Our projects are developed in partnership with organisations working in areas that are central to ACU’s mission and ethos as a Catholic university. These organisations identify an issue, question or need for themselves or their sector and partner with the SESU on a research project to work toward a resolution.

All projects are expected to support work in the core areas of ACU’s mission, to produce positive impacts for communities experiencing disadvantage or advance the Catholic tradition.

Completed projects


Undertaken in partnership with CatholicCare Sydney, this project aimed to better understand older adults’ views on what ageing well means. It explored whether the series of Ageing Well masterclasses for seniors, run by CatholicCare Sydney in partnership with Catholic Healthcare and Grief Care, could support seniors’ wellbeing during their ageing journey.

The final report finds that the masterclasses were effective in helping expand seniors’ views on healthy ageing and that being well informed about the process of ageing supported their wellbeing. The seniors who participated in the study generally described themselves as ageing well, with the biggest factor in ageing well being connectedness to family and friends and having enough physical and mental health to maintain social connections. Participants expressed a desire to age in their local area and wanted information and resources to help support them in this. They reported that they would also benefit from more advice around feeling safe on the internet, identifying and managing abuse, and grief and loss, which is a topic they had thought about. The report recommends that as the masterclasses meet a need for older adults, they should continue to be offered in an expanded format with additional information on the identified topics of need.


CatholicCare Sydney

Project team
  • Mr David Stefanoff - Executive Manager, Funding Office, CatholicCare Sydney
  • Ms Kerryn Tutt - General Manager, Clinical Therapies and Disability Services, CatholicCare Sydney
  • Associate Professor Jenneke Foottit - School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, ACU
  • Associate Professor Bernadette Tobin - Plunkett Centre for Ethics, ACU

This project evaluated CatholicCare Victoria’s Geelong-based Settle Well program – a holistic school-based program that facilitates the transition to further education, training or employment for young refugees and asylum seekers at risk of disengagement from school and community life. The evaluation sought to understand the extent to which the Settle Well program has been effective in improving the well-being and connectedness of participants, enhancing their educational, social and communal engagement, and contributing to social cohesion and community harmony in northern Geelong.

The evaluation found that Settle Well contributes positively to participants’ wellbeing and to their connectedness to school and community life during their schooling years. The majority of past student participants reported that Settle Well helped them to form friendships, stay involved with life inside and outside of school, and boost their sense of belonging in their community. 

The report also provides evidence of longer-term positive impacts to educational, social, and communal engagement, and to social cohesion and community harmony, suggesting that Settle Well plays an important role in assisting with the resettlement and adjustment of asylum seekers and refugee young people in Victoria. 

The research also revealed the integral role played by the Program Coordinator in supporting and providing pathways for students. Past students reported that he was pivotal in assisting them to be job ready, choose an appropriate career pathway and achieve long-term goals in career and education. They also reported that the Program Coordinator helped them to feel welcome and confident, which enhanced their mental health, general wellbeing and connectedness with school and community life.

The report recommends that greater promotion, visibility and resourcing of the program will further enhance the positive intervention the program provides to refugee and asylum seeker young people in Geelong.


Settling Well: Evaluation of a schools-based support program for refugees and asylum seeker young people in Geelong.


CatholicCare Victoria

Project team
  • Mr Chris McNamara - Senior Manager, Community Services, CatholicCare Victoria
  • Mr Nestor Estampa - Geelong Settle Well Program Coordinator, CatholicCare Victoria
  • Ms Bernadette Garcia - Executive Manager, Communications, Fundraising and Marketing, CatholicCare Victoria
  • Dr Joel Anderson - School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, ACU
  • Mr Paul Chalkley - National School of Arts and Humanities, ACU
  • Sr Thuy-Linh Nguyen - Peter Faber Business School, ACU

St Mary’s House of Welcome’s project sought to explore the drivers of, and barriers to, participant engagement with their NDIS program delivered to adults with a psychosocial disability. This project saw the ACU research team working collaboratively with the partner agency staff throughout the design and delivery of the project. ACU academic staff co-designed the research questions and methodological approach with St Mary’s staff and utilised participatory action research to engage service users as ‘participant-consultants’. This provided staff and service users an opportunity to help shape the framework that was developed to improve engagement in the program. 

