Hi Andrew! Can you please tell us a little bit about your PhD topic?

Community engagement is a crucial part of making positive changes in the places we live, work, and play to support everyone’s health and wellbeing. It’s a well established value in public health and health promotion work, but it’s more difficult to measure and understand how it changes over time. My PhD work is learning from practitioners about how they measure and interpret changes in community engagement in obesity prevention over time and what that means for practice.

How is your research going to make health and wellbeing easier for everyone to achieve?

Health and wellbeing outcomes take a really long time to change, and there can be all sorts of scenarios where inequities in health outcomes emerge – where some communities do better than others. I think it’s extremely important to understand who practitioners and researchers are engaging and why. By explicitly considering how respectfully we’re engaging all different kinds of communities, whether it’s LBTIQ+ communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people with disabilities, refugees and asylum seekers, or any one else, we need to hold ourselves accountable to really working with them and implementing necessary changes for equitable health and wellbeing outcomes for all.

What inspired you to undertake this research?

I noticed that the phrase “community engagement” was used a lot in obesity prevention, but people weren’t consistent about what that meant. From a practice perspective, I had two big concerns in that space. First, from a diversity & inclusion perspective, without clarity in what we’re talking about with community engagement, we may not be working with everyone we should or using everyone’s input respectfully. Secondly, it can be challenging to share what really works (and what doesn’t!) in community engagement if we don’t have a shared understanding of what it is, how it changes over time, and why. Diversity & inclusion are really important to me – another one of my roles is as co-chair of IHT’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

If you could recommend one book for everyone at IHT to read, what would that be?

Talkin’ Up to the White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson. I think doing good diversity & inclusion research starts with examining our own practices and norms. Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s book really highlights the way that academia can perpetuate oppression & injustice and puts out a call of what we need to do to carry out research that challenges oppression and injustice rather than (intentionally or not) reinforcing it.

What is your favourite podcast? (Apart from the IHT podcast, of course!)

I actually don’t listen to podcasts! I love reading though, and will listen to audiobooks on walks. I’m currently listening to Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch, I’m currently reading The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, and I recently Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport – would recommend all of those!

You’ve got a Saturday afternoon completely to yourself, what would we find you doing?

Going for a walk outside along the Maribyrnong, playing Nintendo games (especially Pokemon, Mario, or Animal Crossing), or sitting on my egg chair on my balcony reading a book.

And finally, what is the best lesson you have learned so far during your PhD completion?

It’s impossible to pick one best lesson! I’ve found that in my PhD there have been a lot of issues that I have found really challenging, and what’s been most important to me is to return to my values, and ask myself “How can I move this forward while staying true to my values?”