Our Researchers

Margaret Alston

Job title

Professor of Social Work


Email: Margaret.Alston@monash.edu

Phone: 99031129


Margaret Alston is Professor of Social Work at Monash University.  In 2008 she established the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit at Monash. The unit has attracted an extensive number of PhD students. Previously she was at Charles Sturt University for 21 years, most recently as Professor of Social Work.

In 2010 she was awarded an Order of Australia for her services to social work and to rural women.

She is a past-Chair of the Australian Heads of Schools of Social Work (ACHSSW) and was appointed a Foundation Fellow of the Australian College of Social Work in 2011. She is currently CI on an ARC project on social sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin area and on the ARC Invisible Farmer project with the Victorian Museum to develop awareness of rural women’s contribution to Australian society.

Completed projects

She has completed projects on gender and climate change in Bangladesh with Oxfam; with UNESCO in the Pacific in 2010; with ACIAR in Laos; and was engaged as a UN gender expert by the Gender Division of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) studying gender and climate change in India for 2008. She has been a resident gender expert at the FAO’s offices in Rome in 2009, 2007 and 2003. In 2009 she was also appointed as a UN gender expert by UN-Habitat to advise on the detailed report on the impact of climate change on global cities. Most recently (2012-13) she worked as a gender expert for UNEP in Geneva training field staff on gender sensitive practice. In 2008 she was appointed as a non-government member of the Australian delegation to the UN Commission for the Status of Women meeting in New York.

She has given a number of keynote presentations including the Inaugural Sidney Myer lecture in Adelaide in 2012, and the 2014 International Social Work and Social Policy conference, the National Climate conference in Adelaide in July 2016 and will do a keynote address at the International Social Work Conference in Dublin in 2018.

Kerri Whittenbury

Job title

Senior Research Fellow


PhD (CSU 2004) M.Litt (UNE 1996) BA (RMIHE 1989)


Since 2008 Kerri has been a Senior Research Fellow for the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit, Monash University. Kerri is a rural sociologist with research interests in gender, rural communities, rural and farm families, irrigation communities and gender and climate change. She is also an active member of the World Universities Network – Gender, Justice and Climate Change network. Recently she has worked on a range of gender based social research projects including the Social impacts of drought and declining water in the Murray-Darling Basin and influences on irrigators’ decisions in an environment of reduced water availability. She is currently involved in research into impacts of declining water on women’s health and well-being and is a chief investigator in a Monash-Oxfam project researching gendered impacts of climate change in Bangladesh.

Deborah Western


BA (Melb), BSW (Monash), PhD (Melb)


Deborah joined the Department of Social Work in 2010. She has practice experience in the fields of child and family welfare, education, sexual assault and family violence and has worked in rural, regional and metropolitan areas. Through her work in a statewide peak body for family violence services, Deb developed an appreciation of the role of advocacy and social policy. Deb taught at a number of tertiary institutions prior to joining Monash and has facilitated various other professional development activities, including reflective practice workshops. Deb’s doctoral thesis explored the area of women and depression with particular emphasis on women’s use of personal journals in understanding and responding to depression. Her research interests include women and mental health, feminist practice and management, feminist consciousness raising as a change process, sexual assault and family violence.

Uschi Bay


BSW (University of Melbourne), MSW (University of Melbourne), PhD (RMIT University)


Dr Uschi Bay, is a Lecturer in the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine at Monash University. Prior to her appointment she was an academic at Deakin University and Southern Cross University in Northern New South Wales focusing on curriculum development in the areas of counselling, social welfare and community development. She has also worked in senior management in higher education in equity policy and student welfare. She has a specific research interest in social work's role in ecological,economic and social sustainability of communities, community development and social policy analysis. She has undertaken research with the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre in Alice Springs on desert settlement sustainability and on coastal settlement sustainability at Deakin University. She is currently working on a project that investigates the role of rural women's craft activities in their social, ecological and economic well-being.

