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Visual Arts Wellbeing (VAW): An Australian Research Project

Thanks to the contribution of many artists, university staff, and students, the wellbeing needs of over 200 Australian visual art students were explored. These students shared their opinion on how their university experience influenced their wellbeing, and ways to support students' mental health at university.

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Visual Arts Wellbeing (VAW) is a doctorate research project. The purpose of VAW was to develop a wellbeing needs assessment of visual art students in Australian higher education. VAW was guided by two objectives:

  1. describe the current mental health, resilience, and wellbeing of Australian visual art students in higher education, and

  2. explore ways to improve and sustain Australian visual art students’ wellbeing through their higher education.​

Visual Arts Wellbeing research project logo

About VAW

VAW provides a descriptive profile of students’ resilience, mental health, and wellbeing. The research participants included students enrolled in visual art undergraduate degrees. By representing participant opinions, VAW described diverse perspectives on how university experiences influence students' mental health, and how visual art education can be improved to enhance and sustain student wellbeing. The project gathered evidence through two different phases.

Visual art disciplines in focus

Illustration and design disciplines included in Visual Arts Wellbeing research

Illustration & design, including graphic and interactive design.

Fine arts disciplines included in Visual Arts Wellbeing research

Fine arts, including painting, drawing, print, sculpture, ceramics, and/or textiles.

New media disciplines included in Visual Arts Wellbeing research

New media, including digital illustration and animation

Phase one

Visual Arts Wellbeing online survey phase

Online survey

​The 15-minute survey asked questions about students' wellbeing and resilience levels, how stressed students might feel and what they do when things get tough at university. The survey also asked students about how their degree could be changed to support or improve their mental health.

Phase two

Illustration and design disciplines included in Visual Arts Wellbeing interview phase

Individual interviews

In late 2018 the investigator, Eileen Siddins, interviewed students for 30-60 mins. Questions asked during these individual interviews encouraged discussion about how student’s experiences at university can influence their wellbeing, and ways to support their mental health and wellbeing during their degree. 

Eileen Siddins was the Principal Investigator for this research. Through her experience as a sessional lecturer, researcher, and artist, Eileen has developed a passion for helping art students become the best version of themselves that they want to be. In her spare time, Eileen enjoys completing pottery and illustration projects. 

Eileen's doctorate supervisors were Professor Ryan Daniel, Professor Margaret-Anne Carter, and Doctor Beryl Buckby.

Cartoon of researcher Dr Eileen Siddins


Research findings


The doctorate thesis and open-access reports detail information about the VAW research methodology, analysis, findings, and identified areas for positive change. To encourage active engagement, these documents have been designed as interactive PDFs and are available for download (below). If you would like to read Eileen's recent publications, view her profile at ResearchOnline@JCU, ORCHID, or Research Gate.

The Visual Arts Wellbeing project: A Needs Assessment of Visual Art Students in Australian Universities
Visual Arts Wellbeing Project Short Report

Short report

This 7-page report provides a brief overview of the VAW research project, including a visualised summary of the research findings and recommendations.

Visual Art Student Perspectives Report: Wellbeing and the University Experience

Student perspectives report #1

Report #1 features research participant comments about visual art students' wellbeing, and how their university experiences influenced their wellbeing.

Visual Art Student Perspectives Report: Resilience and Enhancing Wellbeing at University

Student perspectives report #2

Report #2 features participant comments on visual art students' resilience, coping strategies, and ways to enhance wellbeing at university.

Relevent contacts

If you have questions or would like to know more about the outcomes of this research, please be in touch. You can contact Eileen via email or by filling out the form below. If you require further information or support, you can contact one of Eileen's supervisor team. Ryan, Margaret, and Beryl's contact details are listed below.

Everyone has a right to ask for help. If you are a university student in Australia, you can access counselling, support or formal health care from qualified professionals in your university. If you require immediate support regarding your wellbeing, please contact Lifeline (13 1114), PoliceLink (131 4444), or your local police station via Triple Zero (000). Other help services include Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) and Headspace (1800 650 890).

Contact details

Principal Investigator

Doctor Eileen Siddins

Townsville, Australia

Get in touch

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Supervisor contact details

Primary Supervisor

Professor Ryan Daniel

Townsville, Australia

Secondary Supervisor

Professor Margaret-Anne Carter

Brisbane, Australia

External Supervisor

Doctor Beryl Buckby

Townsville, Australia

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