Consultancy Reports

The RUPC's sector engagement includes various forms of consultancy work. Below is a list of some of the outputs resulting from these consultative research collaborations.


Pledger, David and Papastergiadis, Nikos. In the Time of Refuge. The University of Melbourne in partnership with Arts House and the City of Melbourne, 2021

This timely book offers an expanded understanding of the importance of the arts and communication in dealing with disasters. It is based on Refuge a pioneering program of artist-led events held at Arts House (Melbourne) from 2016-2021 concerned with the intersection of climate change, emergency services and community. Even before the COVID pandemic the financial cost of extreme weather events alone was projected to exceed $39 AUD billion per year in 2050 (Deloitte 2017; Glasser 2019). Imagining a disaster is recognized as a key part in developing responses and mitigating consequences. But building such an imaginary is challenging: communities need to be able to “imagine the unimaginable” in order to prepare for disasters (Fraser et al 2019). Experts in emergency services also recognize that in complex multicultural societies conventional communication strategies are ridden with distortion effects. In the Time of Refuge addresses  the imminent urban challenges arising from climate change by focusing on the events and actors involved in Refuge but also by ruminating on the wider changes in the political landscape and the different philosophical ways for approaching the question of time.

Artists are not averse to crisis, trauma and disasters. In fact, as one artist put it, they have a proclivity to put their fingers in the wound. Art can also help us see changes that are not yet visible. It can clarify issues that are either latent or have been marginalized. Art does this by representing missing aspects of our society and bringing into view the commons in our culture. It gives us a deeper or wider image of public life. This is crucial at a time when public services are in decline and the real costs of commercialization are hidden. As such, there are also many practical lessons that Refuge offers. When the emergency is extended deeper into our way of life, we are forced to turn to new habits and ways of relating to each other. If we can listen to the stories in this short book, and spawn multiple other scenarios, then there is a hope that a preparedness is developed, not just in the infrastructure but also in the imagination, before the next wave.

In the Time of Refuge report


Fraser, Suzanne, Rudd, Damien, Rowbottam, Sarah and Papastergiadis, Nikos. Refuge 2019 Evaluation: Displacement. The University of Melbourne in partnership with Arts House and the City of Melbourne, 2020

The theme of ‘displacement’, the fourth and penultimate theme in the Refuge series, necessitated greater sensitivity in part due to the nature of the subject as an immediately relevant and primarily humanitarian issue, in contrast to earlier Refuge iterations which focused on climatic or scientifically-informed scenarios such as catastrophic heatwave and the outbreak of disease. One participant in 2019, who originally relocated to North Melbourne from Tonga, stated emphatically that displacement was a ‘very emotional’ topic for her. A number of the students from the North Melbourne School of Language and Learning - who were key participants in Refuge 2019 - have been displaced from their homeland due to political conflict and religious persecution. This further highlights the scope of the subject as not only a serious byproduct of climate change, but also the result of a number of social, cultural and political upheavals that are only more likely to be exacerbated by climate change.

After collating evaluators’ and participants’ reflections from Displacement, this Evaluation found a number of areas for critical consideration in advance of the final year of Refuge in 2020; these will be noted in the relevant sections of the Evaluation. Among these considerations is the challenge around communicating, in a clear and consistent manner, the underpinning objectives of the Refuge series across the myriad events associated with this arts program. While the diversity of events and discussions in Refuge 2019 meant that the overarching narrative of the program - as it pertains to climate change and catastrophe - was at times muddied, this is perhaps a necessary byproduct of a progressive shift in the series away from macro investigations into climate change and disaster resilience and towards individual perspectives on historic and future disaster, as well as the lived experiences of ongoing cultural marginalisation.

