PhD Scholarship Opportunity – In Partnership with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture

A new scholarship is being offered to investigate educational engagement and outcomes for refugee background students in Victoria. How does/can classroom and broader school practice support recovery from trauma, social inclusion and educational outcomes more broadly?

Applications close at midday on Thursday 31 January 2019

This Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship is provided by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and will be located within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education under the primary supervision of Dr Julie Choi and co-supervised by Dr Karen Block (School of Population and Global Health).

Refugee background students will ‘all have experienced some degree of dislocation, deprivation, disruption and loss’ (UNHCR, 2002). ‘This includes loss of home and friendships, as well as the loss of, and separation from family’ (Schools In For Refugees, VFST 2016). Experiences of torture and trauma, witnessing horrific events and fleeing from persecution are part of the refugee experience. It is not uncommon for children and young people to have limited or no access to education across years of long-term displacement. The impact of trauma, learning an additional language and the complexities of resettlement present ongoing challenges for individuals, for family relationships and roles and for communities. There are also challenges for school leaders, mainstream education settings and for teaching practice in supporting educational engagement and outcomes for students with a refugee experience.

Whilst there is some understanding of the refugee experience and increasing recognition about the impact of trauma on learning, development and wellbeing. Less is documented and known about educational engagement and outcomes for students from refugee backgrounds.

This research will focus on the experience of refugee background students and classroom and school practice in primary and secondary schools (from the government and Catholic school sectors) located in the growth corridors of metropolitan Melbourne. Local government areas of Whittlesea, Hume, Wyndham, Melton, and Casey are experiencing rapid growth in population, including high rates of newly arrived refugee resettlement as well as more established refugee background communities moving to these areas.

The growth areas of metropolitan Melbourne may increase availability of affordable housing options for many refugee background families, however isolation and the complexities of resettlement may be compounded by limited service provision. Understanding of refugee experiences among services and schools may also be emerging. There are many new schools in the growth areas of metropolitan Melbourne, however provision of services such as public transport, health and family support services may be established at different planning stages. All schools face challenges and complexities in planning for, including and supporting diverse communities. Schools in areas of rapid growth may experience the additional challenges of being a newly established school with a staffing cohort that includes many new graduate teachers and those who are new to school leadership positions and who are supporting a large and diverse student population.

The researcher will identify how students of refugee backgrounds are faring in growth corridor schools. The researcher will identify classroom approaches and school practices that support refugee background student’s recovery from trauma, engagement in education and the role of these schools in supporting social inclusion and educational outcomes in growth corridor communities. The researcher will identify school planning and pedagogy considerations that are particular to growth corridor schools when supporting refugee background students and families. Proposals using mixed methods approaches are encouraged.

The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture’s Role

The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (also known as Foundation House) will provide:

  • Access to Foundation House Schools Support Program Professional Development Workshops
  • Access to the work of the Foundation House Schools Support Program when appropriate Eg. attend RESP (Refugee Education Support Program) meetings and workshops and events with schools Etc.
  • Guide engagement with schools, provide advice around design throughout the research program, facilitate access to schools, and broader education sector networks.
  • Facilitate access to settlement services and related networks and agencies who are supporting refugee background students and families.
  • Participation in a research reference group

The scholarship benefits include:

  • Fee offset (full fee-exemption)
  • Stipend of $30,600 per annum (2019 pro-rata rate, tax free) for three years
  • Allowances as per the Graduate Research Scholarship Terms & Conditions

The Melbourne Social Equity Institute provides an additional $2,000 per annum (a maximum of $6,000 during candidature) in research support funds. The successful candidate will also receive automatic entry into the Institute’s PhD Program in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.


The scholarship is only available to Australian and NZ citizens or Australian permanent residents. The scholarship is conditional upon acceptance into a PhD program at the University of Melbourne.

Applicants must be eligible for acceptance by the University of Melbourne into a PhD program. By the commencement of the program applicants must have completed an accredited fourth-year program at Honours 1 or Honours 1 equivalence level, or at an Honours 2 level with an outstanding record of professional or research achievements since graduation.

Applicants should possess excellent interpersonal skills. Applicants will ideally be available to commence before the end of 2019. People with lived experience of seeking asylum are strongly encouraged to apply.


Applicants will be asked to provide the following information. We strongly recommend that you prepare your answers offline (in Microsoft Word or similar) and save a copy for your own records.

  • Name and contact information
  • Intended mode of study (full time/part time)
  • Relevant academic qualifications
  • Any previous academic awards, scholarships or prizes
  • Information about any substantial pieces of research completed as part of previous degrees (up to 250 words)
  • Any research publications you have authored or co-authored
  • Any study or work experience that is relevant to your PhD proposal or that has required you to develop relevant research and writing skills (up to 100 words)
  • Contact details of two references
  • Your CV (upload attachment, up to 2 pages)
  • A brief research proposal – outline preliminary ideas, key research questions, methodologies, relevant conceptual and theoretical approaches; address how the project fits into the specific research program (upload attachment, 1 – 2 pages)
  • Your academic transcripts (upload attachment)
  • If applicable, Masters/Honours thesis examiners' reports (upload attachment)

More Information

Dr Julie Choi

+61 3 8344 4366