People

Dr Thembi Soddell

Concept Development & Lead Artist

Photo of Thembi Soddell

Image description: Photo of Thembi Soddell, a white person in their early 40s with short brown hair, shaved at the sides and longer on top. They stare straight into the camera, have a black top on with headphones around their neck. The background is a dark, textured grey and the lighting of the photo creates a painterly effect and dark mood

Dr Thembi Soddell (they/them, b. 1980) is an award-winning sound artist, composer and practice-based researcher whose key interest lies in the unsettling nature of abstract, acousmatic sound and its potential for generating new understandings of madness and trauma. Using large PAs or structural multispeaker installations, they offer audiences intense encounters with the psychological impact of sound and darkness.

Their last album, Love Songs (ROOM40, 2018), was praised for its ‘innovative approach to form’ (Fluid Radio 2018) and ‘fearless conceptual framework’ (Self-Titled Magazine 2018), its launch winning the 2019 Green Room Award for Contemporary Sound Performance. Its companion installation, Held Down, Expanding (2018), premiered at MONA-FOMA, becoming a finalist in the 2019 APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence in Experimental Music.

Their work has also been presented in galleries including Museo Reina Sofia (2020), Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (2016), Institute of Modern Art (2016), Wellington City Gallery (2013) and SFMOMA (2002), among others. They have performed extensively across Australia, Aotearoa and Europe, guest-curated for the National Gallery of Victoria (2013), completed a practice-based PhD through RMIT University (2019), mentored through SIGNAL (2019, 2020, 2022), undertaken a Regional Arts Victoria Fellowship (2020), and had research published in Organised Sound (2020), Disclaimer (2021), and The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis (2022). The affective impact of their use of low frequency sound is discussed by Dr Cat Hope in the book The Body in Sound, Music and Performance: Studies in Audio and Sonic Arts (2022).

Soddell is of Polish (2nd gen) and Anglo-Celtic heritage, born and living on Djaara Country in regional Victoria, Australia.

More information on Thembi’s practice can be found on their website.

Amrita Dasvarma

Workshop Participant

Photo of Amrita Dasvarma

Image description: Photo of Amrita, a brown skinned woman in her late 40s with black hair. She is wearing a red woollen beret and black top, standing in front of a canopy of green leaves and is smiling with her arms crossed

Amrita (she/her) is of Indian origin, artistic disposition and fluctuating mental health. She is a passionate social justice advocate and has a particular interest in the rights of the most vulnerable, including those who suffer mental distress. She is friendly, but an introvert who prefers books; she eschews convention but thrives under routine; she aspires to be like Marie Kondo but can never throw anything out.

Melis Layik

Workshop Participant

Photo of Melis Layik

Image description: Vibrant and colourful photo of Melis, a white woman in her 20s standing in front of a yellow background with hands on her head, staring into the camera. She is wearing a rainbow striped turtleneck, green pants and red, heart-shaped earrings with clown-inspired makeup on. This includes colourful rainbow eyeshadow, white foundation in the shape of a heart and red lipstick

Melis (she/her) is a Turkish creative and activist, passionate about women’s rights, queer identity and mental health advocacy. She has just graduated from a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Global Studies at Monash University and hopes to work with victim-survivors of sexual violence in a legal setting. She routinely organises and participates in photoshoots and loves to write, having been featured in The Guardian and The Age. In her downtime she likes to sew and hang out with her rescue greyhound, Sunny. You can find out more about Melis on her website and Instagram @melis_layik.

Kim Le

Workshop Participant and Web Designer

Photo of Kim Le

Image description: Black and white photo of Kim, a bespectacled, light-skinned Asian person in their 20s with a grown-out mullet. A fringe is falling over the left side of their face. They are wearing a dark collared shirt, leaning against a white frame, and have wired earphones in

Kim (they/he) is a software developer by day, a musical dabbler by night, and a bird enthusiast 24/7. They currently split time between Ngunnawal Country (Canberra) and Naarm (Melbourne).

Hassaan Memon

Workshop Participant

Photo of Hassaan Memon

Image description: Photo of Hassaan, a South Asian male in his 30s with trimmed facial hair facing the camera. Green foliage in the background, eyes squinting in bright daylight

Hassaan (he/him) is a software developer from Naarm (Melbourne) with a love of art history, people, and the frontiers of science. In an alternate universe, he’d be a librarian because his room is full of books he hasn’t finished. He also likes telling people to be quiet. When not coding or reading a novel, he likes exploring art galleries and connecting with people over coffee.

Alice Hui-Sheng Chang

Development Consultant & Workshop Facilitator

Photo of Alice Hui-Sheng Chang

Image description: Photo of Alice, an Asian heritage female in her late 30s, gentle wavy hair above shoulder length, wearing glasses. Slight head tilt, looking relaxed and smiling

Alice Hui-Sheng Chang (she/her, b.1984, Changhua, Taiwan) is a vocalist working with extended techniques, who builds intimate exchanges with her audience in improvisation. She creates an array of timbres and textures by controlling tension in her throat and alternating the passage of air and vocalisations. Alice often performs in collaboration with artists from various backgrounds or mediums.