Refuge 2019 Evaluation: Heatwave report


Fraser, Suzanne, Rae, Jen, Rudd, Damien, Papastergiadis, Nikos, and MacDowall, Lachlan. Refuge 2018 Evaluation: Pandemic. The University of Melbourne in partnership with Arts House and the City of Melbourne, 2019

The thematic focus of Refuge 2018, ‘pandemic’, imagines a situation in which an infectious disease rapidly spreads to a global scale. The disaster scenario of a pandemic outbreak in Melbourne presents particular challenges which differ from the previous Refuge themes of flood and heatwave. For example, in the event of a pandemic, members of the public are less likely to be brought together in a relief centre in order to prevent the spread of further infection. In reality, affected/infected individuals would most likely be isolated, while others would be advised against large group gatherings or collective activities. Consequently, rather than presenting the venue of Arts House as a relief centre simulation, as was the case in previous years, Refuge 2018 responded to the theme of pandemic with a more geographically dispersed program.

The evaluation of the Refuge project in 2018 responds to the annual thematic of pandemic; the conceptual and thematic deepening of the project over its first three years; our evolving understanding of the meaning and value of the Refuge project to its many stakeholders; and, its place in a broader, international landscape of practices and collaboration in the fields of the arts and disaster preparedness. In 2018, the evaluation moves away from the use of individual interviews and instead relies on conceptual and contextual material (developed in the drafting of an Australian Research Council Linkage grant), participant observation and documentation (developed in response to the LAB and Refuge events), and the use of hosted group discussions (implemented at the annual Evaluation Day).

Refuge 2018 Evaluation: Pandemic report

From Ethnic Enclave to Cosmopolitan Cultures: Evaluating the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture in the City of Melbourne
Presentation of Report to Mr Alan Tudge,
the Federal Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs,
by Professor Nikos Papastergiadis. 30 July, 2018


Trimboli, Daniella, Di Biase, Tia, Burgan, Barry and Papastergiadis, Nikos. From Ethnic Enclave to Cosmopolitan Cultures: Evaluating the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture in the City of Melbourne. The University of Melbourne in partnership with The Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture.

The Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) has developed and consolidated its presence in the City of Melbourne primarily through the establishment of a new building. A central part of this building is the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture (GCCC). The GCCC delivers a number of key events, programmes, and projects on an annual basis.

The purpose of this report is to evaluate the socio-cultural and economic effectiveness of these programmes and events. The findings demonstrate that across a wide range of activities, the GCCC has been extremely successful in attracting diverse communities and consolidating the cultural identity of the GCM.

This report elaborates on the socio-cultural and economic benefits generated by the GCCC. It recommends key strategies that will maximise its own status while also enhancing its capacity to provide leadership for other emerging communities. Following these directions, the GCCC can become a beacon for the cosmopolitan character of the City of Melbourne.

Greek Centre Evaluation Report

Leorke, Dale, Wyatt, Danielle and McQuire, Scott. A Library in Transition: State Library Victoria's redevelopment. The University of Melbourne in partnership with State Library Victoria, 2018.

In 2015, Australia's oldest public library, the State Library Victoria in Melbourne, announced an AU$88.1 million redevelopment of its spaces and services. This report documents the early stages of this redevelopment - after it has been imagined and planned, but before it has been implemented. The report situates the Library's redevelopment within the broader economic, technological and cultural shifts shaping the role and expectations of cultural institutions.

Drawing on interviews with State Library Victoria staff, with the architects responsible for its design, and with users of the State Library, as well as an online user survey, the report documents how the Library is responding to these broad shifts. In particular, it highlights the range of ways the Library is valued by users, and how it seeks to contribute to the public life of the city.

A Library in Transition report

MacDowall, Lachlan and Fraser, Suzanne. Refuge 2017 Evaluation: Heatwave. The University of Melbourne in partnership with Arts House and the City of Melbourne, 2018

Refuge, which began in 2016 and will continue until 2020, is supported by state and local institutions, public sector representatives and community leaders, brought together in this project through a shared recognition of the need for alternative models for managing public crises. This collective drive for change signals a contemporary shift away from established systems of top-down, centralised disaster management towards emerging models which encourage communities to assume greater responsibility for not only alleviating systemic crises like climate change, but also managing sudden emergencies in their neighbourhoods, such as floods and heatwaves. Partner organisations in the program are City of Melbourne, Emergency Management Victoria and Red Cross Australia.

