Symposium 2022

Scroll through to watch recordings of the presentations delivered at our first annual Story in a Box symposium held at The University of Melbourne 15-16 Sept 2022



The sharing of stories is central to many cultures. Storytelling enables us to understand and structure the world around us. Sharing our stories and experiences allows us to meaningfully engage with others because stories act as conduits to break down barriers constructed by misunderstanding.

Object-inspired Learning

Objects are storytellers par excellence, leading us to insights and meanings from multiple perspectives. And it is precisely this that makes them ideal partners for dialogue: authentic and open to exploring the past, present and future. Objects are there for anyone who wants to start a conversation with them… at any time, in any place, from any perspective…


Empathy is measured by our capacity to engage with, understand, feel, anticipate, and act upon the emotions of others. We must grow and nurture this skill because it conflicts directly with a culture where individual achievement takes precedence over the needs of the collective whole. Nurturing empathy promotes understanding and respect, and promotes cross-cultural awareness and builds strong, resilient relationships.

Program at a glance

Day One – 15 September

The first day of the symposium features presentations from a diverse group of researchers and practitioners involved in projects which explore our three themes. Each session will offer ample discussion time to ensure maximum interaction.

Check out the full program

Day Two – 16 September

See the objects and hear their stories as told by students from the Goulburn Valley, Dubai and Cairo. Then gets hands-on in our Story in a Box workshop as we discover how object-inspired learning might be used in different settings to encourage storytelling and grow cross-cultural empathy.


Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, teacher and academic from southwest New South Wales and is Associate Professor in Creative Writing, Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne. After a long teaching career, she completed a doctorate in Australian literature and Aboriginal representation and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University. Jeanine is the recipient of two Discovery Indigenous Awards through the Australian Research Council and she has published widely in the area of Aboriginal literature, writing otherness and creative non-fiction.

Heba Abd El Gawad resides in Cairo where she works tirelessly to make Egyptian heritage accessible to all Egyptians. We are delighted Heba is joining us in-person in Melbourne to share her experience of developing ‘Cairo in a Box’ with young people from the Tawasol Foundation school. Heba is a people-centred museum and heritage specialist with extensive experience in exhibition curation in Egypt and the UK. She believes in using museum collections and archives to contribute positively to the lives of her communities focusing on achieving outcomes of social justice and inclusion.

Dawn Bessarab is an Aboriginal woman of Bard (West Kimberley) and Yjindjarbandi (Pilbara) descent and is a Professor in the Medical School at The University of Western Australia.  In seeking to address systemic health inequities  perpetuated by existing power structures Dawn continues to lead research projects investigating the decolonisation of methodologies in order to facilitate new understandings and approaches.  As an outcome of this extensive research yarning has been proven as an effective research methodology able to assist in the establishment of mutually respectful relationships and productive intercultural dialogue. Dawn has therefore demonstrated the value of storytelling as an effective data gathering tool.

Jane W. Davidson is Professor of Creative and Performing Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, Chair of the Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Initiative, University of Melbourne, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Experienced in academic leadership and scholarship, her research embraces the study of musical performance, skill development, social cohesion, health and wellbeing. She has published extensively and has received research funding in Australia and internationally. She is a singer, opera director and community music facilitator.

Trisnasari Fraser is a practising psychologist with an interest in the wellbeing of creative people and the therapeutic value of community music and dance. Her current PhD research investigates intercultural music engagement during COVID-19. As a community-based dance practitioner she co-directed a performing arts agency for ten years, leading ensembles encompassing a range of culturally diverse artforms. Her research areas of interest are psychology of music, mental health in the entertainment industry, the experience of first and second generation Australian artists and social cohesion and community resilience through intercultural music and dance engagement.

Andrew Jamieson is Chair of Classics and Archaeology at The University of Melbourne.  Andrew has represented Australia on the SHIRIN international committee initiated to safeguard and protect Syrian heritage, he has curated multiple museum exhibitions, and is currently the director of the GAIA fieldwork project in Georgia.  Andrew was deeply involved in the design of The University of Melbourne Arts West Object-based Learning Laboratories and he continues to teach classes which inspire his students learning through their engagement with ancient objects.

Serena Love is an anthropological archaeologist who was awarded her PhD at Stanford University in 2010. She has been working as a field archaeologist since 1994 and is interested in the reciprocal relationship between people and the things they build, and constructions of memory and identity. Serena continues to be active in all aspects of cultural heritage management and she currently heads the Everick Foundation facilitating research, outreach and community engagement. In her role at Everick Serena works with living Aboriginal communities on joint projects to preserve and promote their archaeological past.

Campbell Price is Curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum. In this role he confronts the public (mis)perception of ancient Egypt, and seeks to bring contemporary relevance to the study of the ancient world. Campbell is involved in field and museum work in Egypt, and he is recognised for his engagement and outreach projects. Publications, exhibition curation and exposure on traditional and social media channels ensures Campbell holds the attention of a diversity of audiences. We are delighted will be joining us to share details of two projects which have particular relevance to ‘Our Story in a Box’ symposium themes.

Sue Emmett has been extensively involved in early childhood education and the translation of research into the practical environment for over thirty years. Her professional experience includes early childhood teaching and teaching and researching in the Higher Education sectors. Sue is currently working as Senior Lecturer in Education at Federation University Australia coordinating and teaching in Bachelor of Education Early Childhood Programs. Sue has previously worked as a Research Fellow in the School of Social and Policy Research at Charles Darwin University where early childhood literacy was central to her research, particularly in relation to indigenous education.

Lynne Reeder is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health at Federation University Australia. In 2015, she completed a study that examined the role of empathy conversations as a policy resource, later presenting the findings at the 3rd Global Empathy conference at Oxford University. As a Director of the public good Think Tank Australia21, Lynne created the Mindful Futures Network, to map innovations in the science of mindfulness, empathy and compassion within Australian organisations. She leads the Australian Compassion Council of the Charter for Compassion, a global network of collaborative partnerships, and has extensive experience in policy development.

Jane Thogersen is Academic Engagement Curator at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney. Prior to joining CCWM she worked as Manager of the Australian History Museum at Macquarie University where she integrated museum collections into teaching and research across campus, implemented education programs for primary and secondary school students, and led cross-disciplinary student and staff team projects, including engagement programs for people with dementia and their carers. Jane has particular interest in building engagement and access across multiple environments and her work focuses on innovative and cross disciplinary approaches to the way in which university collections can support learning and teaching pathways.

Annelies Van de Ven is an archaeologist and museum professional engaged as a researcher at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium in collaboration with Musée L. As co-founder of The Hands-on-Humanities Project she is committed to enhancing student aspirations through object-based learning. Her current research considers how archaeological archives and collections can be used to better understand past thinking about cultural difference and the ways in which these intellectual frameworks continue to impact academic practice to this day.

Sharyn Volk, co-founder of The Hands-on-Humanities Project and leader of the Our Story in a Box team, is a passionate advocate for disadvantaged students in rural and regional areas in Australia. Sharyn is an object-inspired learning specialist with extensive experience working at both secondary and tertiary levels. She believes in the power of objects and story-telling as pathways to mitigating educational inequality. Sharyn worked with the students who created our original Story in a Box and she will share with us the history and future of the project, and will be leading workshops on Day Two of the symposium.

Our first annual symposium was held with the support of the institutions acknowledged below. Thank you!