Research

Current Research Priority Areas

Melbourne Social Equity Institute responds to many social equity issues through its interdisciplinary research training and partnerships. Reflecting current social equity challenges and complementary research across the University of Melbourne, our research priorities are:

  • Community-engaged and Coproductive Research (enabling theme )

    People walking in a graffiti lined laneway in Melbourne

    Community and cross-sectoral decision-making about the purpose, design, conduct and use of research

    Melbourne Social Equity Institute is a leader in community-engaged and coproductive research. These ways of working inform all our research priorities. We also advance the use of community-engaged and coproductive methodologies through knowledge sharing and researcher training and development.

    The core feature of community-engaged and coproductive research is a high level of community decision‑making and partner involvement in the purpose, design, conduct and use of research. These approaches move beyond seeing members of communities as research ‘subjects’ to recognising people affected by social inequities as active agents in designing research for change. They also recognise the value of engaging across sectors to access diverse knowledge and research settings, and support the strong take‑up of new research evidence.

    Oversight of community-engaged and coproductive research is led by Associate Professor Bridget Hamilton and Associate Professor Celia McMichael.

  • Digital Access and Equity (enabling theme )

    Lights and signs in an underground carpark

    Examining and improving the impact of a connected, digitally-focused society

    Digital technologies have the potential for overcoming social, economic and geographic barriers and improving outcomes in health, access to justice and social services, and economic and civic participation. However, they also risk increased discrimination, differentiation and exclusion. Importantly, issues of digital equity are not just about access to technology, but also about language, content, comprehension and safety.

    Recognising we live in an increasingly digital world, Digital Access and Equity is an enabling theme of research that intersects with all Melbourne Social Equity Institute research priorities. This theme supports research examining the impact of a connected, digitally-focused society on social equity. It evaluates the presumptions about knowledge, language, accessibility and consent that inform the design and implementation of new technologies. It works to develop innovative and inclusive ways to make a technologically-integrated society a fairer and more equitable one.

    This research priority is led by Professor Shanton Chang and Professor Jeannie Paterson.

    View the Ethical and Equitable Digital Design Matrix for Community Engaged Research, developed through the work of this enabling theme.

  • Gender Equity

    Woman walking across a street crossing

    Working to ensure the collective and individual benefits of equitable access to opportunities, resources and freedoms regardless of gender

    Evidence shows improved gender equity reduces violence, fosters economic prosperity and institutional integrity, and advances social and economic innovation.  The unequal status of women and girls has long been recognised as both a central cause and consequence of social inequity, with more recent movements highlighting the negative effects of gender norms on transgender and non-binary people. Climate change and the COVID pandemic are amplifying existing inequities and generate new imperatives for gender‑equitable participation.

    This research priority engages with gender inequities at all levels of societal systems and with effective approaches to reducing these inequities.

    This research priority is co-led by Professor Kylie Smith and Dr Victor Sojo Monzon.

    This priority area builds upon the work of the Melbourne research Alliance to End Violence against women and their children (MAEVe) which is auspiced by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and led by Professors Kelsey Hegarty and Cathy Humphreys.

  • Health Equity

    Group of young people with rainbow flags at a pride parade

    Improving equity of health and wellbeing across the community

    Health equity and wellbeing are shaped by social conditions, with social inequities typically associated with poorer physical and mental health. This research priority supports research related to inequities in health and wellbeing among people and communities.

    It engages in the joint production and testing of strategies to redress these inequities and in initiatives that promote wellbeing. Work within this research priority uses research methods that give a central place to the voices and knowledge of people who have lived expertise of diverse health inequities.

    This research priority is led by Associate Professor Helen Stokes and Associate Professor Cathy Vaughan.

  • Inclusive and Distributive Economies

    Keys of antique cash register

    Exploring economic participation and organisational approaches that advance just and sustainable societies

    Economic participation and the fair distribution of material resources are central features of social equity and drivers of community wellbeing, cohesion and prosperity. Entrenched wealth inequality, industry restructuring and the rise of precarious work inform and reflect contemporary patterns of social inequity.

    At the same time, new and renewed approaches to community ownership, social enterprise and peer-led program design seek to counter inequities in the interests of people and planet. This research priority includes a focus on inclusive employment and whether and how purpose-led business models and people‑centred policy design advance more just and sustainable societies.

    This research priority is led by Professor Jo Barraket.

  • Migration and Mobility

    Stencil art with the word Welcome

    Exploring the multiple dimensions of migration and mobility, and their implications for equitable participation of people and communities

    The Australian population is increasingly culturally diverse, with more than a quarter of all Australians born overseas and almost half having at least one parent who was born overseas. Migrants, particularly those from backgrounds where English is not the first language, can face social exclusion and marginalisation. Regional conflicts and pandemic responses are also affecting the mobility of people both within and across countries.

    This research priority focuses on the multiple dimensions of migration and mobility and their implications for equitable participation of people and communities. Together with the associated PhD Program in Migration, Statelessness and Refugee Studies, it aims to build a stronger evidence base for tackling associated inequalities and strengthen local and international opportunities for collaboration and impact.

    This research priority is led by Professor Karen Farquharson and Dr Karen Block.

Current Research Projects