The report found that there were a range of personal and service-level barriers determining the extent to which clients were able to engage with the program. Personal barriers included memory problems, the effects of substance use, schedule clashes, and social stigmas attached to psychosocial disability. Service-level barriers included disruption to relationships caused by staff turnover, perceptions of safety and the type or timing of available activities. Service users and staff reported that potential drivers to and benefits of engagement included greater inclusivity and choice in activities, as well as opportunities to develop stable routines, increased emotional connection, and independence.

The barriers to and facilitators of engagement in the program will add to the evidence base regarding barriers to participation in psychosocial care programs–a little navigated area–and help St Mary’s and other NDIS providers to work with their staff and service users to build improvements into engagement for their programs. 

Optimising engagement in psychosocial care: A review of St Mary’s House of Welcome’s NDIS psychosocial program

St Mary’s House of Welcome

Project team
  • Ms Robina Bradley - Chief Executive Officer, St Mary’s House of Welcome
  • Mr Brian Reilly - Senior Support Worker, St Mary’s House of Welcome
  • Ms Kirsty Pleiter - Manager NDIS Program, St Mary’s House of Welcome
  • Professor Sara Bayes - School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, ACU
  • Mr Benjamin Coyte - School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, ACU


Initiated by the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, this project is a collaboration between 19 partner agencies to investigate the achievements of the main Australian cities for refugee settlement. ‘Settlement Cities’ is a first of its kind study into refugee settlement through the lens of Australia’s major settlement cities, where most refugees begin the process of building a new life in this country. This project examined refugee settlement in the local government areas of Hume, Casey and Greater Dandenong in Melbourne, Fairfield and Liverpool in Sydney’s South West, Salisbury in Northern Adelaide, and Logan City in Brisbane. The study had more than 150 participants. 

The study highlights that refugees’ major aspirations were landing a secure job that matches their skills and securing stable housing, which for many meant owning a home. We also uncovered that making a home in the settlement city was made easier by the presence of vibrant and familiar ethnic and linguistic communities. Feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion was critical for them to feel at home. Refugees desired broader social inclusion but found this to be hindered by language and cultural barriers as well as intolerance in society. Creating community was facilitated by ethno-specific community associations, which have played a role in sustaining community ties and welcoming newcomers. However, community associations and community leaders have been little resourced and valued. Accessing formal support was not always easy for refuges due to physical, digital and cultural barriers. 


Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education

Project team
  • Dr Altin Gavranovic - Senior Researcher, Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education
  • Mr Farhad Arian - Research and Policy Coordinator, Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education 
  • Dr Mary Venner - Professional Associate, University of Canberra
  • Ms Ayah Abubasheer - Researcher, Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education
  • Dr Mary Tomsic - Research Fellow, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, ACU

This evaluation has found that SydWest Multicultural Services’ employability programs and services are crucial to the successful settlement of many recently arrived humanitarian entrants and other eligible migrants within the Outer Western Sydney region. SydWest’s employability programs and services are highly effective across all standards assessed and provide the overwhelming majority of clients with a highly supportive, culturally sensitive, and empathic service environment. Clients’ employment needs and aspirations are complex, and SydWest administer and deliver employability services within a changing and complex employment environment.

While the greater majority of SydWest clients are highly satisfied with SydWest’s employability services, and many go onto secure employment, there exist some challenges for highly skilled/highly credentialled clients who have aspirations of resuming their former careers in Australia. Meeting this challenge effectively will require significant resources accomplished through an inter-agency approach.

Read more


SydWest Multicultural Services

Project team
  • Mr Clement Meru - Community Engagement and Disability Services Manager, SydWest Multicultural Services
  • Mr Saurav Shrestha - Settlement Services Team Leader, SydWest Multicultural Services
  • Dr Haydn Aarons - National School of Arts and Humanities, ACU
  • Mrs Caroline Allen - ACU Engagement, ACU

Undertaken in partnership with Catholic Social Services Victoria and St Mary’s House of Welcome, this project focused on addressing the economic and social impact of COVID-19 for Victorians who were already facing disadvantage prior to the pandemic. The final report finds that the COVID-19 crisis is not just a pandemic in public health terms—it has also been a pandemic of job loss and job market insecurity. The government’s reporting of economy recovery fails to recognise falls in employment and labour force participation, as well as untold suffering generated by the Federal Government’s exclusion of temporary migrants from basic social protection. COVID increased demand for emergency relief and family violence services. The report calls for government to deliver a much higher rise in the JobSeeker payment, for new investment in public housing, and for renewed support for social service providers struggling with the decline of volunteers due to COVID-19.


