The Social Research in Health Program focuses on exploring the intersections of social change, culture, medicine/psychiatry, disability, biotechnology, lived experiences of health and illness, informal care, and digital media and narrative in health communication. SRH is dedicated to understanding health and illness experiences in social context; supporting people’s active engagement in maintaining their health; and transforming care through influencing policy, practice and education. Our research draws on an inclusive methodology focused upon community involvement and participation. It includes national and international interdisciplinary partnerships with researchers from the critical social sciences, humanities, medicine, law, creative arts, and critical disability studies. We also engage with a wide range of industry partners in relevant cross-sector collaborations.


  • Explore how the economic, political, cultural and subjective aspects of social life, including emerging health technologies and social change, shape the experience of health, illness and care for people living in Australia and their communities.
  • Understand lived experience of health and illness, and of caring (informally or in a professional capacity) for those experiencing illness or disability, in order to contribute towards greater equity in health, more inclusive health and social care practices, and support for people to make informed decisions about their health and healthcare.
  • Inform and contribute to the efforts of informal carers, clinicians, social care practitioners and policymakers to build their capacity for effective interaction with health service users, and development of more equitable and better quality health and social care for all Australian residents.

These aims will be achieved through a range of knowledge translation co-design activities, utilising SRH’s long-established program research underpinning Healthtalk Australia (see below), a unique online audio-visual database of health and illness experiences and related resources.

Key research areas

Health & Illness, Mind & Body

This well-established body of work explores lived experiences of mental and physical health and illness beyond the physiological processes that are the focus of biomedical science. It has two major themes:

  • exploring subjective accounts of experiences which are often pathologized or stigmatized, including experiences of receiving psychiatric diagnoses and ‘addiction’.
  • exploring subjective accounts of experiences of living with long term physical illness or health-related conditions, including cancer and reproductive health, and associated emotional distress.

Narrative and phenomenological research approaches are used to investigate how uncertainties surrounding experiences of living with psychiatric diagnoses, disability, and long-term physical illness or health conditions impact on and change people’s values, habits, beliefs, relationships, bodies, sense of self, and their perception of the world, with the aim of improving public understandings of these experiences. Investigation of the experiences of informal carers and health and social care practitioners is an integral part of Health & Illness, Body & Mind research.

Projects within the Health & Illness, Mind & Body Key Research Area foster interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaborations as well as the participation of people with lived experiences of health and illness and informal carers.

Healthtalk Australia

Healthtalk Australia is a unique online repository of research-based health and illness experiences presented in an array of formats – film, audio and text. Individual research projects within SRH underpin development of a series of online resources, each centred on a different health or illness experience. With the aim of supporting people experiencing illness and informal carers, educating health and social care practitioners, and informing policymakers, Healthtalk Australia’s online resources form a key plank of SRH’s research translation strategy.

As a member of DIPEX International (along with 18 other universities or research institutions across Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East), Healthtalk Australia is part of an interdisciplinary, international collaboration of researchers utilising narrative methods to explore health and illness experiences to create publicly available online resources and contribute to scholarly debates on patient-centred perspectives on health and illness.

Ageing well in health and illness

Globally, life expectancy continues to rise. This research theme focuses on supporting the fundamental changes to health and social care systems required to address the needs of ageing populations, including these living with dementia. Work within the Ageing well in health and illness Key Research Area will explore how improvements to our physical and social environments and better use of technology can support better quality of life for older people, both in relation to and beyond the health sector. This is an emerging area of work for the SRH Program and we invite researchers interested in these topics to contact us to explore potential collaborations.

