Staff Profile


Career Summary


I began my academic studies with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Cinematography at Baghdad University, awarded in 1990. I left Iraq during the First Gulf War in 1991 and we gratefully arrived in Australia in 1994. I then enrolled in the Diploma of Fine Art at Hornsby TAFE. I was keen to pursue my interest in Sculpture, Painting, Drawing and Photography.

Upon completion of the Diploma in 1997, I enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Art degree at the Ourimbah Campus of the University. In this program I further developed my interest in Painting and Drawing with Printmaking and its use across a range of media and upon graduation in 2000, I enrolled in the Master of Fine Art (MFA) degree, also at Ourimbah campus.

The title of my MFA project: ‘Iraqi Artists as Refugees: Reading the Visual Narrative of War’, provided an opportunity to explore visually the experiences of Iraqi refugee artists fleeing the trauma of war and their subsequent experiences in refugee camps and in making a new life in another country.

For the practical component of the project, I reconstructed a representation of the dwelling places that refugee artists like myself had made in refugee camps in Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The final work, a mixed media installation, ‘These were my Homes’, consisted of five separate dwellings, representing the five different types of accommodation the refugee artists from Iraq, had experienced.

In the MFA dissertation, I argued for the therapeutic benefits of direct involvement in expressive artwork. I used the information from three refugee Iraqi artists that I interviewed, together with the theories of contemporary psychologists and psychotherapists working in the field of war trauma, to examine their artwork, some of it completed in refugee camps, as examples of survival strategies. 

The MFA was awarded in 2003.

I enrolled in the PhD program in Fine Art, at Ourimbah campus, to explore the psychological impact of detention on Iraqi artists in Australia and the use of Art as a method of healing. This project built upon the mixed media techniques I had used in the MFA program and provided an opportunity to compare the experiences of Iraqi artists like myself who were in refugee camps and the Iraqi artists who came to Australia before the Second Gulf War as asylum seekers expecting to join families and friends who were already here. The dissertation was submitted in June 2006 and the installation for the practical component was exhibited at the Gosford Regional Art Gallery from 21 July to 19 September 2006. 

The PhD was awarded on the 12 December 2006. 

Locked inside - Ibtihal SamarayiLocked Inside











For the practical component, ‘Locked Inside’, I devised an installation that is a visual representation of the hopes, fears and frustrations of detention, drawn from the lived experiences of the interviewees. It consists of eight padlocks made of wood and foam, approximately 1.6 meters in height and two meters in width. The padlocks are placed in a circle with the key holes each with an eye inside looking out, facing into the circle. From the ceiling above the circle, hangs a large key that could open the padlocks, but it is just out of reach. The key is a digitally manipulated image. On the other side of the padlocks, facing outward, are representations of the fears and hopes of the detainees – barbed wire, beaches, family reunions, the horrors of war. On the adjoining walls hang the artwork of the asylum seeker artists and the children.












My teaching experiences have largely been in Fine Art and has focused on Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Digital Imaging and interdisciplinary approaches to the Fine Arts.

I have addressed creativity in a contemporary to the undergraduate and Postgraduate Fine Art degree students. The implications of moving from the previous projects are reviewed through student feedback, anecdotal evidence from student’s coursework submissions and a tentative observation of assessment performance.


  • PhD, University of Newcastle, 12/12/2006
  • Master of Fine Art, University of Newcastle, 07/03/2003
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Newcastle, 12/12/2000
  • Diploma of Fine Art, TAFE (NSW), 31/12/1998
  • Bachelor of Cinema, University of Baghdad - Iraq, 30/06/1990


Research keywords

  • Rufugees

Research expertise

My experience in research for the MFA, PhD included social, political, and psychological issues of refugees, both adults and children. Interviewing artists who are suffering under the harsh constrictive regulations was part of my research. Semiotic elements are very important for my research.

In 2010/11 I was involved in research for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) looking at the problems encountered by Muslim job seekers. I interviewed and transcribed over 150 people as well as collecting survey data for quantitative analysis. This work provided insights for the Government into why Australian Muslims and permanent residents encounter barriers to employment. I have found found my personal knowledge of Arabic useful in working with Professor Terry Lovat on a project about the experiences of Muslim women trying to get work.

I have been involved in organising History Week at the Ourimbah Campus in September 2012. This involved participation of Open Foundation Visual Art students in producing, designing and making historical costumes as soft sculptures. This exhibition was open to the public and promoted the valuable work of the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre.

I am currently involved in a research project with the CTL on a project : “Towards a taxonomy for collaborative learning”. This will involve interviewing up to 100 students and staff, transcribing interviews and analysing data. I have recently undertaken successful research in June 2012-2013 with Professor Carey interviewing prison chaplains for “A Qualitative Survey and Interviews of Prison Chaplains”. This involved structured interviews that will contribute to historical knowledge. This was apart of the ARC Discovery Project, Liberty, Anti-transportation and the Empire of Morality, which was shared between the University of Newcastle and the University of New England.

My own contribution to published books, book chapters, articles and conference presentations comes from my PhD research, my ongoing project work and my own life experiences as a one-time refugee and my many reflections on that experience. I believe I have managed to take those life threatening experiences and turn them effectively into the subject matter for research.


