Dr Sarah Johnstone

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Areas of Interest: co-design, 'design for diversity', design justice, pluriversal design, decolonial theory, Indigenous perspectives & research methodologies, intersectional & eco-feminist theory, creative/arts-based engagement & placemaking methodologies, cross-cultural engagement, design for health & wellbeing, relational ontology, empowerment & care theory, social ecology, sustainability, spiritual ecology.

PhD (Queensland University of Technology), BDes (Queensland University of Technology)

Dr Sarah Johnstone is an early career researcher, sessional educator, and emerging design strategist at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Sarah specialises in co-design and ‘designing for diversity’, with a specific interest in developing accessible, inclusive, and low-fi creative engagement methods for engaging with people with varying skill sets, perspectives, and abilities. She has applied this approach in a diverse range of projects in various sectors including community development, urban development, youth work, healthcare, aged care, palliative care, and art galleries & museums, with a particular focus on enhancing engagement for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities, refugees, and people with a disability.  Some of these projects include: the design of interactive needs assessment activities for youth work settings in Fiji; training multicultural community leaders how to co-design communication strategies about aged care services with older CALD Australians (Navigating Aged Care Project), in partnership with FECCA (the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council Australia); co-creating access in art and design practice with individuals with lived experience of disability to inform the creation of an accessibility manual to make art and design more inclusive. As part of her doctoral research project, Sarah designed and tested creative methods for engaging with CALD women with a focus on fostering ecologies of care based on an inclusive, pluralistic, relational, and eco-centric approach to delivering social services, and received an Outstanding HDR Student in 2021 by the QUT School of Architecture and Built Environment.

Lately, Sarah has also been involved in projects across health, wellbeing, and ageing, including a project focused on Co-Designing the Palliative Care Hospital Experience with staff, patients and their families at St Vincent’s Hospital; as well as several design research projects as part of Health Excellence Accelerator Lab (HEAL) with Clinical Excellence Queensland, where she applied creative research approaches, design strategy, and participatory human-centred co-design approaches with clinicians, consumers, and improvements teams across three different projects:

Currently, Sarah is working as a Senior Research Officer and Project Coordinator on the Australian Research Council-funded Amplifying Voices from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Discovery Project.

Outside of these projects, Sarah is exploring decoloniality, spiritual ecology, and intersectional environmentalism from the perspective of her own ancestral and cultural background as discussed in her paper: White Skin, Brown Soil: A white woman’s search for identity, culture, and belonging on stolen lands.