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Urban Invisibility: Identities of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in urban Victoria

PhD thesis by: Emily Munro-Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Emily’s PhD project explores notions of identities as described by young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban Victorian areas, through qualitative and participatory methods and a narrative-based approach. This work considers how identity influences social and emotional health and wellbeing, using creative elements of expression of identity, such as photographs, film, writing and artwork (including digital works), which will explore:

  • Issues underpinning individual self-identification
  • Perceptions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have of ourselves
  • Experiences of expressing our identities as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The focus on urban young people seeks to challenge assumptions about Indigeneity and visibility of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within cities, whilst providing a platform for young people to speak for themselves instead of being spoken for through research.

Identity and culture are foundational contributors to health, happiness and wellbeing. This project builds on the limited research in this area in Australian Aboriginal contexts, with the intended health benefits for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria being to support the expression of identity, which will in turn support positive mental health and wellbeing, more connected communities, higher levels of self-identification when accessing services, more culturally competent staff within services, and more effective services.


Emily has a background in policy, evaluation, research and program delivery. She has worked with young people in a range of settings including in sports and recreation, disability support, youth leadership, literacy development and environmental education. Emily has worked for State and local government, community-based organisations, and is now a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne in the Indigenous Health Equity Unit, focusing on connection to Country, family violence, service coordination for Aboriginal families and identity and wellbeing research. She also volunteers for a number of youth-focused organisations.

Emily is of Wiradjuri, English and Scottish descent. She was born in Port Adelaide and grew up in Melbourne. Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Social Science from RMIT University, Master of Environment from the University of Melbourne and Post Baccalaureate in Creative Writing from Columbia University in New York.

Created: 05 September 2016 - Updated: 05 September 2016