Two Fully Funded PhD Scholarships to Study the Geographies of Homelessness, Veganism, Unschooling, or Heavy Metal Music at the University of Newcastle, Australia


Two Domestic (Australia) or one International PhD scholarships will be awarded to study at the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies under the direction of Professor Simon Springer in the Discipline of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Newcastle, Australia.


The successful applicant(s) must commence their studies between 01 January 2020 and 31 August 2020.

As per the University of Newcastle (UoN) funding guidelines, the scholarship(s) will provide an annual living allowance of $27,596 per annum (2019 rate - indexed annually). For international students, the scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, and in some cases includes the cost of compulsory Overseas Student Health Cover. All domestic students have their fees covered by the RTP, to a maximum of 4 years for PhD candidates. There may also be opportunities for additional income through tutoring and marking.



Homelessness and Mutual Aid

While studies of homelessness are well represented in the social sciences, little attention is paid to the actual experience of being homeless. Focus on the daily lives, activities, and interactions of street-engaged peoples as they negotiate the everyday geographies of violence, stigma, exclusion, survival, and care is required if we are to present a more complete picture of what it means to be homeless. Greater insight into how homelessness is experienced is pivotal to any solution, which cannot be achieved without input from those most affected. By placing the voices of street-engaged peoples at the centre of our concerns, we begin to expose the invisibleness and silencing that characterizes the current moment of capitalism. Governments have largely failed to acknowledge how their social policies and political reforms underscore significant forms of social marginalization, and survival on the streets has meant that reciprocity and mutual aid are necessary strategies to counter the everyday structural violence that shades the lives of homeless peoples.

·      What does mutual aid look like within homeless communities, and how does it structure their everyday negotiations of the city?

·      How are organizations like Food Not Bombs contributing to building solidarity among street-engaged peoples?

·      To equate homelessness with violence directly implicates the state, establishing a basis to explore non-state forms of reciprocity. How aware are homeless people of the state’s complicity in their situation?

·      Homelessness is frequently depicted as an alienating experience, but what forms of connection, community, and care are being mobilized among street-engaged peoples? What lessons can society at large learn from these forms of organizing?



Vegan Political Ecologies


Veganism is undeniably on the rise. For many the move towards veganism is informed by an ethics of care that extends not only to other animals, but also to the wider biosphere. Given the extraordinary depletion of water resources, widespread deforestation, intensified climate change, pervasive pollution, and extreme violence that all flow from contemporary animal agriculture, for vegans, our current food practices represent nothing short of ecocide. Increasing deforestation, methane and ammonia emissions, overuse of antibiotics, and contamination of the water table with waste, are but a few of the deleterious effects of traditional animal agriculture. While a vegan diet doesn’t solve all of our problems, there are significant implications for reducing the effects of climate change and moving towards greater sustainability.

·      What would a shift towards veganism look like in terms of the impacts on our environment?

·      How are vegans advocating for such changes, and what forms of activism are effective?

·      What constraints exist in shifting towards veganism in terms of political will, economic imperatives, and social attitudes?

·      How does veganism intersect with capitalism, and is this compatible with a more sustainable local and global outlook?

Unschooling and the Possibilities of Childhood


Education in its idealized form is a process of self-discovery, an awakening to one’s potential, and a desire to see such abilities realized. For many parents and children this ideal increasingly takes the form of unschooling. Often maligned, unschooling is not anti-education, but rather a response to authoritative and coercive schooling structures, and is more appropriately considered as a form of child-led learning. To ensure the absence of coercion in education children need opportunities to explore for themselves, making their own decisions about what their interests are, and how those curiosities might be fulfilled. Presenting a broad range of opportunities is crucial, but the decision about what path to follow should be determined by the child. When bound to a classroom we often mistake obedience for education.

·      Why are more people opting to homeschool their children?

·      What motivates an unschooling approach?

·      What geographies do children engage when learning is shifted from the classroom to the wider world?

·      What has been the response to unschooling by state authorities and the wider community?

·      How are social groups formed among unschooling families?

·      What does a day in the life of an unschooling family look like?

·      How do children respond to societal expectations when growing up as unschoolers?

Heavy Metal Down Under


Heavy Metal is a global phenomenon, representing a major cultural trend for the past four decades. Numerous subgenres exist within the general framework of Heavy Metal, each representing unique subcultures. Many of these subgenres, such as Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal evolved in specific geographical settings, often referred to as ‘scenes’. While unique scenes have evolved across the globe, the bulk of Heavy Metal’s bands have originated within countries in the northern latitudes. Australia is uniquely positioned within this global evolution, owing to its historical connection to the United Kingdom and shared cultural affinities with its colonial originator. While remote from the geographical heart of Heavy Metal culture, Australia has developed its own unique and passionate approach, producing a number of high profile bands.

·      What sorts of lyrical themes have Australian Metal bands adopted? Are these culturally and geographically unique to the continent?

·      What is the relationship between the cultural evolution of Heavy Metal in Australia and colonialism?

·      Is Heavy Metal in Australia largely a white phenomenon? What has been the response to diversity within the scene?

·      How is gender negotiated within the Metal scene in Australia?

·      What sort of reputation do Heavy Metal fans have within the Australian context? Does this impact the types of spaces that Heavy Metal fans can utilize?

·      How has the geography of Australia in proximity to other scenes contributed to or hindered its cultural uptake?

·      What is it about Australian Heavy Metal that makes it distinctive?




Built on the principles of equity, excellence, and engagement, the University of Newcastle has a reputation as a world-class institution making an impact within its own region, throughout Australia, and across the globe. Although having only recently turned 50, UoN is ranked in the top three per cent of universities worldwide, renowned for the quality and breadth
of its research.




Geography and Environmental Studies at UoN
is headed-up by world-class academics with a broad range of experience in Australia and internationally. A strong commitment to equity and social justice underpins the research of those working in the discipline. In the latest ERA Outcomes of the Australian Government, UoN was rated as “Above World Standard” in Human Geography. Through the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) there is a strong collaborative research culture including a range of supports and opportunities for Higher Degree Research (HDR) students to become involved in.




Newcastle is Australia’s seventh largest city and the economic hub of the Hunter region. With a comparatively low cost of living and a favourable subtropical climate, Newcastle offers
a desirable and welcoming community lifestyle with the city comforts of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, sporting facilities, and shopping centres. Newcastle is a centre for health, tourism, education, environmental services, manufacturing, and information technology. Home to both creative and sporting festivals, Newcastle has a vibrant artistic scene and offers many recreation opportunities, most notably its world-class beaches. In 2011, Newcastle was selected as one of the top 10 cities in
the world by Lonely Planet and
has a well-deserved reputation as a great place to work and live.

Summer (Dec to Feb) 28°C

Autumn (March to May) 26°C

Winter (June to August) 18°C

Spring (Sep to Nov) 25°C


Please send any questions or an expression of interest along with a preliminary research proposal to Professor Simon Springer at


Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, where successful applicants will be notified by October 2019.


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Simon Springer, PhD, MA, BA
Professor of Human Geography
Director, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies
University of Newcastle
Discipline of Geography and Environmental Studies
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science
Callaghan NSW 2308
Location: Social Sciences Building, SR-289
Phone: +61 2 4921 2075
Institutional Email:

Co-Editor: Transforming Capitalism

I acknowledge the Aboriginal custodians of the land in the region where I live and work, the Awabakal and Worimi peoples. I acknowledge the Elders, past, present and future, and Country itself.