Naomi Joy Godden

Job title

Professor of Social Work


Email: Naomi.Godden@monash.edu

Phone: 0407776815

PhD abstract

Influential 20th Century activists such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh were motivated by love, a key feature of the human condition (Maturana & Verden-Zoller 2008). However, the social work profession generally avoids love as an ethic of practice (Banks 2006; Butot 2004; Morley & Ife 2002). Yet feminist bell hooks (2000) claims love can transform dominant structures of inequality, such as capitalism, patriarchy, racism and environmental exploitation. Drawing from Peck (1978), hooks describes love as ‘[t]he will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth’ (2000, p. 4). Ingredients of love are care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust, with honest and open communication, forgiveness and giving. This Thesis including Published Works considers the love ethic in international rural community work. It includes six sole-authored journal articles with an exegesis to analyse my research regarding love in community work and contribute an alternative paradigm to social work and community work theory and practice.The research questions are: What is love in international rural community work? and, How can love transform structural inequality? My methodology was informed by change-oriented research, a four-part epistemology of change I developed that involves shared power (McCall 2005; Mikkelsen 2005), participation (Arnstein 1969; Davidson 1998; Heron 1996; Pretty et al. 1995), action (Greenwood & Levin 2007; Stringer 2007) and contextual reflexivity (Delva, Allen-Meares & Momper 2010; Denzin & Giardina 2009; Saukko 2003). Change-oriented research is a collaborative process to understand and transform social injustices through cycles of action and reflection, generating multiple and contextualised knowledges that empower participants to collectively take action for sustainable change. Through the co-operative inquiry method (Heron 1996), I worked with community workers, volunteers, activists and community members as co-inquirers (also referred to as co-researchers) in three case studies in Timor-Leste, Australia and Peru to collaboratively develop knowledge regarding love-based community work. Each co-operative inquiry used creative methods such as visual art, theatre, dialogue and storytelling (Bessarab & Ng'andu 2010; Holt 2013; Knowles & Cole 2008; Leavy 2008; Markula 2006; Pauwels 2011). I combined the inquiry outcomes into a theory of practice entitled The Love Ethic for Transformational Change. The Love Ethic is grounded in hooks’ love-centred radical feminism, dialogue (Freire 1989; Westoby & Dowling 2013), nonviolence (Gandhi 2005; Hanh 1993; King Jr. 1967a; Kelly & Sewell 1988) and the interconnectedness of people and nature. The Love Ethic has four features: *It is based on values and universal rights of humans and nature; *It promotes participatory, democratic and gender transformative community work processes that intertwine people and nature and actively challenge structures of power and inequality; *It aims for structural change for universal wellbeing of people and nature; and, *Love-based action is reciprocal and cyclical. The Love Ethic supports social movements to collectively critique and transform inequitable systems. This research is a radical contribution to social work theory and practice. I argue love is an ethical philosophy of action for progressive people’s movements to bring about a new world order of equality and sustainability.

Thesis title and year of completion

The love ethic in international rural community work (2015)

Monash PhD Repository thesis link


Summary of background

Dr. Naomi Joy Godden is a community worker, activist for social justice and environmental integrity, and feminist participatory researcher from the rural community of Margaret River, Western Australia. For more than 15 years her work has bridged feminism, activism, research and policy in Australia and internationally in areas such as gender justice, Aboriginal family violence prevention, youth participation, education access, poverty alleviation, homelessness and affordable housing, sexual exploitation of women, environmental conservation and the gendered impacts of climate change. Naomi has worked in urban, rural and remote communities in Australia, Peru, United States, Honduras, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and India, and has participated in numerous United Nations processes for women’s rights and climate action.
In 2015, Naomi completed her PhD at the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability Research Unit (GLASS) at Monash University. Her research was entitled ‘The love ethic in international rural community work’, and involved feminist participatory action research with community workers in Australia, Timor-Leste and Peru to develop a radical, non-violent framework of community work and activism for structural change.

Naomi is a Research Fellow at GLASS, researching feminist climate justice activism for transformational change. She is also involved in numerous social justice and environmental justice activist collectives at local, national and international levels. She is a founder and Chair of Just Home (housing justice organisation, Margaret River) and the Women’s Climate Justice Collective (Australia).


Refereed journal articles 
Godden, N 2017, ‘Community work research through co-operative inquiry in Timor-Leste, Australia and Peru: Insights into process’, Systemic Practice and Action Research, advanced online version. doi: 10.1007/s11213-017-9420-0
Godden, N 2017, ‘The love ethic: a radical theory for social work practice’, Australian Social Work, advanced online version. Doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2017.1301506
Godden, N 2017, ‘A co-operative inquiry about love using narrative, performative and visual methods’, Qualitative Research, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 75-94.
Godden, N 2017, ‘The participation imperative in co-operative inquiry: personal reflections of an initiating researcher’, Systemic Practice and Action Research, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 1-18.
Godden, N 2016, ‘Love in community work in rural Timor-Leste: a co-operative inquiry for a participatory framework of practice’, Community Development Journal. Advanced online version. doi: 10.1093/cdj/bsw022
Godden, N 2013, ‘Gender and declining fisheries in Peru: Beyond pescador and ama de casa’ in M. Alston & K. Whittenbury (Eds.), Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change, Springer, Melbourne, pp.251-263. 
Gartrell, A, Jennaway, MG, Manderson, L & Godden, N 2016, ‘Making the invisible visible: disability inclusive development in Solomon Islands’, The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 52, no. 10, pp. 1389-1400. 
Alston, M, Whittenbury, K, Haynes, A & Godden, N 2014, ‘Are climate challenges reinforcing child and forced marriage and dowry as adaptation strategies in the context of Bangladesh?’, Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 47, pp. 137-144. 
Godden, N & Muli, C 2013, ‘Peer review: an emerging research method in international development’, Development Bulletin, no. 75, pp. 92-97. 
Godden, N 2008, ‘Missing the Education Revolution’, Campus Review, Vol. 18, No.18, p. 11.

Opinion pieces
Godden, N 2016, ‘Our future: equality struggle must extend to climate issues’, The Courier, 12 September 2016. 
Godden, N 2008, ‘Education in rural Australia’, On Line Opinion (online), 27 May 2008. http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=7376
Godden, N 2008, ‘Why did rural human rights fail to scale summit?’, The Age, 23 April, p. 7. 
Godden, N 2005, ‘Students in poverty: Centrelink and regional students’, Pelican, Vol. 76, no. 1, pp. 14-15.

Godden, N 2005, ‘Youth Allowance and regional young people’, Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia Interface, December, pp. 12-13.