Our creative and art-led research highlights for June showcase impacts in social justice, environmental and sustainable communities, and education and community. In this summary we bring you three research teams who are using their creative expertise to make a positive difference in the world.

Merging art and science is nothing new. Aboriginal people have been combining scientific concepts into their paintings, drawings and storytelling for thousands of years. Technology may have changed how we communicate but being able to reach out to people and share ideas and information remains critical.

That’s what drives A/Prof Siobhan McHugh to focus on the power of sound and the creative adaption of oral history into audio projects of cultural worth and significance. Her award winning podcast series Phoebe’s Fall shows just how important it is to tell people’s stories.

Installations at museums also play an important role in science engagement and storytelling, and was the ideal platform for researchers Drs Agnieszka Golda and Jo Law to showcase their multi-sensory project Spinning World. The installation provided a unique experience to 70,000 people and demonstrated how contemporary art-science collaborations can work to tackle urgent global issues such as environmental sustainability.

Project DARE has started a powerful wave of change in our community, by helping children to understand dementia, and use art as a medium for them to express their perception of dementia. It is a promising educational program aimed at creating a more understanding relationship with people living with dementia and who need our care and compassion.

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The Power of Podcasts

Radio documentary and podcast research focuses on the power and intimacy of sound and the creative adaption of oral history to transform non-fiction stories into audio projects of cultural worth and significant social impact. Produced in partnership with public broadcasters, these works gave voice to overlooked or marginalised individuals and communities, reaching thousands of listeners.

As a consulting producer for the podcast series Phoebe’s Fall, UOW’s Associate Professor Siobhan McHugh worked with a team at Fairfax Media to produce a 6-episode podcast that examined the death of a young Melbourne woman, Phoebe Handsjuk, whose body was found in a garbage chute, and the botched police investigation that followed. The series employed in-depth interviews with Phoebe’s family and friends as well as legal, forensic and criminological experts resulting in an analysis of the circumstances surrounding Phoebe’s death and questioning of aspects of police procedure and the coronial inquest that followed, eventually helping to trigger a judicial review.

Initially published in September 2016 on iTunes, the podcast went straight to Number One on the iTunes Chart, deposing the American documentary podcast, Serial, until then widely acknowledged as the most successful podcast globally. Phoebe’s Fall held this position for most of its 6 week run, with over 1.3 million downloads.

Creative Industries June Podcast

Professor McHugh continues to make an social impact with podcasts, with a recent release of The story of the Snowy (Snowy Hydro project) – and the 2019 Podcast of the Year, Wrong Skin, co-produced by Prof McHugh.

“What we do is sophisticated, crafted storytelling that is to audio, what Netflix is to the visual medium," she said of her award-winning team for Wrong Skin.

The podcast about forbidden love under Aboriginal law set in outback Western Australia, also won the Investigative Journalism & True Crime Award at the nation's most prestigious podcasting awards night.  

Spinning World

A major creative outcome for researchers Dr Agnieszka Golda and Dr Jo Law during their joint visiting research fellowship at the Museum of Applied Arts & Science (MAAS) is a multi-sensory project called Spinning World.

The installation incorporates textiles, electronics and graphene to explore the relationship between art, emerging technologies and ecology. By combining their specialisations in textiles and new media, the researchers address global climate issues through aesthetic, material and technological means.

A major discovery of the project was how lace and embroidery techniques can be combined with conductive materials, low energy devices and photovoltaic cells to invent new materials and sustainable methods of making.

Hosted at the Powerhouse Museum for a 6-month exhibition period, it is estimated the installation provided 70,000 visitors with the unique experience and insight into how contemporary art-science collaboration work to tackle urgent global issues such as environmental sustainability. 

Project DARE

Children today are, more than ever before, likely to interact with family and community members living with a dementia. Project Dementia knowledge, Art, Research and Education (DARE) has developed a short education intervention for children aged between 8 - 11 years, using art as a medium to express their knowledge and perception of dementia. The children were introduced to the talents of local artists who spent two full days working with them and teaching them new visual art techniques and histories. In between the two art lessons the children received a lesson (or intervention) on dementia. 

Creative Industries June Project DARE

Project DARE has started a small but powerful wave of change in our community, helping children to better understand dementia, and are more open to relating to those who have dementia.