Social Equity Research Centre Launches At RMIT


A new research centre dedicated to advancing social equity outcomes has opened at RMIT.

Professor Hannah Badland, Director of the Social Equity Research Centre (the Centre), said the Centre’s mission extends beyond informing policy decisions in order to effect tangible changes in real-world practices.

“The Social Equity Research Centre is a multidisciplinary group of researchers seeking to respond to some of the most complex social issues that we’re facing in our society,” she said.

“The Centre’s research has wide impacts, from the local community right through to major transnational agendas.”

3 women stand in front of an auditorium next to a banner reading 'Transformative research for social justice'.Professor Katherine Johnson, Hang Vo, Professor Hannah Badland. Photo: RMIT

Inaugural oration helps to launch centre on an important day

The Centre celebrated its official launch on World Day of Social Justice, marking the occasion with the Social Equity Research Centre’s inaugural public oration: An equitable future starts with courageous leadership today.

The oration was delivered by Hang Vo, CEO of the Sacred Heart Mission, a not-for-profit organisation tackling homelessness, social exclusion and disadvantage.

Illustrating her drive and deep commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society, Vo’s oration drew on her extensive professional expertise and personal experience as a Vietnamese refugee growing up in 1970s Australia.

Vo spoke of how policy structure and systems can influence a person’s life outcomes and the importance of research-informed social service models, such as Sacred Heart Mission’s Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program.

Evaluation research by universities including RMIT has helped J2SI evolve and become one of the most effective programs to end chronic homelessness in Australia.

A woman stand behind a podium with a projected image on a screen behind her and an audience in front of her.Hang Vo delivers inaugural oration. Photo: RMIT.

Key research themes shaping the Social Equity Research Centre’s work

The Social Equity Research Centre’s work is underscored by established partnerships with diverse community organisations and engaging with lived experience.

The Centre unites experts from diverse disciplines, focusing on four interdisciplinary research themes:

  • Community Wellbeing
  • Gender and Harm
  • Housing Insecurity and Homelessness
  • Local Global Relations

The Community Wellbeing theme is co-led by Professor Badland and Dr Ellen van Holstein. This theme investigates how social determinants widen or narrow social injustices, especially for vulnerable groups and from intersectional perspectives.

The Gender and Harm theme, led by Professor Nicola Henry, promotes research that investigates the significance of gender and sexuality in shaping identity, culture and society in domestic and global contexts.

“Researchers in the gender and harm space focus on a range of issues relating to gender equality and gender inequality,” said Professor Henry.

“It includes things like sexual violence, domestic and family violence, technology facilitated abuse, sex workers’ rights and discrimination, gender and leadership and primary prevention.”

Professor Guy Johnson and Dr Kathryn Daley co-lead the Housing Insecurity and Homelessness theme.

This theme focuses on the systemic and structural factors that drive and perpetuate housing market exclusion, as well as preventative measures that help to alleviate disadvantage.

“As a research group, we look at three primary issues: public opinion, policy and practice,” said Professor Johnson.

“Our research is trying to promote informed public opinion so that the public understands it’s policy settings that are causing housing insecurity and homelessness.”

“Policy matters, but alongside that, practice matters as well. What people do, what services do to try and assist people. We do a lot of evaluation research which tries to give evidence around what is good practice.”

The Local Global Relations theme is situated in the interdisciplinary field of global studies and is co-led by Professor Hariz Halilovich and Dr Elizabeth Kath.

It brings together researchers from different social science backgrounds to work on holistic, creative, and critical approaches to the complex global issues of an interconnected world.

Although only newly established, the Social Equity Research Centre already directs substantial research funding and is home to prestigious fellowships and major research programs.

Recent appointments include an ARC Future Fellow investigating optimal urban environments for children with disabilities and an ARC DECRA Fellow enhancing justice responses to sexual violence.

The Centre is situated in RMIT’s College of Design & Social Context, a diverse and interdisciplinary college that brings together creative and practical study in the fields of design, technology and society.

It is one of six research centres in the College and to date has nearly 100 members, comprised of academics and HDR candidates.

Story by: Finn Devlin

/RMIT University News Release. View in full here.