PHD Students


Belinda Cash

In Sickness and In Health: The experience of choice for older spousal caregivers in rural communities.

Supervisors: Dr Suzanne Hodgkin, Prof Jeni Warburton

2011 – ongoing (part-time)

This research aims to investigate how assumptions in policy and practice impact on the experience of choice for spousal caregivers.  This multiple methods study involves, first, a critical discourse analysis of current Australian social policies related to older people and their informal caregivers.  Second, the research explores how practitioners in rural and regional areas interpret social policy and understand the constraints within which they operate. The third stage involves exploring the experience of choice and family responsibility from the perspective of caregivers themselves.  Overall, this research will provide a greater depth of understanding to the experience of spousal caregivers in rural Australia, with regards to policy, rural health care practices and those who undertake spousal caregiving.

Diana Nabbumba

Diana will be exploring innovative and sustainable social care models for rural older people in developing countries.

Supervisors: Dr Rachel Winterton, Dr Suzanne Hodgkin.

2017 - ongoing

Emma Ghys

Food insecurity among rural older people.

This research aims to determine the key issues for community dwelling, rural older people have when accessing food.

Supervises: Dr Rachel Winterton, A/Professor Irene Blackberry

2015 – ongoing

This research aims to determine the key issues for community dwelling, rural older people have when accessing food.

Jozette Dellemain

What is rural case management?

Supervisors: Dr Suzanne Hodgkin, Prof Jeni Warburton

2011 - ongoing (part-time)

A recent literature review into case management and rurality revealed major gaps in knowledge about rural case management (Dellemain and Warburton, 2012). To address this gap this project uses a multistage multi-method grounded theory design to build social work theory about rural case management. A constructivist philosophy will be embraced that positions the practitioner as an expert in rural practice.

The first stage of the research will conduct a series of focus groups aimed to draw on rural case managers' knowledge about their work. Information collected during focus groups will inform stage two of the research that will build theory about this area of practice. As the most consistent contributor to case management pedagogy and theory development, social work academics will be invited to participate in a Delphi study at stage two of this research in order to capitalise on social work expertise. In keeping with multiple method research this proposal argues that the use of more than one collection method will encourage multiple and diverse interpretations about practice knowledge.

Ultimately this research aims to strengthen links between research, theory and practice to overcome criticisms about 'ivory towers' often levelled at social work research. In this way the research will build practice theory about rural case management and add to our understanding about this form of practice in rural Australia.

Samantha Clune

Who cares about culture? The impact of health organisations on the health related culture and outcomes of rural individuals and communities.

Supervisors: Dr Rachel Winterton, Professor Tim Marjoribanks and Professor Jane Farmer

2013 – ongoing (part-time)

This project seeks to investigate how community health practices are influenced by interactions between health organisations and community members. A critical ethnographic study exploring the perceptions of various groups of people involved in interactions in and around health organisations is currently underway. Findings will be used to identify mechanisms of cultural transfer and change in order to better inform health service policy and practice in the rural setting

Kaye Ervin

Kaye’s research aims to determine current models of shared decision making in aged care settings and to explore ways of embedding shared decision making in dementia care.

Supervises:A/Professor Irene Blackberry, Dr Helen Haines

2015 – ongoing

The proposed research study will be undertaken in two phases. Phase one will explore residential aged care staff awareness, practices and attitudes to Shared Decision Making as well as organisational culture. Phase two will be a controlled trial which introduces a decision aid in Residential Aged Care Facilities to determine differences in resident and relatives knowledge, readiness and decisional conflict in control and intervention groups.

Natasha Long

The experience of professional identity development for social work graduates in the 21st century.

Supervisors: Dr Suzanne Hodgkin, A/Professor Fiona Gardiner

This research considers how new graduates develop their social work identity given changes to the human services sector over the past two decades.

Jennifer Boak

Masters student.

Can client complexity be measured in a community nursing service?

Supervisor: A/Professor Irene Blackberry

This is a mixed methods study using concept mapping and current task orientation data.


Zoe O’Callaghan

Men on the land: the identities of baby boom farmers in the border country: A narrative ethnography investigating how male farmers within the first wave of babyboomers see themselves as they age.

