Apply for PhD study and see current and previous work of graduate research scholars in the Social Work Research Group at the University of Newcastle

Research Program

PhD and Research Masters

Why a PhD or Research Masters in Social Work at Newcastle?

PhD and Masters by Research students will benefit from the University of Newcastle's outstanding reputation in Social Work research – both within Australia and internationally.

The over-arching theme of the program's research has been the translation of theory and research to inform social policy, social work education and practice.

Highest rating for social work in Australia

The University of Newcastle's social work research was rated 'well above world standard' in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment conducted by the Australian Research Council (ARC). This is the highest ERA rating for social work in Australia and the University of Newcastle was the only university to receive a five in this field of research.

Professor Mel Gray with PhD students: Raj Yadav, Jacob Mugumbate, Shauna Porter, Justin Francis Nicolas, Samuel Ariong, and Bill RobertsonImage from left: Professor Mel Gray with PhD students: Raj Yadav, Jacob Mugumbate, Shauna Porter, Justin Francis Nicolas, Samuel Ariong, and Bill Robertson

The UON social work PhD program  is a professional program which provides excellent learning opportunities, academic opportunities and collaboration because of the range of students enrolled and the breadth of social work domains of theory and practice covered. It is a program which is well structured and supported.
- current PhD candidate Lucy Holland

What you can Research

Research proposals are invited in the following areas:

  • Evidence-based social work
  • Knowledge production and transfer in social work
  • Strength-based community development
  • Neoliberal managerialism and its impact on social work
  • Family estrangement
  • Social policy
  • Child protection
  • The relationship between social work and art
  • International and Indigenous social work
  • Social work supervision
  • Community development and natural disasters
  • Disability policy and person centred practice
  • Child and family well-being
  • Rural social work
  • Natural disaster planning, response and recovery
  • Social support and early childhood intervention
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
  • Rural social work

Research Methodologies

  • Quantitative methods include surveys, demographic and statistical analysis.
  • Qualitative methods include use of in-depth interviews, focus groups, surveys and action-research oriented methods such as co-operative inquiry and photovoice.

I'm  really enjoying Mel's supervision. She has been fantastic in getting me to think about so many different things and has really challenged me (in a nice way!) to think critically and creatively about my research. I am feeling very confident about the work ahead.
- current PhD candidate Cassie Curryer

Find a supervisor

Before you apply, contact a supervisor for discussion on possible research projects. This will allow you to frame your proposal to align with established disciplines and areas of supervisor capacity.

  • Prof Mel Gray: Australian human services, evidence-based practice, Indigenous social work, knowledge production, knowledge translation, morals, values and ethics, Neoliberalism, social work and art, theory and philosophy of social work, welfare reform
  • Dr Amanda Howard: Community, community development, critical reflection, disability, leadership, natural disaster preparation, policy, social construction, social policy, social work, strengths based approaches
  • Dr Tamara Blakemore: child sexual abuse, family disadvantage, resilience
  • Dr Deborah Hart: Social policy, welfare reform, critical organisational studies, new public management, social work supervision, social work student field education.
  • Dr Milena Heinsch: Research use, research translation, paediatric chronic illness, health social work, gastroenterology, evidence-based practice, children and families, childhood functional abdominal pain

How to apply

Current Graduate Studies in Social Work

There are a number of research projects being undertaken by graduate students in the area of Social Work at Newcastle. Take a look some of the current topics:

  • Debbie Amas Critical Discourse Analysis of Child Protection Developments in Australia, New Zealand and England: Have Forty Years of Change Management in Child Protection Made a Difference to Children?
  • Samuel Ariong Poverty Reduction in Uganda. The case of National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Program
  • Vicki Cowling Family support in mental health
  • Cassie Curryer Childlessness and housing in later life: Complexity and choice, policy and discourse, and women's everyday strategies of resistance and adaptation
  • Lucy Holland Patient Empowerment in Adolescent Health: A Model for Adolescents with Chronic Illness
  • Julie Hopkins (MPhil) Male Counsellors in Sexual Assault Services - Is This the Future? An Exploration into the Views of Clients and Counsellors
  • Lou Johnston Supervision in Social Work: Developing Social Work Supervision Practice
  • Jacob Mugumbate Disability in Zimbabwe
  • Mutsa Murenje Causes and consequences of forced migration in Zimbabwe
  • Justin Francis Nicolas Creativity in Social Work Practice
  • Phil Pallas Two ways, our way: exploring the cultural dimensions of non-Indigenous social workers practice in remote Central Australian Aboriginal communities.
  • Shauna Kimone Porter Service user and provider perspectives on services for the homeless in Jamaica: Implications for social work practice and policy development
  • Bill Robertson Emerging citizenship and diverse belongings for former humanitarian entrants in Newcastle, NSW
  • Dara Sampson Explore Relationships Between Students Use of Fictional Literature on Advanced Empathy Skills
  • Raj Kumar Yadav Decolonizing Social Work in Nepal: From Existing Trends to Needs and Processes of Indigenous Social Work Practice

Studying in a world class University housed in a unique, quiet learning environment, with access to latest data bases, and under the close supervision and good working relationship with Prof Mel Gray, a truly world class scholar, I have been able to explore a range of topics within my focus area. This has enhanced my understanding, connecting cutting-edge research with policy and practice. At the end of this course, I see myself advancing new knowledge, hugely contributing to searching for workable solutions aimed at poverty reduction. The program is truly rewarding.
- Current PhD candidate Samuel Ariong

Graduate research completions