Dr Theresa Petray is an Associate Professor in Sociology & Anthropology. Her research and teaching both centre on the concepts of agency and social change. Theresa is committed to using her academic work to contribute to social justice.

Theresa is a Research Fellow of The Cairns Institute, and Theme Leader of the Social & Environmental Justice Group at TCI. 

Her primary research focus is on Aboriginal activism and self-determination. Her current research, with Gugu Badhun nation, looks at economic development and nation-building through the lens of self-determination. This research has led to important partnerships with researchers around Australia and internationally, and is currently funded by an ARC Discovery Award, administered though UTS. 

Theresa has also researched Aboriginal protest movements in North Queensland as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social media activism. In particular, she is interested in the ways that seemingly marginalised people exercise agency to speak back to power. Theresa uses research methods which foreground the voices of her research participants. She is also committed to ensuring that her work is publicly accessible, for example by writing for The Conversation and publishing in Open Access journals

Theresa also has research interests in gender equity. She is part of a team of social scientists who evaluated the She Flies drone-flying camps for girls in Northern Australia. She was an integral member of JCU’s Gender Equity Self-Assessment Team, and in 2018-2019 she coordinated and wrote JCU’s Athena SWAN application. 

In 2018, Theresa presented a keynote address about Aboriginal self-determination movements at the Thesis Eleven public lecture on Activist Movements and Social Theory. She also spoke about her research into digital media activism at the Townsville Hospital and Health Service Social Workers Forum, and at the Soroptomist International of North Queensland Inc. Region Conference. In 2016 Theresa was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Switching On Digital Activism symposium at the University of Auckland, as well as a masterclass on Social Media & Activism: Goals, Approaches and Tools. In 2014 she delivered a public lecture on social media activism and worked with ABC Open to make a film about her work.

Theresa teaches using active and blended learning strategies to encourage her students to recognise their ability to change the world. She has received FAESS and TLD funding to develop these teaching techniques and has published her results. She has also co-authored a book chapter (in review) about student activism with four student activists who have previously taken her subject SY3018 Power & Protest in a Globalising World. Theresa supervises JCU students in sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines, and has been on supervisory panels for research students from University of Sydney, University of Copenhagen, and Ben Gurion University. In 2016 Theresa was awarded JCU's Early Career Advisor of the Year award. 

In addition to research and teaching, Theresa is the Bachelor of Arts Honours coordinator, the Sociology major coordinator, a member of the JCU Gender Equity Self-Assessment Team, and a national representative in the NTEU. She serves the Townsville community through volunteer work, previously with The Pyjama Foundation and, since 2015, as Secretary of The Women's Centre in Townsville. 

  • BA4102: Communicating Research (Level 4; CNS & TSV)
  • SS1010: Australian People: Indigeneity and Multiculturalism (Level 1; TSV)
  • SY2022: Family, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Society (Level 2; TSV)
  • SY3018: Power and Protest in a Globalising World (Level 3; TSV)
  • Social movements, social change, protest and activism
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agency
  • Active learning, student engagement and agency
  • Social Research Methods
  • Sociology and Anthropology
  • 2019 to present - BA Honours Course Coordinator, James Cook University
  • 2014 to present - Sociology major coordinator, JCU
  • 2017 - Jean Martin Award for best thesis in Australian sociology panel member, The Australian Sociological Association
  • 2016 - Indigenous Governance Program, Native Nations Institute (University of Arizona)
  • 2016 - Journal of Sociology Best Paper Prize panel member, The Australian Sociological Association
  • 2015 - Bachelor of Arts First Year Coordinator, JCU
  • 2015 - Conference Convenor, The Australian Sociological Association (Cairns)
  • 2013 to 2014 - Secretary, The Australian Sociological Association
  • 2011 to 2014 - Convenor, Sociology of Indigenous Issues thematic group
  • 2013 - BSocSc (Hons) Course Coordinator, JCU
  • 2013 - Jean Martin Award for best thesis in Australian sociology panel member, The Australian Sociological Association
  • 2011 to 2012 - Postgraduate portfolio manager, The Australian Sociological Association
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2016 - JCU Early Career Advisor of the Year award
  • 2015 - Rising Star top up award
  • 2013 - JCU Teaching and Learning Development grant with Dr Wendy Li and Dr Kelsey Halbert: CAR in the Flipped Classroom
  • 2012 - JCU Rising Star Award
  • 2011 - PhD - James Cook University
  • 2010 - JCU Inclusive Practice Teaching Award
  • 2015 to 2019 - Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies member
  • 2014 to 2019 - Asia-Pacific Sociological Association member
  • 2008 to 2019 - The Australian Sociological Association member
  • 2007 to 2019 - Australian Anthropological Association Fellow
  • 2011 to 2015 - Trans-Oceanik partnership between James Cook University and L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociale, College de France

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters
Conference Papers

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 36+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Theresa Petray from 2008 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Prerequisite conditions for Indigenous nation self-government

Indicative Funding
$60,000 over 3 years (administered by University of Technology Sydney)
Based on evidence that self-governance increases Indigenous socioeconomic and community capacity, this international, inter-disciplinary Project aims to investigate factors that impact on the transition from 'identifying' to 'organising' as a political collective. It expects to generate new knowledge about (1) the effectiveness of an Indigenous nation building (INB) model to initiate self-governing strategies and mechanisms; (2) how Indigenous self-governance may impact on the Australian state; (3) preconditions needed for INB 'from scratch'; and (4) an INB methodology. The Project could significantly benefit Indigenous communities; the broader Australian community; Australian governments; and Australian and international INB researchers.
Alison Vivian, Daryle Rigney, Steve Hemming, Simone Bignall, Theresa Petray, Janine Gertz and Pauline Clague in collaboration with Miriam Jorgensen, Stephen Cornell and Dennis Eddington (University of Technology, Sydney, University of Arizona, Flinders University, College of Arts, Society & Education and Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia Ltd)
Aboriginal; Governance; Indigenous nation-building; self-determination

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Investigating the role of unquestioned stigma towards overweight and obesity within health education (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Social Media as a zone of violence: Neoliberal ideology and violent self-presentation in online spaces (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Assessing the sustainability of development strategies in rural and remote areas (Masters , Secondary Advisor)
  • Detecting Bias, #fakenews and Infoganda in Digital Science Communication: Does Engagement with Scientific Misinformation Impact Environmental Policy? A Case Study of Great Barrier Reef Stakeholders (Masters , Secondary Advisor)
  • Rifts and Reconnection: An Examination of Reconnective Mitigative Practices under Capitalism (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • A sociological examination of children’s experience and effectiveness when participating in activism. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • A Comparative Analysis of the Construction of French Identiy in the Tropics through the Language and Music of the French National Anthem (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Gugu Badhan Sovereignty, Self-Determination and Nationhood. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Looking to the Future (Paypa Nagemik) - Economic Development in the Torres Strait as Self-determination (Masters , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit Research Data Australia.


The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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