She graduated from RMIT University’s MFA program (2006), and a MA in Therapeutic Arts Practices at the MIECAT Institute (2014), both in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. She has performed across countries in Asia, Oceania, and Europe and been involved in supported residencies in Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, France, Portugal and Austria. Her music has been published by labels including Antifrost, Audition, Trente Oiseaux, Homophoni, Sub Rosa, Syrphe, and others.

Alice is now based in Tainan, Taiwan, and is the founder of Ting Shuo Hear Say, a community venue and organisation focused on listening, arts and discursive education.

More information can be found on her website.

Dr Vanessa Godden

Development Consultant & Workshop Facilitator

Photo of Vanessa Godden

Image description: Photo of Vanessa Godden, a light skinned brown person in their mid 30s with long teal, purple, and dark brown, layered wavy hair. They’re looking at the camera with a friendly smile and wearing gold wire glasses, a blue and white striped shirt, and a plaid blazer

Vanessa Godden (they/them, b.1988) is a queer Indo-Caribbean and Euro-Canadian artist, educator, and curator. They are based in Pickering, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. Godden’s transdisciplinary practice explores how personal histories and the body in relation to geographic space can be conveyed through oral and somatic storytelling in art. They draw from their multi-ethnic diasporic experiences navigating the world to build multi-sensory performances, videos, sound installations, book art pieces, and net-art that unfurl the impacts of trauma on the body, connections to community, and tethers to culture. 

Godden is also a sessional lecturer at universities across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and cofounder of the curatorial collective Diasporic Futurisms. They hold a PhD from the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne, Australia; 2020), an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, USA; 2014), and a BFA from the University of Houston (Houston, USA; 2012). Their work has been exhibited at organisations such as Articule in Montreal, The Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery (formerly known as Margaret Lawrence Gallery) in Melbourne, Youkobo Artspace in Tokyo, ClampArt in New York City, and Aurora Picture Show in Houston.

More information can be found on their website.

Mehak Sheikh

Workshop Facilitator

Photo of Mehak Sheikh

Image description: Headshot of Mehak Sheikh, a Brown woman in her late 20s smiling gently, looking straight into the camera. She is wearing a pink headscarf, chunky pink triangular earrings, gold rimmed glasses and white top with orange headphones hanging around her neck.

Mehak Sheikh (she/her) works primarily as a facilitator in a range of industries including multicultural youth sector, small business, local government and lifelong learning. Through her experience as a psychology graduate-researcher and with an interest in the role of education in acculturation and mental health, she hopes to support young people and newly arrived migrants to develop life and civic participation skills for enhanced well-being through her social enterprise, U-Learn. She is passionate about social change and impact through business, education, health and women’s empowerment. Having experienced a multicultural upbringing, through life on four different continents, Mehak is an advocate for intercultural and interfaith dialogue and often speaks on identity politics among other topics. She has been in Melbourne since 2012, moving from the UAE. Mehak is a fourth generation Kenyan with Islamic values and Punjabi Pakistani ethnicity.

Mufeez Al Haq

Production Coordinator & Technical Support

Photo of Mofiz Ul Haq

Image description: Photo of Mufeez, a young adult South Asian (Brown) man, wearing black t-shirt and burnt-orange beanie, casually sitting in front of a window sill overlooking a front yard

Mufeez Al Haq (he/him) is an autodidact who is forever learning and loves creating. His goals are to run a business as a multimedia specialist, help other artists reach their potential, teach music production, as well as be an independent artist who has a positive impact on his listeners.

Dr Lydia Gitau

Research and Counselling

Photo of Lydia Gitau

Image description: Photo of Lydia, a black African woman with short curly hair, facing the camera with a friendly smile, looking relaxed. She is wearing a sleeveless blue top with white embroidery, posed against a white background

Dr Lydia Gitau (she/her) is a Postdoctoral Fellow (Psychosocial Practice) at the fEEL (felt Experience and Empathy Lab), Big Anxiety Research Centre. Her research is focused on examining and engaging in post-conflict interventions that have potential to support healing and long-lasting peace for survivors of conflict, mass violence and trauma.

She has contributed to the development of EmbodiMap, a virtual reality tool to facilitate engagement with emotions, using this with people from refugee backgrounds. She has also been working with the South Sudanese refugee community in Western Sydney to explore new creative approaches to the study of their subjective experience.

Lydia’s PhD thesis (completed 2016) explored trauma interventions for South Sudanese refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp and their link to peacebuilding. She received an International Peace Research Association (IPRA) Foundation’s Dorothy Marcus Senesh Graduate Fellowship and Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney to support this research. She is also an Honorary Associate in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney.