Catholic Social Services Victoria


St Mary’s House of Welcome

Project team
  • Mr Joshua Lourensz - Executive Director, Catholic Social Services Victoria
  • Rev Dr Gordon Preece - Senior Policy Officer, Catholic Social Services Victoria
  • Ms Robina Bradley - Chief Executive Officer, St Mary’s House of Welcome
  • Dr Tom Barnes - Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, ACU
  • Dr Scott Doidge - ACU Engagement, ACU


ACU partnered with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (Veterans’ Affairs), to analyse and interpret data collected through the NSW Government Veterans’ Survey. The online survey, with just over 2,000 participants, was conducted to help understand the issues facing veterans, future veterans (current serving ADF members) and their families and support staff, to help shape the first NSW Veterans’ Strategy. ACU took an in-depth look at the survey responses to understand the participants’ perspectives on, and experiences with, issues surrounding health and wellbeing, employment, education and recognition.

Delivered to the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (Veterans Affairs) in November 2020, one focus of the report was on the experiences of veterans as they transitioned out of the defence force. The findings highlighted particular barriers or challenges veterans and their families faced during this transition and beyond, and documented suggestions on the types of support they think could be beneficial including access to services, mental and physical health initiatives and formal recognition of service.

Current projects

We understand there are various levels at which needs arise. Every organisation has specific priorities for its clients, programs and services. For this reason, our researchers work on two kinds of projects and produce high-quality outputs that reflect the nature of the project.

Sector projects

Sector projects see us partner with several organisations to address a broad research question on a systemic or 'big' issue affecting areas of the community sector.

This project brings together two non-profit organisations and seeks to understand how community services users accessed the services they needed during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The project findings will be shared with the social services sector to enable organisations to best serve the future needs of their clients.

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Jesuit Refugee Service Australia


St Vincent de Paul Society NSW 

Project team
  • Mr Nishadh Rego - Policy, Advocacy and Communications Manager, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
  • Ms Rhiannon Cook - Manager, Policy and Advocacy, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW
  • Dr Jen Couch - National School of Arts and Humanities, ACU
  • Mr Sebastian Trew - Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU

Bringing together Caritas Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia and Catholic Health Australia, this project will map the unique work of Catholic agencies in responding to and preventing family violence.

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Caritas Australia

Catholic Social Services Australia

Catholic Health Australia

Project team
  • Ms Zhi Yan - Advocacy, Policy and Research Lead, Caritas Australia
  • Ms Monique Earsman - Executive Director, Catholic Social Services Australia
  • Ms Rebecca Burdick Davies - Director, Strategy and Mission, Catholic Health Australia
  • Ms Stephanie Panchision - Senior Health Policy Advisor, Catholic Health Australia
  • Professor Susan Broomhall - Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, ACU
  • Dr Mary Noseda - School of Theology, ACU

Organisation-specific projects

Organisation-specific projects see us partner with organisations to inform, shape, evaluate or grow their programs or services, whether those activities be domestic or international in focus.

Together with CatholicCare Victoria and St John of God Health Care, we will evaluate the Asylum Seeker Support Program which provides transitional accommodation and other support to families and individuals seeking asylum in Melbourne, Victoria. The evaluation will help inform future program growth, sustainable partnerships between Catholic health, social service agencies and local parishes, and we believe will become an important advocacy tool for social services campaigning for fairer social and economic policies for people who are seeking asylum. 


CatholicCare Victoria

St John of God Health Care

Project team
  • Dr Haydn Aarons - Senior Lecturer, School of Arts, ACU 
  • Mr Denis Byrne - Group Manager, Mission Integration, St John of God Health Care 
  • Mr Chris McNamara - General Manager, Community Participation, CatholicCare Victoria 

Suicide Prevention Pathways’ project was initiated in response to the 50 per cent increase in requests for support the organisation experienced following the outbreak of COVID-19. The project seeks to evaluate the impact of its Talk Suicide Support Service which offers a non-clinical alternative to suicide prevention in South-East Queensland for those at risk of suicide aged 15 years and over and for their support networks.


