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News: “I want to see my friends”: The everyday experiences of autistic people and their families during COVID-19 report now available

By | Events

HASH Network member, Dr Anna Urbanowicz, is involved in an ongoing project exploring the experiences of autistic Australians and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The team – composed of autistic and non-autistic researchers and led by Professor Liz Pellicano at Macquarie University – sought to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on everyday life.  In-depth interviews were conducted with 35 autistic adults, 80 parents of autistic children (35 of these parents were autistic themselves) and 16 young autistic people about their experiences during the pandemic.


A report outlining the findings of this qualitative project was released in August 2020. It reveals that while many autistic people welcomed enhanced financial support from the government, the increased accessibility of some health and educational services and the slowing down of pressurised routines, they nonetheless felt worryingly unsupported during the pandemic. In particular, participants reported that they found government messages conflicting and confusing, efforts to move therapies and other health support online unsatisfactory and individualised support for schooling from home lacking.


The project was featured on ABC News. 


Following increased COVID-19 cases in Melbourne throughout July and August 2020, parts of Victoria, Australia entered a second lockdown, with stricter restrictions than the first. The team conducted follow-up interviews with participants living in Melbourne about their experiences this prolonged lockdown. The team are currently analysing the data and preparing a report outlining findings and recommendations.


Please feel free to email Dr Anna Urbanowicz at with any questions.

News: Autism in Academia seminar recording now available

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On Friday 11 September 2020, the HASH Network co-hosted the online Autism in Academia seminar with the RMIT Social & Global Studies Centre to mark Social Sciences Week.


The seminar brought together Autistic activists, academics and the public to discuss how universities and research can be more accepting of Autistic people. We heard from three Autistic activists engaged in research and academia about their experiences.


Kathy Isaacs (she/her), Chair of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network – Australia & New Zealand (ASAN-AuNZ) and CRM Administrator at the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), commenced our seminar with a presentation on the importance of researching with the Autistic community as partners throughout the research process.


Dr Jac den Houting (they/them), Postdoctoral Research Associate at Macquarie University and Secretary of the ASAN-AuNZ, followed with a presentation describing the findings from their recent publication on the extent and nature of community engagement in Australian research projects commissioned by the Autism CRC. The publication can be accessed here.


Beth Radulski (she/her), PhD candidate and Project Officer: Neurodiversity at La Trobe University, concluded with a presentation outlining how La Trobe University are working towards being more inclusive of Autistic and other Neurodivergent staff and students.


Over 120 people attended the seminar live, including people from across Australia and internationally. The online format allowed people from across the globe and in different time zones to join in. The HASH Network looks forward to presenting future events in an online format.


If you were unable to attend or would like to revisit the event, the recording is now available on the Social and Global Studies Centre website.


Please feel free to email Dr Anna Urbanowicz at with any questions.


News: Change for the Groundswell Project

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After almost ten years, Creative Director, and HASH-network member Dr Peta Murray, has stepped away from the not-for-profit arts-and-health organization The Groundswell Project she co-founded with clinical psychologist, Dr Kerrie Noonan, back in 2010. Murray’s departure was announced, as she was formally farewelled, at the recent PHPCI2019 Conference held in the Blue Mountains, in October 2019, and follows Dr Noonan’s exit earlier this year.

The Groundswell Project has been a game-changer in promoting death literacy in Australia and is responsible for initiatives like Dying to Know Day, as well as a research-partnership-based national Death Literacy Index, and for pilot programs, currently rolled out nationwide, around the concept of Compassionate Communities. In its early years, The Groundswell Project delivered three FilmLife Projects in partnership with The Organ and Tissue Authority, paired up with Year Eleven students from Penrith High School to deliver three iterations of a Drama Project around end-of-life, worked with Rookwood Cemetery to deliver Hidden, a sculpture prize and walk staged in a graveyard, and numerous other initiatives, workshops, festivals and events designed to capture and restore community confidence, capacity and knowhow around dying, while challenging institutional ‘ownership’ of death and the pathologizing of grief by medical and funeral professionals.

As part of her final pro bono contribution, Murray curated an arts program for and within the PHPCI2019 conference, and also, alongside colleague Niki Read, delivered a community fringe festival, From the Brink. She also presented one of her own works, the installation and performance diptych, vigil/wake. This work of live art has been developed over three years, beginning with two seasons at North Melbourne’s Arts House, before being further refined within On Loss: A Public Re/w/rite, for the Melbourne Writers Festival 2019. Collaborating artists are Rachel Burke, Jane Murphy, and more recently, Thembi Soddell.

Murray, now a VC’s postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, will continue her work on the development of co-created, arts-based secular ceremonies and collaborative methodologies expressive of an activist intent, while Dr Noonan is now with the National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG).

The Groundswell Project will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2020.


By | Events

350 delegates from all over the world converged over 12-16 October on the 6th Public Health Palliative Care International Conference, held in the Blue Mountains and co-hosted by Western Sydney University and the The Groundswell Project, a not-for profit co-founded by HASH network member, Peta Murray.

The theme of this conference, Compassionate Communities in Action: Re-claiming Ageing, Dying and Grieving brought together researchers, clinicians, artists and practitioners in a unique interdisciplinary gathering built upon the Ottawa Charter of Professor Allan Kellehear and the foundational work of Dr Suresh Kumar.