As part of its involvement in Refuge, the Research Unit in Public Cultures (RUPC) at The University of Melbourne has been tasked with undertaking annual evaluations of the events in the five-year program, with the goal of contextualising findings within the broader perspective of arts and humanities scholarship. Refuge 2017 Evaluation: Heatwave draws on evidence gathered through detailed observation during key events, interviews with artists and stakeholders, as well as surveys administered to public attendees on the day of the 24-hour relief centre simulation. A primary aim in the evaluation process is to track critical areas of change and growth in the program across each of its annual iterations. The evaluation is also designed to assess whether changes to the framework of Refuge which occur between the program’s yearly cycles deliver outcomes that are beneficial to the requirements and experiences of both project stakeholders and public participants.

Refuge 2017 Evaluation: Heatwave report


Khan, Rimi, Yue, Audrey, Papastergiadis, Nikos, Wyatt, Danielle. Multiculturalism and Governance: Evaluating Arts Policies and Engaging Cultural Citizenship [Final Report]. The Research Unit in Public Cultures, The University of Melbourne, 2017.

Cultural diversity in Australia continues to provide a challenge for the development of public policies. Forty-six per cent of Australia’s population was born overseas or has an overseas-born parent (ABS 2012). However, government funding for the arts and cultural participation does not reflect this diversity.

This report presents a policy overview, a cultural citizenship indicator framework and models an arts value-creating ecology for culturally diverse artists.

This project is the first to develop an indicator framework for evaluating the three components of cultural citizenship – cultural participation, capacity and belonging. The framework provides a resource for arts workers and cultural policymakers to understand how cultural citizenship is generated in culturally diverse communities. While citizenship is defined as the formal, legal frameworks that underpin belonging to a nation, cultural citizenship refers to the informal, cultural dimensions that facilitate belonging and enable one to contribute to, and shape, the dominant culture.

The report also provides a current snapshot of cultural citizenship, and experiences of participation among people from migrant backgrounds.

Multiculturalism and Governance Report

Yue, Audrey, Trimboli, Daniella and Di Biase, Tia. Refuge 2016 Evaluation Report. University of Melbourne in association with Arts House 2017.

This document reports on the evaluation of Arts House’s exercise Refuge, held 8-9 July 2016. Refuge was a collaborative investigation into the role of art and culture in preparedness and resilience in the face of climate change impacts and extreme weather events. Specifically, the investigation focussed on the role of the urban cultural centre as a physical place of refuge. To carry out this investigation, Arts House simulated a flood disaster situation, turning Arts House into an Emergency Relief Centre for 24-hours.  e exercise was commissioned by Arts House, Melbourne’s centre for contemporary and experimental performance. Arts House is a core program of the City of Melbourne, located in the North Melbourne Town Hall.

Refuge 2016 Evaluation Report was prepared by the Research Unit in Public Cultures in the School of Culture and Communication and funded by the Faculty of Arts.

Refuge 2016 Evaluation Report


Smith, Kristen, Chenhall, Richard, McGuire, Scott, Kowal, Emma. Digital Futures in Indigenous Communities, Melbourne Networked Society Institute Research Paper, No 3, University of Melbourne, Parkville.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are under-serviced by digital technologies, with indigenous Australians being 69% less likely than non-indigenous people to have any Internet connection and are about half as likely to have broadband access. This 'digital divide' contributes to and reinforces educational, income, employment and geographical disadvantage. While uneven access remains a particular problem for rural and remote Aboriginal communities, digital technology also provides a way of overcoming Indigenous social disadvantage.

