The University of Newcastle, Australia

Our Human Experience podcast

A podcast from the School of Humanities and Social Science examining what it means to be human.

The researchers of the School of Humanities and Social Science examine all facets of what it means to be human. This podcast series explores important questions about humanity, society and current events. Join us for thought-provoking conversations with our humanities and social science scholars who are helping to improve the human experience through their research. Episodes are released on a monthly basis.

Latest episodes


2020 Episode 5 - Public health policy in practice with Assoc Prof Penny Buykx

During the corona virus pandemic, we have realised just how important public health policy is. In this interview we talk to behavioural scientist Associate Professor Penny Buykx about her research into public health and implications for alcohol and substance use. Human’s are disposed to addiction and we do things that are detrimental to our health even though we may know it’s not good for us. Penny unpacks this and shares with us her research that is helping inform public health policy around alcohol pricing and what insights she has discovered regarding the public’s perception of the link between alcohol and cancer.


2020 Episode 4 - Landscape, language and culture with Assoc Prof Bill Palmer

Language is something all humans are born with a capacity to develop - children learn language without effort - so it is a fundamental thing that is unique to humans. But how does where you live influence the way you speak? Associate Professor Bill Palmer studies linguistics and his latest research project aims to determine how culture and social diversity interact with landscape in representing physical space in the minds and grammars of speakers of Australian Indigenous languages. He is collecting data from 6 Australian Indigenous languages that are endangered to inform us of how the landscape in which we live impacts what words we use. He also shares with us his confronting experiences of living on remote islands while completing his field work and warns that we are facing a dire situation with many of the world’s languages facing extinction.


2020 Episode 3 - Disentangling identity, work and economic value with Dr David Farrugia

With COVID-19 restrictions forcing many in the hospitality industry out of work, Dr David Farrugia warns that now could be a time of crisis for young people whose identities are closely entangled with their work. A sociologist whose work examines how youth identities are created through the dynamics of work in contemporary societies, Dr Farrugia says that his research has revealed that work for young people has come to occupy centre stage.

In this episode we talk to David who is leading research which shows that youth identities are critical sources of value in the hopsitality industry and not necessarily because of their work skills, but more to their youthful attributes.


2020 Episode 2 - The history of domestic service with Prof Victoria Haskins

This month we feature historian Professor Victoria Haskins who shares with us the intriguing family history discovery that sparked her wonderful academic journey. We ask her what the historical experiences and cultural memories of the earliest global domestic workers tell us about the history of home, domesticity and cross-cultural relationships. We also learn about Victoria's latest project which will see her revealing the stories of the incredibly mobile women known as the Ayahs and Amahs from India and China. These female domestic care workers travelled to Australian and Britain during the period of British colonialism and helped to shape our world today.


2020 Episode 1 - Australia's environmental history with Assoc Prof Nancy Cushing

In this episode we speak with Associate Professor Nancy Cushing, an environmental historian with an interest in air pollution as well as human animal relations. Nancy answers the question of whether the air pollution resulting from the recent bushfires was unprecedented, and also gives us an insight into why Australians eat so much meat.


2019 Episode 9 - Alumni stories - Dr Georgina Ramsay on refugees and displacement

In this episode we talk to Dr Georgina Ramsay, an Alumni of the University of Newcastle and Assistant Professor, University of Delaware. Georgina’s work and research has had significant global impact and has emerged as a leading critical voice regarding current issues of displacement, humanitarianism, and the global refugee regime.  She is a socio-cultural anthropologist at the University of Delaware, USA and has conducted research with refugees from Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo across settings of asylum in Uganda and resettlement in Australia.


2019 Episode 8 - Digital humanities: looking to the past to understand our future

In this episode, Associate Professor Trisha Pender speaks with Dr Erin McCarthy about her research using digital humanities methods and tools as applied to early modern literature and historical texts. They discuss what these tools can reveal to us about how people in the past wrote and communicated and how we can apply that knowledge to our rapidly changing world today.


2019 Episode 7 - More than just a language: UON's French literature teaching and research

In this episode we talk with Associate Professor Alistair Rolls, a leading expert on 20th Century French literature, and Dr Marie-Laure Vuaille-Barcan, a French language and literature academic, who are both teaching their students to think laterally. They talk about how examining literature in a foreign language can take students out of their comfort zone and into a place where they can think critically and deeply.


2019 Episode 6 - Equity in higher education

In this episode Head of School of the Humanities and Social Science Professor Catharine Coleborne talks with Professor Penny Jane Burke, Global Innovation Chair of Equity, who explains equity in the higher education context and what it means to her as a sociologist of education. This interview also reflects on current practices in universities around equity and the student educational experience.


2019 Episode 5 - Positive humanity and social work in practice

In this episode we talk with Dr Tamara Blakemore about the purpose of social workers in today’s modern world, how the prevalence of trauma is changing the face of social work, about the new and popular Violence and Trauma course at UON and the role  of UON’s new social work in the city space.


2019 Episode 4 - Slavery, its history and connections to the present

In this episode we talk with Dr Kit Candlin, a historian of violence and early modern specialist of the Atlantic world. An authority on the history of slavery, Dr Candlin’s research examines empires that looked out on the Atlantic Ocean from 1400-1840. He describes how the study of the history of slavery can help us understand the modern world and its own forms of ‘slavery’ such as low wages, the poverty cycle, sex slavery and debt bondage. He comments on how slavery has shaped our modern economic systems. Dr Candlin reflects on how studying slavery and coming across some of the most unimaginable punishments and social arrangements has affected him.


2019 Episode 3 - The future of higher education

Head of School of the Humanities and Social Science Professor Catharine Coleborne talks to Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Professor Darrell Evans before he moves onto new, exciting ventures. They discuss Professor Evans' own career and leadership in higher education and reflect on the introduction of online learning and in particular the Bachelor of Arts Online and how to meet the needs of students while also ensuring they are not isolated while learning by distance. They discuss how the higher education landscape has changed and what challenges the sector faces into the future.


2019 Episode 2 - Becoming a story teller and creative writing in Newcastle

In this episode we talk with poet and Creative Writing research higher degree supervisor Dr Keri Glastonbury. Dr Glastonbury talks about how storytelling is an intrinsic part of being human, her book Newcastle Sonnets which is devoted to the gentrification of Newcastle, about the thriving creative writing scene in Newcastle and The School of Humanities and Social Science's involvement in the Newcastle Writers Festival.


2019 Episode 1 - True crime and the Australian justice system

In this episode we talk with Forensic Anthropologist and Criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett and discuss gender-based bias in the criminal justice system and the impact news and social media can have – for good and bad – on the outcome of trials. Dr Mallett has been involved in the cases of Kathleen Folbigg
and Keli Lane - women convicted of murdering their children. She gives her take on the evidence presented in their cases and why she believes they are innocent. Dr Mallett also discusses her forthcoming book on Australian true crime and tells us why she believes there are more unsolved murders that are
likely linked to notorious backpacker killer Ivan Milat.

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