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The “Women marginalised by mental health, disability, or refugee background” project is led by Katherine Boydell, and managed by Priya Vaughan.  The project was supported by an ARC Discovery Grant (DP200100597). 


Stony Ground/Pocketful of Hope shares body maps – large, human-sized artworks – created by people who have faced stigma or discrimination due to mental illness, disability, or a refugee background. These artworks were created as part of the Women and Stigma Project which aimed to learn about experiences of stigma and discrimination that often remain invisible, but which can have profound impacts on quality of life, health, employment, and access to care. 

Each body map offers a vivid, and visually captivating window into the unique life-history of the artist who made it. Together, these maps tell important stories (which too-often remain hidden) about the very real effects of stigma and discrimination, and the strength, courage, support, and love that can help combat these effects. Maps capture a broad spectrum of experiences: from walking on stony and unforgiving ground, to finding an unexpected pocketful of hope.


"So moving. So transformative. So important. This exhibition landed so deeply with me...Thank you for the reminder that art making is profound for inner healing"

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Stony Ground exhibition at Bowen Library, Maroubra, 2024

Experiences of stigma and discrimination can be be upsetting to talk about, and hard to describe. Traditional research methods (like filling out a survey) often fail to capture such difficult-to-verbalise experiences, so Women and Stigma took a creative approach to data generation. We invited participants to join the research team at art workshops where they created their own body maps.  Body mapping is an art practice that involves tracing your body onto a large piece of paper or fabric and decorating this outline by drawing, painting, sewing, collaging, or writing.


"Thank you for this emotional and inspiring exhibition - there is so much in these works - beautiful art, wonderful worlds. So inspiring, and so real"

Through a guided process, participants visually represented their experiences of stigma and discrimination, and the people, actions and things that helped them feel strong and resilient in the face of these experiences. After maps were completed, participants were interviewed one-on-one, explaining their maps and the narratives, feelings, and ideas represented within them.

Some important findings from this project include:

  • Stigma and discrimination exist on a spectrum

  • For many, the experience of mental illness, disability, or a refugee background can mean feeling both highly visible and also invisible

  • Participants advocated strongly for a holistic approach to health and care

  • Exploring experiences creatively had positive impacts

  • Stigma and discrimination have negative impacts but love, strength and care help

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