A novel approach to PhD with 'dockside noir' set in Woolloomoooloo

Published:08 August 2018

TOP: Dr Alison Owens (right) with Professor Donna Lee Brien. BELOW. L-R Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman, friend and colleague Dr Susan Loomes, Dr Alison Owens and Anthony Seaegg, the son of the inspiration for the hero of the novel at the centre of the PhD.

Mariners, wharfies, bohemians, drunks and petty criminals have provided the milieu for Alison Owens' latest PhD project.

Dr Owens, who earned her first PhD in Education from the University of Technology Sydney, has now gained her second doctorate in Creative Writing through CQUniversity by writing and self-publishing a historical novel titled Woolloomooloo Bad. She graduated this week at the CQUni Sydney ceremony.

The novel, being prepared for publication, is based on Dr Owens' husband's family story set in the 1930s and 1940s in the Sydney dockside suburb.

"A Sydney Morning Herald newspaper story from 1939 fired my imagination initially," Dr Owens says.

"My husband’s no-good great uncle was found on some stone steps leading from Little Riley Street with a bullet wound. This is now a scene in the book. And my husband’s father took to painting after suffering a stroke and produced artwork which I am using for the book cover."

Dr Owens was a pioneering academic at CQUniversity's original Sydney Campus in the Imperial Arcade (Castlereagh Street).

She started in 1996, teaching international students about communication and culture, and continued on staff for another 17 years. Her final role was as Director of the International Education Research Centre (IERC).

Alongside her novel project, Dr Owens has been collaborating with CQUniversity's Professor Donna Lee Brien to edit a book titled In our own words: Stories by Australia's international students.

Dr Owens and Professor Brien have also been working on a project for leading UK scholarly publishers Palgrave, to produce an edited book about the PhD journey from the students' perspective, including a series of chapters from current and recently completed research higher degree candidates.

The Doctoral Experience: Student Stories from the Creative Arts and Humanities, edited by Donna Lee Brien, Craig Batty, Elizabeth Ellison and Alison Owens, is in the final draft stage.

"We have proposed a number of co-authored conference papers from this project to important national conferences at the end of the year, including the Australian Association for Research in Education," Professor Brien says.

Dr Owens and Professor Brien are also working on a long-term project on forgotten or under-researched Australian women writers, focusing on writing their career biographies.

They have proposed presenting their paper - ‘Writing for Survival: The non-fiction prose of Australian women novelists in the 1930s’ - at the Australasian Association of Writing Programs' conference during November, in Perth.