Our research programs

Victoria University has consolidated its research activity. From 2018 research of the Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing (CCDW) is located within the Institute of Sustainable & Liveable Cities.

Our research programs are the heart of the Centre. They explore the nexus between cultural diversity and wellbeing through cutting-edge research, advancing knowledge and debate within disciplines, and contributing to broader knowledge, policies and agendas for social and community wellbeing.

We aim to build research concentrations, facilitate research teams and engage VU researchers in national and international disciplinary debates and networks.

Two people communicating and smiling

Research programs

A shared focus in our research streams is investigating the complex relationship between cultural diversity and wellbeing, rather than treating 'diversity' and 'wellbeing' as separate domains.

The programs will support major competitive grant and publication activity through active research teams with strong trans-disciplinary expertise. Relationships with key external partners, both new and existing, national and international, are a critical element of our approach.

In order to foster dynamic, collegial and enriching research environments within the University, each program contains seminar series, workshops, roundtables, forums and a range of postgraduate supervision and research opportunities.

Culture and values in health

Led by Associate Professor Craig Fry

This program draws from the theory and methods of psychology, public health, bioethics and the social sciences to conduct rigorous and real-world relevant research and analysis. Our expertise spans the areas of: public commentary and debate; community engagement and participation; policy analysis; mixed methods empirical research; new research methods and new data; grants development; and research mentoring and supervision.

The broad aims of this interdisciplinary program are to examine the role of culture and values in health, and communicate new knowledge in this area to inform policy, practice and other community-led interventions in the health and wellbeing space. The program focuses on public policy issues in areas including (but not limited to): alcohol and drug use and misuse; food choices; drugs health policy; social technology use and innovation in health; and science and technology studies.

Driving our work here is a desire to look beyond the simplistic definition of health as merely individual behaviour and physical states. We seek to identify the wider ideas, customs, beliefs and value positions that underpin government, institutional, practitioner, academic, and community definitions of health and health identity that are not routinely made explicit in public policy debates.

Key questions guiding the Culture and Values in Health research program include:

  • How is health defined and regulated by governments, institutions, and professions in different settings?
  • What roles do the ideas, customs, and normative beliefs of different groups and communities play in how health is defined and lived?
  • How do certain types of health identity influence the health outcomes of groups and individuals? What opportunities exist here for positive intervention?

The ways in which health is defined and lived has direct implications for public policy making and outcomes at the level of both individuals and populations. A richer understanding of the role of culture and values here is crucial.

Mobilities, transitions and resilience

Led by Professor Michele Grossman

This stream advances research related to cultural diversity and settling well, coping with change and thriving in new settings. It addresses major research questions, generating knowledge around movement and transitions (of individuals, communities, identities, languages, cultures and economies); change and negotiation (of place, identity, social connectedness, and knowledge frames); and the conditions necessary for thriving and building resilience within and across intersecting cultural, religious, national, political, ethnic and social settings.

We seek to build project teams with expertise across the humanities and social sciences and also key community and government partners. Our research focus covers:

  • Mobilities - mobility and identity in public spaces; community mobilities in transnational settings; analysis of community formations and disarticulations through social and new media; mobility and affective economies for refugees and new arrivals; physical mobility and social connectedness in culturally diverse communities; mobile sexualities and cultural diversity.
  • Transitions - comparative psychosocial adaptive and coping mechanisms in adjusting to resettlement across cultures; the role of creative production and play in managing personal and cultural transitions; cultural diversity and family counselling service provision; mechanisms for transculturation in established community settings.
  • Resilience - new understandings of 'everyday' community resilience beyond crisis and disaster planning; strengths-based approaches to identifying and operationalising resilience across cultures; resilience and cultural diversity in ageing populations; comparative international perspectives and models for resilience against violent extremism.

Join the centre

If you are interested in becoming a part of CCDW, you can join the centre to become a member or affiliate if you are a VU staff member or a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) student.