Recent Publications



Kokanović, R., & Michaels, P. & Johnston-Ataata, K. (eds) (2018) Paths to Parenthood: Emotions on the Journey through Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Early Parenting. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Book Chapters

Michaels, P. & Kokanović, R. (2018) The complex and contradictory emotional paths to parenthood. In R. Kokanović & P. Michaels (eds) with K. Johnston-Ataata. Paths to Parenthood: Emotions on the Journey through Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Early Parenting. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Stone, M. & Kokanović, R. (2018) Narrating and disrupting postnatal depression. In R. Kokanović & P. Michaels (eds) with K. Johnston-Ataata. Paths to Parenthood: Emotions on the Journey through Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Early Parenting. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Johnston-Ataata, K., Kokanović, R. & Michaels, P. (2018) ‘One of the most vulnerable times in your life’: Expectations and emotional experiences of support in the early postnatal period. In R. Kokanović & P. Michaels (eds) with K. Johnston-Ataata. Paths to Parenthood: Emotions on the Journey through Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Early Parenting. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Journal Articles

Kokanović, R., Brophy, L., McSherry, B., Flore, J., Moeller-Saxone, K. & Herrman, H. (2018) Supported decision-making from the perspectives of mental health service users, family members supporting them and mental health practitioners. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (ANZJP).

Bowman, D., Kokanović, R. & Parker, J. (eds) (2018) Representing trauma: Honouring broken narratives. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 17(1): 3-181.

Knight, F., Kokanović, R., Ridge, D., Brophy, L., Hill, N., Johnston-Ataata, K., Herrman, H. (2018). Supported Decision-Making: The Expectations Held by People With Experience of Mental Illness In: Qualitative Health Research, 28,6, 1002 – 1015.

Stone, M., Kokanović, R. & Broom, A. (2018). Care(less) encounters: early maternal distress and the haunted clinic In: Subjectivity, 1 – 20

Urbanowicz, A., Ciccone, N., Girdler, S., Leonard, H. & Downs, J. (2018) Choice making in Rett syndrome: A descriptive study using video data. Disability and Rehabilitation. 40(7): 813-819.

Flore, J. (2018) Pharmaceutical intimacy: managing female sexuality through Addyi. Sexualities. 21(4): 569-586.

An, A., McPherson, L., & Urbanowicz, A. (2018) Health Living: A health promotion program for adults with intellectual disabilityDisability and Health Journal. 

Kokanović, R. & Stone, M. (2018) Listening to what cannot be said: Broken narratives and the lived body. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 17(1): 20-31.

Božić-Vrbančić, S., Kokanović, R. & Kupsjak, J. (2018) “I am tired from all of these feelings”: Narrating suffering in the film ‘Sick.’ Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 17(1): 69-83.

Savic, M., Dilkes-Frayne, E., Carter, A., Kokanović, R., Manning, V., Rodda, S. & Lubman, D. (2018) Making multiple ‘online counsellings’ through policy and practice: An evidence-making intervention approach. International Journal of Drug Policy. 53: 73-82.


Journal Articles

Addicott, F. Thomas, S.D.M., Ogloff, J.R.P., & Daffern, M. (2017) Frequency and characteristics of police involvement in potentially criminal behaviour in disability services. Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Ching, H., Daffern, M., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2017). A comparison of offending trajectories in violent youth according to violence typeCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 27, 8-14.

Crofts, N., & Thomas, S. (2017). Invited Commentary: Law enforcement and public health: Finding common ground and global solutions to disparities in health and in access to criminal justiceJournal of Community Safety and Wellbeing; 2(3), 74-75.

Dilkes-Frayne, ..,Fraser, S.,Pienaar, K.,Kokanovic, R. (2017). Iterating ‘addiction’: Residential relocation and the spatio-temporal production of alcohol and other drug consumption patternsIn: International Journal of Drug Policy, 44, 164 – 173

Flore, J. (2017). Intimate tablets: digital advocacy and post-feminist pharmaceuticals In: Feminist Media Studies, 1 – 16

Flore, J. (2017). Pharmaceutical intimacy: Managing female sexuality through Addyi In: Sexualities, 1 – 18

Fraser, S.,Pienaar, K.,Dilkes-Frayne, .,Moore, D.,Kokanovic, R.,Treloar, C.,Dunlop, A. (2017). Addiction stigma and the biopolitics of liberal modernity: A qualitative analysis In: International Journal of Drug Policy, 44, 192 – 201

Kesic, D., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2017). Attempted suspect-provoked shootings in Victoria: Prevalence and CharacteristicsPolicing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 40(4), 704-718.

