ACU (Australian Catholic University)


Issue 3, Summer 2011

Research bites

Paintings for patients

The hospital environment can be many things – sobering, moving, sterile – but it’s not often thought of as pleasant or welcoming. That all seems to be changing, however, thanks to the growing phenomenon of art in hospitals. Associate Professor Lindsay Farrell, who has just been awarded a Smithsonian Scholar position at the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, is leading a team of ACU researchers to investigate the impact of art in healthcare settings. "Many people have general notions that art in hospital is good for patients," he said. "However, despite numerous art in hospital projects, there is an absence of research in Australia which measures the outcomes." The Art Research in Catholic Healthcare project (ARCH) will evaluate the impact that art has on the spiritual wellbeing of patients, including their sense of meaning and purpose. The study will build on Associate Professor Farrell’s earlier longitudinal study which analysed the impact of art using three groups: patients, staff and families. "To our knowledge, this is the first time that the impact of art in the healthcare setting on spiritual wellbeing has been formally measured, and a survey tool has been developed," he said. Associate Professor Farrell said he hoped the results would encourage further use of art in hospitals, and the establishment of more permanent measures to assess effectiveness.

Tracking the tiger

The last known Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, died on 7 September 1936 in Hobart Zoo. While its demise can be attributed to hunting and habitat destruction by European settlers, it has long been suspected that disease may also have contributed. ACU’s Dr Robert Paddle is setting out to investigate further with his research project Disease as a causative factor in mammalian extinctions: A case study of the Tasmanian tiger. "The most significant factor in the decline of the thylacine was the government’s bounty scheme which ran from 1888 to 1909 and paid out 2,209 bounties for thylacines that were killed during those years," he said. "This was largely due to the belief that they were killing a significant amount of sheep." "There was also a perception that Australia’s indigenous animals were inferior to those that had been brought with the early settlers."
Dr Paddle’s study will involve the examination of archival records from zoological gardens and museum curators. Dr Paddle said he hoped to not only confirm whether disease played a part in the Tasmanian tiger’s demise, but also contribute mto the understanding of how extinction in mammals occurs. "My findings may also help reduce the rapid decline of the ,mTasmania Devil, which is currently being decimated by devil facial tumour disease – a devastating disease which is sweeping through the population."

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