosity-motivated exploration being a core mechanism of openness (and thus, of creativity, imagination, and intellect).

FUTURE PRESENT: Co-designing a digital legacy with older adults

Wendy Cavenett, Melbourne School of Engineering

FUTURE PRESENT draws on Human Computer Interaction research that explores ways technology supports the wellbeing of people as they age and approach end of life. The project will engage older adults in reflecting on life, and future life, through the co-design of a digital legacy artefact for a public installation.

Flamenco Guitar: Negotiating identity in the interpretation of flamenco forms

Gerard Mapstone, Fine Arts and Music

The art of Flamenco has developed in a continuous flow of tradition and reformulation over the past 130 years. This project aims to open up the creative practices behind flamenco for all to share, so that any instrumentalist can play and express flamenco in their own way. The use of the CAWRI funding will support the core network of this project that involves recording, transcription and visuals.

First published on 3 May 2022.

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