Lydia has previously worked as a trauma counsellor and trainer with NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), and as counselor and lecturer at various universities in Kenya. She continues to investigate different ways of engaging with survivors of trauma to facilitate a shift towards psychosocial wellbeing, healing and peacebuilding.

Rebecca Moran

Research & Peer Support

Photo of Rebecca Moran

Image description: Photo of Bec, a white woman in her late 30s, with curly shoulder-length blonde hair, green eyes and a green shirt, and a big happy smile, with a wooden slatted fence in the background

Bec (she/her) is a criminologist who focusses on complex trauma: particularly the trauma of child sexual abuse. Her PhD explores ‘survivor missions’ and the ways that people healing from trauma might find recognition and drive social change through social action and public testimony. Bec is interested in the personal and the political, as well as social justice, dignity, service reform, and recognition for marginalised groups, including trauma survivors and older adults. Bec also has a long history as a mental health and justice reform advocate/activist, including utilising her lived experience of complex trauma to assist in teaching and training about trauma, with the aim of facilitating transformative learning experiences. Bec worked for many years as a trauma informed practice professional development trainer, as well as tertiary teaching in Social Work. Bec is passionate about co-design, collaboration, and the valuing of lived experience. As a current PhD candidate, her research is titled: Meaning-making, public testimony and politicised victimhood: personal and political dialogues on child sexual abuse.

Erfan Daliri

Anti-Racist Consultant

Photo of Erfan Daliri

Image description: Photo of a brown-skinned man with a moustache, wearing a beanie and a black t-shirt. He is standing holding a microphone in his left hand and his right hand is raised at shoulder height with his palm and fingers pointing upwards.

Erfan Daliri (he/him) is an author, educator, poet, performing artist, event director and social change consultant with a long and diverse career in community development, settlement services, arts, advocacy, multicultural affairs and social change strategy and consulting.

His experiences include everything from communications for change strategy, festival direction, event production and performance poetry, to cross-cultural communication and anti-racism training, participatory development, youth empowerment and motivational speaking.

With a Master’s Degree in Communication for Social Change, three published books and 20 years of experience working with not-for-profit, corporate and public sector clients, Erfan has become one of Australia’s most highly sought-after social change consultants.

Erfan’s current roles include the CEO of Kind Enterprises, director of Newkind Social Justice Conference, board member of the Culturally Diverse Alliance of Tasmania, Fellow of the Post Growth Institute, and Research Advisory Group member of Beyond Inclusion: Belonging and Racial Dignity for Africans in Australia.

More information can be found on his website.

Dr Kelvin Lau

Consultant

Photo of Kelvin Lau

Image description: Headshot of Kelvin Lau, a man in his 40s of Han Asian appearance. He has short black hair, wears a black turtleneck, black rimmed glasses and smiling at the camera

Kelvin Lau (AKA Lau Wing Kei) (he/him) is an artist and researcher who resides in Victoria, Australia. He acknowledges his residence upon the unceded First Nations land of the Bunurong, Wurrundjeri, and Gunaikurnai peoples. Kelvin was born in British colonial Hong Kong but migrated to Australia during his early childhood, and identifies as a “first generation, second wave, third culture” migrant-citizen. His cross-disciplinary practice is driven by his lived experience as such within Australian society.

Kelvin expands upon photograph-centred visual practice to reflexively engage in a process of personal decolonisation and self-reconciliation. As someone with an extensive history within the mainstream medical and mental health industry (as both provider and client), Kelvin seeks to translate these personal explorations into creative methodologies that inform an experience-centred postcolonial approach towards distress/un-wellness within the Australian health establishment.

More information can be found on his website.

Scientia Professor Jill Bennett

Consultant

Photo of Jill Bennett

Image description: Headshot of Jill, a white women in her 50s with striking long red hair looking straight at the camera with a friendly smile. The background is white with black, horizontal, geometric lines

Professor Jill Bennett (she/her) is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), where she is also Director of the National Institute for Experimental Arts, and Founding Director of The Big Anxiety – festival of arts + science + people. Her Laureate Research Lab advances the study of the subjective experience of ageing, mental health, marginalisation and stigma, combining psycho-social approaches with the use of immersive environments and virtual reality to enable perspective sharing, and the development of effective methods for cultivating empathy.

Prof Bennett is a visual media theorist, curator and immersive media producer, whose research focuses on trauma, emotional experience, memory and mental health. Her research includes arts-science collaborations at the intersection of trauma studies, psychology and mental health. Her books include Empathic Vision and Practical Aesthetics, as well as monographs on media arts, curating and its social impact. She has produced and curated many exhibitions and events, encompassing visual, media and performing arts, interactive workshops and experimental discussion forums, designed to promote new forms of engagement.