This project examines how to foster provision of culturally relevant information to Indigenous communities enabled by broadband connectivity. The research focuses upon the network of 70 touch screen kiosks installed at key community locations in remote, regional and urban communities operated by HITnet. The HITnet network is designed to address 'information disadvantage' by using IT to improve and maintain community connectedness, digital development and digital social inclusion.

Digital Futures in Indigenous Communities Report

Evans, Jody, Skewes McFerran, Katrina, White, Tabitha and Yue, Audrey. Investigating Wellbeing Outcomes at the Melbourne Recital Centre. University of Melbourne.

This report examines the impact on individual audience experiences at the Melbourne Recital Centre have on audiences in terms of wellbeing outcomes (immersion, enrichment and community). The project seeks to identify the relationship between wellbeing outcomes and audiences preference for the Melbourne Recital Centre and their associated advocacy behaviours.

This cultural impact report was undertaken by RUPC director Associate Professor Audrey Yue, with Professor Katrina Skewes McFerran (Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music) and new RUPC members Associate Professor Jody Evans and Dr Tabitha White (Melbourne Business School).

MRC Wellbeing Report


Wyatt, Danielle, McQuire, Scott and Butt, Danny. Public Libraries in a Digital Culture. Research Unit in Public Cultures at The University of Melbourne in association with State Library of Queensland: Melbourne.

This report evaluates recent and existing State Library of Queensland (SLQ) initiatives in relation to information technology and communications using ethnographic techniques. The report gathers data collected from interviews with several stakeholders and considers contemporary developments in library practices and digital media.

Public Libraries in a Digial Culture report

White Night
White Night: City as Event: Researching
Melbourne's Festival of Illumination

Butt, Danny (ed). White Night: City as Event: Researching Melbourne's Festival of Illumination. Nikos Papastergiadis and Scott McQuire (general eds). Research Unit in Public Cultures, The University of Melbourne: Melbourne.

In this project we seek to examine the impact of a major public event - White Night - in the City of Melbourne. Through this event we witness a significant shift in the location and duration of artistic events as they move to inhabit the urban fabric. But the event is also conditioned by a central expectation that the public can engage and interact with art, and with each other. Is the quality of the art or the public experience more important in defining the event? Or does framing the question in oppositional terms miss the point?

White Night City as Event report

Cnossen, Boukje, Franssen, Thomas and de Wilde, Mandy. Digital Amsterdam: Digital Art and Public Space in Amsterdam. Danny Butt (ed), Nikos Papastergiadis and Scott McQuire (general eds). The Research Unit in Public Cultures, The University of Melbourne: Melbourne.

In this report we explore digital art interventions in public space in Amsterdam as part of the 'participatory public space' project lead by the University of Melbourne. We focus specifically on artistic interventions in public space, rather than on the more general ways in which public space is transformed by digital technologies: it is in these artistic interventions that the most radical innovations take place. This becomes the case, for instance, in augmented reality interventions - a technique in which smartphones render visible interventions in the virtual world. Of particular interest is the way these interventions redefine public space and participation.

Digital Amsterdam report

Papastergiadis, Nikos, McQuire, Scott, Yue, Audrey, Gu, Xin and Trimboli, Daniella. Connecting Audiences: A Manual for Large Screens. The Research Unit in Public Cultures at The University of Melbourne, in association with Federation Square, Art Center Nabi and the Australia Council, Melbourne.

The 'Large Screens and the Transnational Public Sphere' project was a five year study of the potential of large video screens to build community in and across cities through artistic exchange and public participation. The primary aim of this project was to foster participatory public spaces by exploring the impact of new broadcast platforms and communications technologies on public life and urban experience. A key outcome of this project was this manual, distributed to key stakeholders in October. The manual provides pointers on how to proceed in this mediated cultural-context that we now all operate within, and acts as a how-to guide for producing large screen events, based on what we learned when curating these mediated public events.

Connecting Audiences report