Kinghorn, G., Halcomb, E.J., Froggatt, T., & Thomas, S. (2017). Transitioning into new clinician areas of practice: an integrative review of the literatureJournal of Clinical Nursing, 26, 4223-4233

Kokanovic, R.,Flore, J. (2017). Subjectivity and illness narratives In: Subjectivity, 10, 329 – 339

Kokanovic, R.,Stone, M. (2017). (In Press) Listening to what cannot be said: Broken narratives and the lived body In: Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 1 – 12

McTackett L.J., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2017). Police perceptions of irrational unstable behaviours and use of forceJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 32; 163-171.  DOI: 10.1007/S11896-016-9212-Y

Nixon, M., Thomas, S.D.M., Ogloff, J.R.P. & Daffern, M. (2017). Estimating the risk of crime and victimisation in people with an intellectual disability: a data linkage studySocial Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52(5),617-626. DOI:10.1007/s00127-017-1371-3

Ridge, D.,Broom, A.,Kokanovic, R.,Ziebland, S.,Hill, N. (2017). Depression at work, authenticity in question: Experiencing, concealing and revealing In: Health, 1 – 18

Sowerby, A., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2017). A mixed methods study of the mental health and criminal justice histories of missing personsPolice Practice and Research: An International Journal, 18, 87-98.

Thomas, S.D.M., & Watson, A.C. (2017). A focus for mental health training for police. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice,3(2), 93-104.  DOI:10.1108/JCRPP-01-2017-0005

Watson, R., Daffern, M., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2017). The impact of interpersonal style and interpersonal complementarity on the therapeutic alliance between therapists and offenders in sex offender treatmentSexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 29(2), 107-127. DOI: 10.1177/1079063215580969

Research Reports

Kokanović, R., Brophy, L., McSherry, B., Hill, N., Johnston-Ataata, K., Moeller-Saxone, K. & Herrman, H. (2017) Options for Supported Decision-Making to enhance the recovery of people experiencing severe mental health problems. Melbourne: Melbourne Social Equity Institute. 1-74.

Piennar, K., Dilkes-Frayne, E., Fraser, S., Kokanović, R., Moore, D., Treloar, C. & Dunlop, A. (2017) Experiences of alcohol and other drug addiction, dependence or habit in Australia: Findings and recommendations from a national qualitative study. Melbourne: National Drug Research Institute. 1-61.

Book Chapters

Sowerby, A., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2017). AustraliaIn C.J Schreck (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Juvenile Delinquency and Justice. Wiley-Blackwell.

Rudd, C., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2016). The prevalence, mental health and criminal characteristics of potential problem gamblers in a substance using populationInternational Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 17, 700-714.


Journal Articles

Cashman, E.L., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2016). Does mental illness impact the incidence of offending and victimisation among young people? A case linkage study. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law.

Flore, J. (2016). The problem of sexual imbalance and techniques of the self in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders In: History of Psychiatry, 27, 320 – 335.

Fogden, B., Thomas, S.D.M., Daffern, M. & Ogloff, J.R.P. (2016). Criminal victimisation and offending in an Australian sample of people with intellectual disabilities: A case linkage studyBMC Psychiatry, 16:170.

Henshaw, M., Spivak, B., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2016). Striking the right balance: Police experience, perceptions and use of the Independent Third Person during interviews involving people with intellectual disabilityJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities.

Stone, M.,Kokanovic, R. (2016). “Halfway towards recovery”: Rehabilitating the relational self in narratives of postnatal depression In: Social Science and Medicine, 163, 98 – 106.

Pienaar, K.,Moore, D.,Fraser, S.,Kokanovic, R.,Treloar, C.,Dilkes-Frayne, . (2016). Diffracting addicting binaries: An analysis of personal accounts of alcohol and other drug ‘addiction In: Health, 21, 519 – 537.

McKinnon, I.G., Thomas, S., Noga, H.L., & Senior, J. (2016). Police custody healthcare: A review of health morbidity, models of care and innovations within police custody in the UK, with international comparisonsRisk Management and Healthcare Policy, 9, 213-216.