  • Arabic
  • English

Fields of Research

220299History And Philosophy Of Specific Fields Not Elsewhere Classified100



2004Encouragement Award
Camera House, Gosford (Australia)
Encouragement Award - Camera House - Gosford


2012Heartlands Refugee Fine Art Prize
Victoria’s Emerge Festival (Australia)
Heartlands is part of Multicultural Arts - Victoria’s Emerge Festival.
2007The Vice Chancellor's Award for programs that Enhance Learning
University of Newcastle (Australia)
2005Royal on The Move Art Exhibition
The Royal Newcastle Hospital (Australia)
Winner First Prize – Royal on The Move Art Exhibition – The Royal Newcastle Hospital
2003Highly Commanded Sculpture
Gosford Art Prize (Australia)
Highly Commanded - Gosford Art Prize-Sculpture
2002Winner First Place Photography
Gosford Art Prize (Australia)
Winner First Prize Gosford Art Prize - Photography

Research Award.

2003Postgraduate Scholarship Award
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Postgraduate scholarship award - University of Newcastle


Teaching keywords

  • Fine Art


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Book (2 outputs)

2011Samarayi I, Refugee to Resident, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, VIC, 153 (2011) [A2]
2009Lovat TJ, Samarayi I, The Lost Story of Islam: Recovery Through Theology, History and Art, Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbrucken, 168 (2009) [A1]

Co-authors: TERRY LOVAT

Chapter (3 outputs)

2013Lovat TJ, Samarayi I, Green B, 'Recovering the voice of women in Islam: Lessons for educators and others', Gender, Religion and Education in a Chaotic Postmodern World, Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht 173-184 (2013) [B1]
2012Samarayi I, 'The contribution of Muslim women in the flourishing of modern society: Reflections on refugee transition from East to West', Women in Islam, Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht 107-115 (2012) [B1]
2008Lovat TJ, Samarayi I, 'Restoring justice to Islam: An historical, theological and artistic exploration', Human Rights Issues in the 21st Century, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge 27-72 (2008) [B1]

Co-authors: TERRY LOVAT

Journal article (3 outputs)

2013Lovat T, Nilan P, Hosseini SAH, Samarayi I, Mansfield MM, Alexander W, 'Australian Muslim Jobseekers: Equal Employment Opportunity and Equity in the Labor Market', Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 33 435-450 (2013) [C1]
2013Lovat TJ, Nilan P, Hosseini Faradonbeh S, Samarayi I, Mansfield M, Alexander W, 'Discrimination in the Labour Market: Exposing Employment Barriers among Muslim Jobseekers in Australia', Issues in Social Science, 1 53-73 (2013) [C1]
2012Nilan PM, Samarayi I, Lovat TJ, 'Female Muslim jobseekers in Australia: Liminality, obstacles and resilience', International Journal of Asian Social Science, 2 682-692 (2012) [C1]

Review (1 outputs)

1998Samarayi I, 'SBS Radio (Al Sakaf, S) (1998) [D2]

Conference (1 outputs)

2013Samarayi I, ''This wheelchair will be worth a lot of money by the end of this course!' (student comment upon splashing paint on his wheelchair): Creating space for students with disabilities through art therapy in enabling programs', National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia Conference, Melbourne, VIC (2013) [E3]

Creative Work (3 outputs)

2008Samarayi I, Locked Inside - Tour Show across Australia, Touring in association with Artback Northern Territory Arts Touring, Various Locations, Australia (2008) [J1]
2005Samarayi I, Drawing the Line: an exhibition by postgraduate artists, School of Fine Art Gallery (curator: R. Woodrow), Newcastle, NSW (2005) [J2]
2003Samarayi I, Rafha Camp and Pages from Al Uboodi's Diary, Student Union, Ourimbah Campus, UoN (2003)

Other (2 outputs)

2000Samarayi I, 'An Artistic State Of Mind - P. Hearne', ( pp.18-18). Manly, New South Wales: Manly Regional Gallery (2000) [O1]
1999Samarayi I, 'Capel TV (Rainy T)', ( pp.0-0). Redfern, New South Wales: Community Capel TV-CTV1 (1999) [O1]

Report (1 outputs)

2011Lovat TJ, Mitchell WF, Nilan PM, Hosseini Faradonbeh SA, Cook B, Samarayi I, Mansfield MM, 'Australian Muslim Jobseekers: Labour Market Experience, Job Readiness, and the Relative Effectiveness of Employment Support Services. A research report', Australia. Dept. of Immigration and Citizenship., 215 (2011) [R1]

Grants and Funding


Number of grants1
Total funding$88,000

- Indicates that the researcher may be seeking students for this project.

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

2009 (1 grants)

The Job Readiness of Muslim Jobseekers and the Relative Effectiveness of Employment Support Services in Australia$88,000
Funding Body: Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs

Project Team
Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, Emeritus Professor Bill Mitchell, Professor Pamela Nilan, Doctor Seyed Abdolhamed Hosseini Faradonbeh, Doctor Beth Cook, Doctor Ibtihal Samarayi
National Action Plan for fundingInvestigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish

Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions0

For supervisions undertaken at an institution other that the University of Newcastle, the institution name is listed below the program name.

Past Supervision

YearProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
2011PhD (Humanities)Co-SupervisorThe Salvaged Image: A Study of Fairy Tale, Mervyn Peake and the Creative Process

Dr Ibtihal Samarayi

Work Phone(02) 43484048
Fax(02) 43484075
Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies
Academic Division
The University of Newcastle, Australia
HO 1.72,
Humanities Building,
10 Chittaway Road
Ourimbah NSW 2258