Supervisors: Prof Jeni Warburton, Dr Anne-Marie Sawyer

2010 – 2014 Completed

This dissertation argues that the long tradition, build up over many generations of inheritance of the family farm, the occupation of farming and the personal identity associated with being a male farmer is under threat, having implications for farmers' ability to age successfully.  This is a narrative ethnography of nine Australian, male, first-wave baby boom farmers living along the borderlands of the Murray River in northern Victoria and southern NSW. Focusing on the farmers' narratives, this study contributes to a better understanding of the problems that arise as ageing farmers struggle to maintain the identity of the good farmer and values of hard work, love of the land and continuity of the family farm.

Dr Jo-Anne Manski Nankervis

Title Professional roles and relationships: A study of insulin initiation in general practice.

Supervisors: A/Prof John Furler, A/Prof Irene Blackberry, Prof Doris Young

2012 – 2015 Completed

Currently the majority of care for people with type 2 diabetes occurs in the general practice setting. However, when insulin is required it is generally not occurring in a timely manner and the majority of people are referred to specialists. This can be an issue given the relative scarcity of endocrinologists and diabetes nurse educators relative to GPs, resulting in a delay in accessing treatment.

It is likely that the success of any model that aims to increase initiation of insulin in general practice will be partly dependent on how health professionals can work together to achieve the desired outcome. Even if insulin is initiated in the general practice setting (regardless of which model is used) there will be circumstances where specialist advice, training and support is required, and hence it is important that these health professionals are engaged and willing to collaborate with GPs and practice nurses. This study will explore the factors which impact on how GPs, practice nurses, endocrinologists and diabetes nurse educators can work together to initiate insulin in the general practice setting and the resultant changes to health professional roles which may result. Although my study is specific to insulin initiation, the findings may have generalisability to other chronic conditions which require health professionals in primary and secondary care to work collaboratively.

Steven Baker

The supportive network: Rural, older people, aged care workers and ICT.

Supervisors: Prof Jeni Warburton, Dr Suzanne Hodgkin, Dr Janice Pascal

2012 – 2016 Completed

This study aims to explore the research question, how can the practice relationship between aged-care workers and older clients be improved via shared access to ICT and the development of a supportive network? The rationale for the dual focus on both practitioners and clients is due to existing bodies of evidence relating to low levels of ICT usage by older adults, as well as social workers' reluctance to embrace ICT (Baker, Warburton, Hodgkin & Pascal, in press). The study involves working within a regional, homeless services agency that provides services to socially isolated and disadvantaged older people. This project utilises network action research as the primary research methodology. This approach is a variant of action research, and encompasses techniques that draw on a range of established action research tools. It is not driven by technology but rather sees technology as being increasingly integrated with everyday life. Further, network action research draws on Castells theory of the network society (Castells 2011), which provides the theoretical framework for this study.

Heather Downey

What are the factors impacting on ageing farming couples' retirement decision making in the contemporary context?

Supervisors: Dr Guin Threlkeld, Prof Jeni Warburton

2010 – 2017 Completed

This study examines factors impacting on ageing farming couple's retirement decision making within a challenging socio-economic cultural context surrounding farming in Australia. The first stage comprises an analysis of how older farmers are positioned in the discourse around the most significant policy development impacting on them, the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan (Downey et al., 2013). This stage involved a Foucauldian discourse analysis, examining themes of power to explore how ageing farmers are positioned in micro, mezzo and macro social and economic systems. This provides a backdrop for the study. The second stage of the study involves utilising a narrative approach to explore the experiences of generational farming couples as they look towards retirement. Interviewing couples together provides a unique perspective of this study, and permits understanding of how decisions are made, how couples construct and tell a joint story, conflicting stories and the dominance of one person's voice or version of events.

Tshepo Rasekaba

Telemedicine for diabetes management: A hospital-GP shared care management of hospital initiated insulin therapy for gestational diabetes mellitus.

Supervisors: A/Prof John Furler, A/Prof Irene Blackberry, A/Prof Kwang Lim

2013 – 2017 Completed

Poorly controlled blood glucose level (BGL) in gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is associated with poorer prenatal outcomes. At least 50% of women with GDM need insulin to control BGL during pregnancy. In the early stages of insulin commencement, women with GDM often require intensive and frequent support for insulin titration and troubleshooting. Faced with other life's competing demands, and a high demand for endocrinology services which are largely hospital centralised, telemedicine offers a plausible intervention strategy to support insulin management for GDM and share care with general practice. This project will investigate a pervasive telemonitoring solution in managing GDM, and its impact on clinical and health service outcomes.