Shepherd, S., Ogloff, J.R.P., & Thomas, S.D.M. (2016). Are Australian prisons meeting the needs of Indigenous offenders? Health and Justice, 4:13.

Urbanowicz, A., Downs, J., Girdler, S., Ciccone, N. & Leonard, H. (2016) An exploration of the use of eye gaze and gestures in females with Rett syndrome. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research. 59(6): 1373-1383.

Urbanowicz, A., Leonard, H., Girdler, S., Ciccone, N. & Downs, J. (2016) Parental perspectives on the communication abilities of their daughters with Rett syndrome. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. 19(1): 17-25


Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood in Australian Families

An exploration of the emotional experiences of becoming a parent in Australia, from conception through to early parenthood, in all kinds of families.

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Online Alcohol and Other Drug Counselling Encounters & Experiences

Interdisciplinary research program exploring client experiences of online alcohol and other drug counselling

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The Intersection of Cancer & Culture: A Sociological Study

The purpose of this study is to examine what living with cancer means for individuals, communities and families from a migrant background

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Early Menopause: Perspectives of women and health practitioners

A project exploring the experiences of women with early menopause and the perspectives of health practitioners who care for women with this condition.

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Mental Health and Supported Decision Making: Lived Experience and Family Carers’ Stories

A research project investigating the lived experience of severe mental health problems and supported decision-making (SDM) from multiple perspectives.

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Key People


Professor Renata Kokanovic

Professor Renata Kokanovic

Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow

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Dr Kate Johnston-Ataata

Dr Kate Johnston-Ataata

Research Fellow

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Dr Jacinthe Flore

Dr Jacinthe Flore


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Professor Katherine Johnson

Professor Katherine Johnson


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Dr Anna Urbanowicz

Dr Anna Urbanowicz

Vice Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow

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Professor Stuart Thomas

Professor Stuart Thomas


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Dr Chris Maylea

Dr Chris Maylea


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Dr Nicholas Hill

Dr Nicholas Hill


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Higher Degree Research Students

  • Elizabeth Hudson
  • Amber Domberelli      

Collaborators within RMIT

  • Dr Cameron Duff
  • Professor Tania Lewis
  • Professor Larissa Hjorth
  • Associate Professor Anne Harris
  • Professor Anna Hickey-Moody
  • Dr Jonathan Duckworth

Key Industry Partners

  • Victorian Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS)
  • Mind Australia
  • Wellways
  • Neami National
  • Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council,
  • Tandem Carers
  • beyondblue
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Monash Health
  • Women’s Health Victoria
  • Endocrine Society of Australia
  • Breast Cancer Network Australia
  • Healthdirect Australia
  • Australasian Menopause Society
  • Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital Foundation
  • Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital
  • Liverpool Hospital
  • South Eastern Sydney Local Health District

External Collaborators

  • Professor Helen Herrman
  • Professor Bernadette McSherry
  • Associate Professor Lisa Brophy
  • Dr Ana Dragojlovic
  • Professor Dan Lubman
  • Dr Adrian Carter
  • Dr Michael Savic
  • Dr Ella Dilkes-Frayne
  • Professor Alex Broom
  • Associate Professor Lorraine Smith
  • Dr Meredith Stone
  • Professor Carolyn Stevens
  • Associate Professor Paula Michaels
  • Professor Loretta Baldassar
  • Dr Emma Kirby
  • Dr Sophie Lewis
  • Professor Helena Teede
  • Associate Professor Amanda Vincent
  • Dr Jacqui Boyle
  • Professor Martha Hickey
  • Professor Damien Ridge
  • Professor Sue Ziebland
  • Dr Fauzia Knight

Related Content

News & Blog

Why the physical health of people with mental illness is a critical human rights issue

Originally published on on Apr 7, 2019 Editor Mellisa Sweet Author Marie McInerney The harmful effects of mental health treatments – especially medication but also seclusion and restraint – were much-discussed at a recent symposium seeking to address health inequalities experienced by people with mental health conditions. Efforts to improve the physical health of […]

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