Listening to Country: Exploring the value of acoustic ecology with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison

Project aim and objectives  

Aim: To explore the value of acoustic ecology in promoting cultural maintenance and wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison.  


  1. Collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison to produce an immersive audio work for cultural maintenance and wellbeing.  
  2. Work with groups to identify possible environmental sites outside the prison for the field recordings.  
  3. Work with the groups to identify sonic elements and environments that contribute to social and emotional wellbeing.  
  4. Record soundscapes from these sites and bring back to the group inside the prison.  
  5. Employ a range of qualitative, participatory arts-based and Indigenous health research methodology to investigate the value of acoustic sounds in enhancing Social and Emotional Wellbeing.  

Project team 

Project leader: Dr. Sarah Woodland  
Project partners: Queensland Corrective Services  
Administering organisation: Griffith University  
Project timeline: January 2018—May 2019  


  • Negotiating with Queensland Corrective Services to finalise the legal agreement to conduct research in Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre (BWCC).   
  • Negotiating with staff and management at BWCC to work through the logistics and timing for the program delivery.   
  • Working with Elena Marchetti (Griffith Law School) to develop a plan for conducting the process evaluation of Listening to Country.   
  • Consulting with the Brisbane Elders and the Murri Dhagun Cultural Unit at Queensland Corrections to firm up the project plan and engage two Elders to join the program delivery in the prison.   
  • Recruiting an additional researcher – Bianca Beetson (Kabi Kabi artist and Lecturer, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University) to join the program delivery in the prison (in-kind contribution from Griffith).  

Project findings  

The research proved that listening actively to environmental landscapes can promote a sense of ecological connection. It also highlights how the attendant processes of listening to the temporal and nature of sound can facilitate a presence of connection to place.  
Listening to natural environments through remote experiences is just as beneficial as physically listening on Country. The approaches used in the research resulted in an enhanced sense of calm and relaxation for the participants. The soundscape and materials were effective in strengthening connection to Country.  

Project outcomes   


  • This project created an innovative approach to enhancing social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people off-Country or experiencing stress and/or distress as a result of disconnection from Country or culture. This innovative approach can be adapted to different community settings.  


  • Enhanced self-awareness for team and participants due to reflective nature of the creative and listening processes used. The project also built on team and participants’ existing cultural awareness by harnessing their knowledges and experiences in this area for the purpose of creating the work and discussing its impacts.  


  • Enhanced a sense of calm, relaxation and connection to Country and/or culture.   

  • Strengthened the capacity of the research team to engage meaningfully in other areas of their work.  

  • Built trust and confidence in the participants.  


  • Created soundscape with the participants.   

  • Participants learned new skills in audio recording, composition and collaborative story work as well as collaborative creative work (e.g. working positively and productively as a team towards a shared outcome).  

Related resources:

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land across Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.