Proud Biripi women and Doctor of Philosophy student at UNE, Caitlin Davey, was recently awarded an Indigenous Scholars International Study Tour scholarship from the Aurora Education Foundation. Not only is this scholarship a fantastic display of Caitlin’s academic achievements, it will see her experience various renowned universities across the world.

“I’m most excited to experience Cambridge and Oxford because they have a really great Criminology program,” said Caitlin while discussing the study tour. “It’s going to be an unreal experience to be able to go and meet academics face-to-face and be able to soak in their knowledge.”

Caitlin has been interested in pursuing Criminology for much of her studious life, and her pursuit of academic accomplishment in this field is coming to fruition with her current PhD. Building upon her interests and professional experience, Caitlin’s PhD research investigates the role that prejudice and attitudes towards punishment within the community, and the impact that this plays on Aboriginal people and how they reintegrate into the community post release from custody. One of the unique aspects of this research is the exploration of the role of rurality and how it impacts Aboriginal offenders in this context.

Caitlin notes she was always drawn to Criminology as a field of study saying that it has “been a life-long passion”. After completing her first foray into this field with a Bachelor of Psychological Science study at La Trobe, Caitlin went on to work in a custodial setting and eventually into the parole space after that, working with offenders after they had been released from custody.

It is this professional experience, as well as her academic pursuits, that inspired her current research – the Aurora Scholarship will undoubtedly swell her passion further.

“Being awarded the Aurora scholarship is massive”, describes Caitlin. “To be able to have the opportunity to represent UNE at such a high level – I feel very honoured to be a recipient of this Scholarship especially because I know how competitive it is to win one.”

As with many passionate PhD students, Caitlin has a strong support team that has assisted her both with the Scholarship and in her research. Describing how she first came by the Aurora Scholarship, Caitlin described how beneficial the UNE Oorala Aboriginal Centre have been in assisting with scholarships and providing a support for her and other Aboriginal students:

“Oorala has played a big role in helping me find scholarships and helping me find the Aurora Scholarship in particular. They are always sending out letters of support and the staff down there are really helpful on a personal level. Often they’ll grab you while you’re at the cafe getting lunch or something like that and say, ‘Hey Caitlin, we’ve got this opportunity coming up, like you should apply for it. They are always keeping you in mind for certain things.”

Another important support system in Caitlin’s journey has been her supervisor Kyle Mulrooney and the Centre for Rural Criminology.

Kyle, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at UNE, described how watching Caitlin take the tools and knowledge provided by UNE Criminology and perform so well in her PhD study has been inspiring to watch. Proud of the progress and achievements Caitlin has made since beginning her PhD in January 2021, Kyle described that Caitlin is an excellent ambassador for the Criminology program at UNE which speaks to the value of the program for training students.

Furthering her research and exploration of the Criminological field is an important part of Caitlin’s study journey and the Centre for Rural Criminology has, and continues to, play a role in this. As Caitlin puts it:

“I’ve been able to become a research associate with the Centre for Rural Criminology, which provides opportunities I didn’t even know existed and it gives me the platform to be able to promote my research and its rural aspects, and to be able to network professionally and meet other people in my field.”

Speaking further to the benefit of the Centre, Kyle noted that while it is first and foremost a research hub it is recognised as the “global spot for Rural Criminology and if you are looking for rural crime research or you want rural crime research done, the Centre is the place to be. However, a core part of our mandate and one of our aims is also growing out our post-graduate cohort and developing that base and so Caitlin is a shining example for the Centre of the quality of students we’re able to attract but also in their capacity. The Aurora scholarship is a great example of that. I can’t wait for Caitlin’s research to start coming out in publications because it’ll just provide other examples of quality work and research.”

The Centre is not just advancing research in this field, but also finding new ways to engage with student learning. As Kyle mentions they have developed their own multimedia through their newly established ‘Outreach and Engagement Hub’, which provides students with new and intricate ways of learning. For example, the Centre’s podcast ‘Rural Crime’ which provides students with a different medium to engage with research and learning.

Ultimately Caitlin’s research is based in her strong sense of empathy and wish to change harmful perceptions around Aboriginal offenders. With a wealth of lived experience and the increased academic support that the Aurora Scholarship will provide Caitlin is pushed that much closer to achieving her goal of “shedding light on community attitudes, how we can change them and growing as a community, and a country.”

To find out more, watch an interview with Caitlin discussing the Aurora Scholarship here.