Research students

The Centre for Sport and Social Impact has a vibrant postgraduate research culture, with a wide range of professional development events and expert supervision.

To discuss the possibilities of undertaking postgraduate research at Masters or Doctoral level with the Centre, please contact the Director of CSSI, Professor Matthew Nicholson.

CSSI PhD Candidates

Katie Buckley

Title: Voice of the Game: Voice Use and Vocal Health of High Performance Sports Coaches

Supervisors: Dr Paul O'Halloran (Principal), Dr Jennifer Oates and Dr Mandy Ruddock-Hudson (Co-Supervisors)

Summary: This collaborative case-study research considers how elite sports coaches use and experiences their voices. The research was piloted with an Australian National's team at an international, World Championship qualification tournament, in Asia. The research proper was undertaken with 9 high performance basketball teams (29 coaches) through 1-2 basketball seasons. Katie worked with coaches at each team to identify aspects of workplace environments (physical and organisation), job tasks and coaching behaviours that influenced coaches' voices. Together, they then developed, implemented and evaluated voice support strategies across competition season(s). It is intended that findings from this mixed-methods research will culminate in the development of a conceptual model for better understanding coaches' (and other occupations) experience of voice use and vocal health.


  • Buckley, K.L., O’Halloran, P.D., & Oates, J.M. (2015). Occupational vocal health of elite sports coaches: An exploratory pilot study of football coaches. Journal of Voice, 29, (4), 476-483.

2013-CSSI-Kirsty-ForsdikeKirsty Forsdike-Young

Title: Participation in Sport, Women's Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing and Connections with Social Capital: an Ethnographic Study of a Women's Hockey Club

Supervisors: Professor Tim Marjoribanks and Dr Anne-Maree Sawyer

Summary: I am exploring how women understand and perceive their sport participation in terms of their mental health and emotional wellbeing and what connections can be made with social capital. I am also looking at how women use the sporting context to construct their identities; how they understand and manage their mental health and emotional wellbeing through their sport participation; and whether this can be linked to features of social capital. This is being done through a combination of ethnographic and auto-ethnographic methods, including interviews and observation within a hockey club.

2013-CSSI-David-GallantDavid Gallant

Title: The role of sport in Australian Prisons

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Nicholson (Principal), Professor Russell Hoye (Co-Supervisor)

Summary: The role of sport and recreation in rehabilitating prisoners within correctional facilities is largely unexplored within the academic literature, despite sport and recreation being present within these facilities for more than a century. The growth in the Australian prison population, the resources allocated to the rehabilitation of prisoners and the little known about the efficacy of sport and recreation within correctional facilities suggests that there is a significant research gap in this area. The purpose of my research is to document the provision and efficacy of organised sport and recreation within Australian adult correctional facilities at the policy level, the administrative level and the inmates experiences.

Youtube clip of my research -

Sophie Knights

Title:  Investigating Flourishing in Elite End of Athletic Career Transition

Supervisors: Dr Emma Sherry and Dr Mandy Ruddock-Hudson

Summary: While literature surrounding transition of sport among elite athletes exists together with literature examining the positive psychology concept, there appears to be no research that has specifically examined the levels of flourishing in retired elite athletes. Instead of focusing on a deficit view, the aim of this research is to highlight the positives. This PhD is via publication and will result in 4-5 publications by the end of the study.

2013-CSSI-David-LowdenDavid Lowden

Working Title: Homosexuality in the AFL

Supervisors: Associate Professor Matthew Nicholson (Principle) and Dr Paul O'Halloran and Dr Lawrie Zion (Co-Supervisors)

Summary: David Lowden is a senior lecturer and also completing his PhD. He is investigating why same-sex attracted AFL players are not open about their sexuality. David's research cuts across a number of academic disciplines and as such his principal supervisor is Dr Matthew Nicholson from the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, along with associate supervision from Dr Lawrie Zion from the same College, and Dr Paul O'Halloran from the College of Science, Health and Engineering.

Hannah MacDougallHannah MacDougall

Title: Investigation of a well-being intervention program in elite Para sport

Supervisors: Dr Emma Sherry (Principle), Dr Paul O'Halloran, and Dr Nora Shields (Co-Supervisors)

Summary: The study aimed to investigate a targeted well-being intervention program for Australian elite Para sport athletes. A mixed-method approach was utilised, guided by well-being theories and coherent well-being models. Value will be created through exploring the multidimensional nature of wellbeing within the targeted population, namely subjective, psychological, and social wellbeing. As a result, it is hoped that future research will be able to identify aspects of well-being that positively contribute to performance in elite Para sport.


  • Macdougall, H.K., O’Halloran, P., Shields, N., & Sherry, E. (2016). Strengths and Needs of Australian Para Athletes: Identifying the Subjective, Psychological, Social, and Physical Health and Well-Being. The Sports Psychologist, 30(1).
  • Macdougall, H.K., O’Halloran, P., Shields, N., & Sherry, E. (2015). Comparing the Well-Being of Para and Olympic Sport Athletes: A Systematic Review. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 32, 256 -276.

2013-CSSI-BiJu-PhilipBiju Philip

Title: The Influence of Structured Sport Coaching in Children's Social Integration and Leadership

Supervisors: Professor Russell Hoye (Supervisor) and Dr Emma Sherry (Co-Supervisor)

Summary: This research study proposes to investigate the potential of sport to foster children's development, mainly in areas such as social integration and leadership. As part of this investigation, a cross-cultural case study will be conducted comparing two cohorts of soccer players, an Australian group comprising middle-class urban (or suburban) children from varying socio-economic backgrounds and an Indian group comprising impoverished urban and rural children. The knowledge gained through this study will help to explore further on the topic to ascertain whether sport is just a flypaper to attract participants to broader social development programs, or an educational medium.

Katherine RawKatherine Raw

Katherine completed her Bachelor of Exercise Science at Australian Catholic University in 2011 and received the "Most Outstanding Graduate" award from the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In 2012 she commenced her Honours, which investigated the impacts of a sport for development program in Timor-Leste. Following the completion of her thesis, she continued her research into community engagement programs across Timor-Leste that aimed to promote capacity building through sport, education and nursing.

Most recently Katherine has commenced her PhD at La Trobe under the supervision of Dr. Emma Sherry, Dr. Mandy Ruddock-Hudson and Dr. Katie Rowe. Her proposed study is to investigate a suite of sport for development programs that aim to foster social cohesion and inclusion among culturally and linguistically diverse communities within Melbourne. This research will take place in association with a non-governmental organisation and an Australian national sporting organisation and will assist in guiding the planning, implementation, and expectations of outcomes of future programs.

2013-CSSI-Merryn-SherwoodMerryn Sherwood

Title: The Mixed Zone: How Australian Media Managers influence the Production of Sports News

Supervisors: Associate Professor Matthew Nicholson and Professor Tim Marjoribanks

Summary: This research aims to explore the Australian sports communication workforce, an increasingly influential body in the production of sports news in Australia, using multi-method approach of surveys, interviews and ethnography. While this PhD thesis is mostly exploratory given the lack of current research on this area, it will include a focus on the organisational roles and work practises of Australian sports communication professionals.