Current projects

Mobilities, Transitions and Resilience Program (Prof. Michele Grossman, Program Leader)

  • The role of women in supporting and countering violent extremism in Australia (2015-16). Prof. Michele Grossman, Dr Hussein Tahiri (Victoria Police/CCDW) and Dr Susan Carland. Funded by Attorney-General’s Department. This project investigates the ways in which women’s roles within both terrorist and countering violent extremism networks are transforming in the current environment of volatile narratives and risks emanating from global policy, government, law enforcement and community shifts in the contemporary terrorism landscape.
  • Research Evaluation of AFL Bachar Houli Academy and Muslim Youth Employment Program (2016-17). A/Prof. Ramon Spaaij, Prof. M Grossman and Dr Mario Peucker, Funded by Australian Football League. This project evaluates an innovative new program using opportunities in the sports industry to engage and develop the professional skills and abilities of young Australian Muslim men and women.
  • Research-based Evaluation of NSW Community Advice and Support Service, Attorney-General’s Department (2016-2018). Prof. Michele Grossman and Dr Hass Dellal AO (Australian Multicultural Foundation). Funded by Attorney-General’s Department. This research evaluation assesses the effectiveness and impact of a ground-breaking new service designed to offer information, resources and support to families and friends worried about someone close to them who may be radicalising to violence.
  • Community Reporting Thresholds: Sharing Information with Authorities Concerning Violent Extremist Activity and Involvement in Foreign Conflict: A Replication Study (2016-17). Prof. Paul Thomas (Huddersfield University,UK) and Prof. Michele Grossman. Funded by Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), Economic and Social Research Council, UK. This project replicates, with an expanded data set in three different UK locations, a 2015 Australian study investigating the experiences, concerns, thresholds and support needs for community reporting to authorities by family and friends who know or suspect someone close to them is involved in violent extremist activity.
  • Youth Resilience to Violent Extremism: A Standardised Measure (2016-17). Prof. Michele Grossman and Prof. Michael Ungar Ungar (Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University, Canada). Funded by Attorney-General’s Department. This project builds on two earlier research studies conducted separately in Canada and Australia on young people’s resilience to violent extremism to develop a standardised, cross-national and cross-cultural measure of the resources that young people mobilise to resist involvement in social and political violence.
  • Interviewing families of young people who have travelled to participate in violent conflict (2016-17). Prof. Michele Grossman, Dr Vivian Gerrand and Victorian Arabic Social Services (VASS). Funded by Research Institute on Social Cohesion, Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet. This project explores the perspectives and experience of families of young people who have travelled overseas to join violent conflict, and what education and training resources for communities can help them address these issues at an early stage of concern.
  • Understanding the relationship between online and offline social influence in radicalisation leading to violent extremism (2015-2018). Dr Debra Smith, Prof. Michele Grossman and A/Prof. Ramon Spaaij (VU) and Dr Steven Talbot (DST Group). Co-funded by Defence Science and Technology Group/VU Industry Partner Postdoctoral Research Program. This three-year postdoctoral fellowship, led by Dr Debra Smith, explores the relationship between social interactions both online and in face to face encounters, with a specific focus on the roles played by emotion in how social influence is mobilised in such exchanges.

Culture and Values in Health (Associate Professor Craig Fry, Program Leader)

  • Evidence-based ethical guidelines to support e-health research and practice in Australia. This program incorporates the first empirical research on e-health ethics in Australia, and is internationally unique in scope and outcomes. The findings will inform the science, practice, ethical review, and uptake of e-health research and practice. This will help to improve the outcomes of e-health prevention, treatment and non-intervention innovations for the ultimate benefit of e-health participants and target groups.
  • Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Contact Associate Professor Craig Fry for more information.
    Drugs and doping in Australian cycling: History, current practices, health risks, and policy implications. This study examines the attitudes, experiences, and practices of Australian competition cyclists and other key stakeholders about drug use and doping in cycling, health risks, and related opinions about drug testing policies and procedures. As important context to the research, this study will also undertake the first historical analysis of drugs and doping in Australian competition cycling dating back to the 1800s.
    Funded by Victoria University. Contact Associate Professor Craig Fry for more information.