Suicide Prevention Pathways

Project team
  • Ms Shana Challenor - Chief Executive Officer, Suicide Preventions Pathways
  • Dr Sera Harris - School of Allied Health, ACU

CatholicCare Sydney is seeking an external evaluation to determine if the HOPE Program is well-placed to deliver important outcomes with young mothers (pregnant or with small children) at risk of homelessness, mental ill-health or domestic violence. The evaluation will seek to align the program with the outcomes prioritised by Government, while seeking to understand from the mothers themselves what difference the program has made for them. 


CatholicCare Sydney

Project team
  • Ms Melissa McSeveny - Evidence, Impact and Research Manager, Families Division, CatholicCare Sydney 
  • Ms Emma Neill - Practice Manager, Families Division, CatholicCare Sydney 
  • Ms Alex Cahill - Research Officer, Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU
  • Ms Jacqui Stewart - Program Manager, Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU  

Initiated by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce, this project will produce training resources to enable future professionals to identify and respond to modern slavery in the workforce. The efficacy of the modules will be measured through a pilot with ACU students enrolled in undergraduate courses.

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The Archdiocese of Sydney’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce

Project team
  • Ms Jenny Stanger - Executive Manager, Anti-Slavery Taskforce
  • Ms Alison Rahill - Executive Officer, Anti-Slavery Taskforce
  • Mr Carsten Primdal - Business Engagement and Remediation Advisor, Anti-Slavery Taskforce
  • Dr Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer - School of Theology, ACU
  • Dr Blake Wassell, School of Theology, ACU

The Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn seeks to raise up a new generation of preachers in the mission of the Australian Catholic Church. The project will pilot and evaluate innovative face-to-face and online training for ministers, priests and laypeople to better support their ministry in parishes, communities and schools.

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The Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn

Project team
  • Fr Tony Percy - Vicar-General, Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn
  • Mr Huw Warmenhoven - Youth Ministry Coordinator, Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn
  • Dr Maeve Louise Heaney - School of Theology and Xavier Centre for Theological Formation, ACU

Carringbush Adult Education’s project seeks to develop and implement digital learning and teaching strategies to support their English language programs for adult learners who are from refugee, migrant and low socio-economic backgrounds and adjusting to digital learning environments.

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Carringbush Adult Education

Project team
  • Ms Margaret Corrigan - Chief Executive Officer, Carringbush Adult Education
  • Ms Rei Chin - Community Development Manager, Carringbush Adult Education
  • Ms Hayley Black - EAL teacher and Digital Capacity Advisor, Carringbush Adult Education
  • Ms Elizabeth Keenan - EAL Teacher and Teacher Mentor, Carringbush Adult Education
  • Ms Laurine Hurley - School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, ACU

Gunawirra’s project will assess the mid- to long-term impact of their peer group program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their children. The project will also make recommendations for the program’s future operation and expansion.

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Project team
  • Mr Graham Toomey - Chief Executive Officer, Gunawirra
  • Ms Miriam Cavanagh - Chairwoman and Cultural Consultant, Gunawirra
  • Ms Katrina Ikonomou - Program Coordinator, Gunawirra
  • Dr Renata Cinelli - School of Education, ACU
  • Ms Kate Robinson - School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, ACU

How to get involved

If these projects have inspired you to get involved you can follow the links below to learn more. For further information, contact the SESU.

Community can partner with us

We invite community organisations to submit an expression of interest to partner with us on a research project that has meaning for your organisation.

Learn more

Staff can join a SESU project

Academic staff at ACU can apply to work on SESU projects and lend their expertise to help address real-world problems identified by community organisations.

Learn more

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Research engagement

ACU research engages communities, government, industry and the non-for-profit-sector to create real and sustainable impacts.

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Research at ACU

We are a world-leading research university in our priority areas of education, health, and theology and philosophy.

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We are committed to ethical research conducted with integrity and respect for the rights and interests of participants.

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