Before working in the Centre for Brain and Mental Health I taught social work at University of Newcastle and, prior to that, worked in Centrelink both in direct practice and as a senior leader. Working with people who are marginalised provided a firm basis for my research interests in mental health, in particular. I regularly saw people impacted by financial problems, domestic violence, homelessness, substance use and mental illness. My passion for my PhD topic arose, again, from my direct experience of teaching social work for ten years.
My ultimate goal would be to break the social constructions in relation to mental health and stigma and engage/inform people in the community most impacted. The perfect ‘end point’ would be a world in which mental illness was understood as exactly that – an illness.
Dara commenced her professional career as a Senior Social Worker for Centrelink, a position in which she remained for twelve years. She then pursued a career in senior leadership within the organisation, leading large teams as Business Manager Corporate and Business Manager Business Integrity.
Dara’s next career move was to that of lecturer at the University of Newcastle for eight years. She currently teaches at the University of Sydney in Social Work and works in the role of Academic Research Manager for Centre Brain and Mental Health Research, University of Newcastle. She is passionate about the importance of people’s stories and language and how language can extend or challenge social constructions, particularly as they relate to mental health and stigma.
Dara is involved in two ‘Disaster Resilience’ research projects through Resilience, NSW. Dara is a partner in Hunter Collaborative Research and Planning Group. Key consultancy projects include work for two NGO’s and a shire council in areas of evaluation, development of a facilitator guide and policy review.
Dara is also an author on 12 journal articles/conferences/book chapters. She is currently under contract with colleagues at University of Sydney to write a book on disasters and social justice. She has recently completed a podcast on her PhD findings.
My future focus is to continue to explore the use of narrative and story and how language is such a powerful tool of oppression and liberation. I am also vitally interested in the unfolding impacts of COVID-19 on a broad range of social and economic issues, including mental well-being.