My supervisor Professor Lelia Green knew what was good for me, or more specifically, that ECU was good for me, even before I did. I responded to an advertisement for PhD scholarships that Lelia had placed in the higher education pages on behalf of ECU and The Centre for Creative Industries, a national research centre for the humanities and creative industries which ECU is affiliated with, and she was very insistent that I apply. So I did, and here I am, under Lelia’s and Dr Julie Robson’s expert supervision; and Lelia was right: ECU is exactly the right place for the continuation of my research journey.
I saw the advertisement whilst staying with Perth-based family, enroute home to Melbourne after an exhilarating 12 months of Masters studies at the University of Cambridge. I was still lamenting the fact that the global financial crisis had put the kybosh on my plans to continue to study and live in the UK; with two young children to support as a sole parent, it was just too hard a challenge to keep living the student-parent life in Cambridge, despite being admitted to a PhD program there.
In Cambridge, undertaking a course in Arts, Culture and Education, I had been fired up by the potential for research into the ways that artists who are themselves studying for degrees use their own art-making processes as research. But I was yet to find a home for that fascination; the forgone Cambridge PhD program was in educational theory alone. Those very encouraging and enthusiastic phone conversations with Lelia, and subsequent invigorating discussion with Julie Robson, herself an expert arts practitioner and researcher, convinced me that ECU Mt Lawley was an ideal place to inquire into how creative artists utilise their artistry in PhD and Masters studies. So I headed home to Melbourne, packed up the kids and the furniture, and made the move across to Perth.
My research journey began whilst I was a high school teacher with the simple question “How do you teach for creativity?” This set me off on an inquiry into teaching thinking skills, creativity and education in a Master of Education at the University of Melbourne. I had always been engaged in my own creative writing practice and, whilst doing this Masters, I was invited by RMIT University, Melbourne, to be one of the first intake into their inaugural Masters of Creative Writing degree. So I took leave from one masters to complete another. In this RMIT degree, as well as continuing my own fiction writing, I applied current theories about creativity to my own creative writing process.
But I still felt I had three disparate identities that I was yet to integrate: the creative writer, the researcher, and the teacher. When I was sent an email whilst lecturing at RMIT offering scholarships for one-year masters programs at the University of Cambridge, my first thought was: “I don’t need ANOTHER Masters degree”. But a google of the Cambridge website popped up the degree: Master of Philosophy in Arts, Culture and Education - an examination of the intersections between these three conceptual terrains - and I found the place where my three identities were at last to be forged into one.
At ECU, I am immensely privileged to be given an insider view of how other creative practitioners themselves attempt to integrate the world of research, the world of art-making, and the world of higher education. And I am so very grateful for those first enthusiastic conversations with Lelia that have made ECU such an integral and exhilarating part of my research journey.