Vivian Gerrand

  • Understanding Youth Resilience to Violent Extremism: A Standardised Measure
  • Interviewing Families of Young People who have Joined Overseas Conflict

Mario Peucker

  • The civic potential of Muslim Australian community organisations for promoting inclusion and social cohesion. Based on a large-scale survey and a series of interviews, this research generates, for the first time in Victoria, an evidence-based quantitative picture of the various activities and services offered by Muslim community organisations, such as settlement and religious services, language courses and other educational programs, counselling services, leisure, recreation and cultural activities, advocacy, and wider community and cross-community engagement initiatives. These activities and services are systematically documented and analysed through the lens of their direct or indirect contribution to promoting community wellbeing and social cohesion.
    The one-year project is being undertaken in cooperation with the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) and funded internally through Victoria University’s Central Research Grant Scheme.
  • Muslim community youth work as a means to prevent and redress radicalisation. The project explores Muslim community work in Germany, aimed at preventing or mitigating violent radicalisation among young Muslim. Focussing on a number of community-based initiatives it explores their rationale, approach, experiences as well as challenges and effects. Particular attention will be paid to the cooperation between Muslim community organisations and policy-makers, authorities and other non-Muslim stakeholders. These case studies will help researchers, policymakers, and communities both in Germany and Australia gain new perspectives and practical insights into how to strengthen Muslim community organisations as key stakeholders in the struggle against violent radicalisation.
    The project is a cooperation project with the University of Osnabruck (Professor Rauf Ceylan) and co-funded by the Universities Australia (UA) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) within their Joint Research Cooperation Scheme.
  • Active citizenship on the edge? Muslims’ civic engagement in Islamic community groups from the mainstream to the fringes. This research examines the experiences of Muslims who volunteer for a range of different Muslim community organisations in Australia, exploring their community activism, from social harmony-driven engagement to ‘citizenship on the edge’, performed in opposition to the parameters of ‘good' citizenship in Australia. Why do Muslims choose to volunteer for a certain community group and how do they experience their engagement within these community organisations? And what are the implications of their community activism for their sense of belonging, social networks, trust, civic skills, attitudes towards diversity and other elements of cohesive diverse societies?
    The study will advance empirical and theoretical knowledge on Muslims’ civic engagement in a community context, exploring the boundaries between perceived legitimate and illegitimate forms of active citizenship, including modes of 'dissenting' citizenship.

Debra Smith

  • Understanding the relationship between online and offline social influence in radicalisation leading to violent extremism. This research uses the lens of social influence to examine how online identities interact and merge with offline identities in order to either facilitate or challenge the appeal of violent political behaviour. The project will generate new theoretical, conceptual and applied knowledge about the ways that social influence may be mediated by the relationship between online and offline social technologies in extremist social networks. The benefits of this research program will flow specifically to international academic, defence and national security communities

Research supervision

Our staff are available for student supervision in areas relating to health, wellbeing, community, cultural and social resilience, cultural diversity, terrorism and counter-terrorism and creative arts approaches to representing social diversity and social issues. This includes research supervision on topics including:

  • post-refugee identities, belonging and wellbeing
  • transnational experiences of Sudanese community life and identity
  • cultural diversity, youth and policing
  • sport, community and social inclusion
  • countering violent extremism, cultural diversity and community engagement
  • writing across cultures - literature and representation
  • interdisciplinary approaches to negotiating cultural identity and cultural difference, including creative writing projects
  • active citizenship and community belonging
  • the role of emotions in terrorist and counter-terrorist discourse
  • ethical challenges in research on illicit and stigmatised behaviour
  • public health ethics
  • addiction and moral identity
  • ethical and policy implications of e-health research and practice
  • illicit drug epidemiology and surveillance
  • drug policy

Contact us

Find out more about our research programs and Research by Higher Degree opportunities through supervision in CCDW by contacting us directly.