Two years in the making, this year’s conference endeavoured to walk its own talk, not just activating but also “artifying” most panel sessions, under Peta’s curatorial eye. It also made itself porous at the edges, admitting members of the Greater Blue Mountains communities through various events that were outward looking. These included a Fringe Festival: From the Brink, curated by Niki Read, and featuring a death-themed film festival, book launches, exhibitions, a panel discussion among artists who work on end-of-life issues through material and writing practices and, as a major drawcard for a hard to reach demographic, an evening session dedicated to Men and Mortality, featuring the Spooky Men’s Chorale.

By day, delegates pored over a packed program of workshops and presentations, book-ended morning and night by opportunities to collaborate in playful, exploratory and creative activities. Local dances from Dharug country were shared by members of all female indigenous group, The Wagana Dancers, at a moving opening ceremony.

Early morning poetry workshops took place in the scenic bushland setting, amidst whoops from lyre birds and shrieking cockatoos. A Dawn Chorus of delegates, under the musical direction of Rachel Hore, OAM, met at 7.15 each morning to practice a suite of selected songs that were later performed alongside community choristers in the closing ceremony.

A corner of the foyer was dedicated to the construction of a bower, and delegates were invited to adorn it with found objects, trinkets and messages in bower bird blue. A series of small films, Michele Aaron and Jed Jerwood’s Life:Moving were available on iPads for private viewing all day and many delegates also chose to attend vigil, Peta Murray’s contemplative installation for one, followed by its companion work, wake, a performance-cum-ceremony for groups of twelve, devoted to mourning the unmourned. A series of textile works by artists Anzara Clark, Sophie Conolly and Jessie Deane braided all of this together within the theme of the fabric of life and death.

The conference finale, hosted by incoming PHPCI President Dr John Rosenberg, included the announcement that Belgium will co-host the next conference, in 2021, alongside colleagues from the European Association for Palliative Care. For further information:


News: Sharing Healthtalk Australia mental health resources

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Healthtalk Australia mental health resources to be included on Head to Health website

Healthtalk Australia is an online resource dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of Australians by harnessing the power of stories, rigorous research methods, and the internet to understand and share experiences of:

  • what it’s really like to have a particular health condition or to care for someone with that condition, and
  • what is and isn’t working in our health and social care system.

The only research-based digital repository of health experiences in Australia, Healthtalk Australia’s resources provide support and information to other patients and carers, and information to health professionals and health educators.

HASH network members Renata Kokanović, (Healthtalk Australia Director) and Kate Johnston-Ataata (Healthtalk Australia Co-ordinator) learned recently that four of their mental health digital resources on mental health and supported decision-making, mental health and carers’ experiences, depression, and emotional experiences of early parenthood have been approved for inclusion on Head to Health.

Head to Health is a national digital platform providing links to credible, high quality Australian digital and phone supports, resources and treatment options for mental health, and is working towards establishing a national certification framework for digital mental health services.

Currently Healthtalk Australia is one of only 33 organisations nation-wide listed on the Head to Health platform. Testament to the high quality of Healthtalk Australia’s digital repository of health experiences, Healthtalk Australia’s mental health resources received written support and endorsement from key stakeholder and project partner, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services as part of the application process.





News: HASH Network researchers are part of a new NHMRC CRE

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HASH Network researchers, Renata Kokanović and Kate Johnston-Ataata, are part of a new NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence on Women’s Health in Reproductive Life

Renata and Kate from the Social Research in Health Program (Social and Global Studies Centre, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University) are set to continue their research collaboration on women’s experiences of reproductive health with the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI), Monash University. Renata is an Associate Investigator and Kate a Research Fellow on the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence on Women’s Health in Reproductive Life (WHIRL) announced on 29 August 2019.

A five-year, $2.499 million research program, CRE-WHIRL is aimed at improving health outcomes and quality of life in key areas of women’s reproductive health – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), infertility and early menopause. The CRE-WHIRL will partner with patients, multidisciplinary practitioners and policy makers to address research and translation priorities under the national women’s health strategy. Renata and Kate’s involvement in CRE – WHIRL builds on their existing collaboration with MCHRI through the Early Menopause: Women’s Experiences and Health Practitioners’ Perspectives NHMRC Partnership Project.




By | Events

Shifting paradigms: Conversations on developing a transformative agenda for future mental health research, policy and practice

To mark World Mental Health Day 2019, HASH network members Renata Kokanović and Chris Maylea from the Social Research in Health Program (Social and Global Studies Centre, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University) are hosting three distinguished speakers at RMIT University (City Campus) to engage with some of the most pressing questions surrounding the conduct of mental health research:

Vrinda Edan, Acting CEO of the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC)

Professor Katherine Boydell, Head of the AKT (Arts-based Knowledge Translation) Lab at the Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales

Professor Isabela Granic, Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology Department and Director of the Games for Emotional and Mental Health (GEMH) Lab, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, Netherlands

Join us for an afternoon of stimulating conversation on approaches to meaningful engagement with experts by experience, to transform the agenda for mental health research, policy and practice.

Date: 10th October 2019

Time: 4:00 – 5.30 pm

Venue: RMIT University (City Campus), Building 8, Level 4, Room 13, 360 Swanston Street, Melbourne

You can register for the event here.

For more information email