Dr Ibtihal Samarayi


Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies

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.

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.

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.


  • PhD, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Cinema, University of Baghdad - Iraq
  • Diploma of Fine Art, TAFE (NSW)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Newcastle
  • Master of Fine Art, University of Newcastle


  • Fine Art
  • Rufugees


  • Arabic (Fluent)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
220299 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies



Year Award
2004 Encouragement Award


Year Award
2012 Heartlands Refugee Fine Art Prize
2007 The Vice Chancellor's Award for programs that Enhance Learning
University of Newcastle
2005 Royal on The Move Art Exhibition
The Royal Newcastle Hospital
2003 Highly Commanded Sculpture
2002 Winner First Place Photography

Research Award

Year Award
2003 Postgraduate Scholarship Award
University of Newcastle


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Book (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Samarayi I, Refugee to Resident, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, VIC, 153 (2011) [A2]
2009 Lovat 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)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Lovat 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]
DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5270-2_12
Co-authors Terry Lovat
2012 Samarayi 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]
2008 Lovat 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)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Lovat 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]
DOI 10.5296/iss.v1i1.4374
Co-authors Hamed Hosseini, Pamela Nilan, Terry Lovat
2013 Lovat 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]

The experience of job market disadvantage is not a novel phenomenon for some in contemporary Australia, even in the face of embedded equal employment opportunity (EEO) ideals. Thi... [more]

The experience of job market disadvantage is not a novel phenomenon for some in contemporary Australia, even in the face of embedded equal employment opportunity (EEO) ideals. This article addresses the phenomenon of persistent job market disadvantage for some minority groups by presenting new data from a major multi-method study on labor market obstacles for Muslims seeking jobs in Australia. Responses from jobseekers and employment service providers are analyzed together to consider how EEO principles are experienced by Muslims who engage with employment services and move in and out of the labor force. The article proposes that key EEO tenets-freedom from discrimination and support to overcome disadvantage-are not represented at present in many Muslim jobseeker experiences. Furthermore, these same EEO principles appear to be somewhat compromised in employment service provision to Muslim jobseekers and, by extension, to other disadvantaged minority jobseekers. We offer some suggestions as to how the spirit of EEO legislation might be better reflected in support of Muslim jobseekers. It is concluded that an all government approach may be needed to counter the deep mistrust of Muslims in Australian society. © 2013 Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs.

DOI 10.1080/13602004.2013.866346
Co-authors Terry Lovat, Hamed Hosseini, Pamela Nilan
2012 Nilan 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]
Co-authors Pamela Nilan, Terry Lovat

Review (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
1998 Samarayi I, 'SBS Radio (Al Sakaf, S) (1998) [D2]
1998 Samarayi I, 'The Study of Physical, Psychological & Spiritual Wellbeing (Blows, M.) (1998) [D2]

Conference (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Samarayi 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)

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

Other (2 outputs)

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

Report (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Lovat 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]
Co-authors Bill Mitchell, Terry Lovat, Hamed Hosseini, Pamela Nilan

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 1
Total funding $88,000

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

20091 grants / $88,000

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

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
Scheme National Action Plan for funding
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2009
Funding Finish 2009
GNo G0190368
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - Commonwealth
Category 2OPC

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Past Supervision

Year Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2011 PhD The Salvaged Image: A Study of Fairy Tale, Mervyn Peake and the Creative Process
PhD (Humanities), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle

Dr Ibtihal Samarayi


Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies
Academic Division

Casual Lecturer
Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies
Academic Division

Contact Details

Email ibtihal.samarayi@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 43484048
Fax (02) 43484075


Room HO 1.72
Building Humanities Building
Location Ourimbah
10 Chittaway Road
Ourimbah, NSW 2258