Dr Theresa Petray is an Associate Professor in Sociology & Anthropology. From January-June 2022, she is Associate Dean, Research Education for the College of Arts, Society, and Education. She is also Co-Coordinator of the Gender Equity Action & Research (GEAR) team at JCU. 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, joining in 2016 and serving as Coordinator of the team in 2018-2019. In 2020 she became Co-Coordinator of the new Gender Equity Action and Research (GEAR) team, which supports University leadership in implementing the Gender Equity Action Plan developed as part of our SAGE Athena Swan submission.  

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 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, and she serves the Townsville community through volunteer work, previously with The Pyjama Foundation and on the Management Committee of The Women's Centre in Townsville. 

  • BA4000: Becoming a Researcher (Level 4; CNS & TSV)
  • SY2022: Family, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Society (Level 2; TSV)
  • Gender equity
  • 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
  • 2019 to present - Local Organising Committee member, International Sociological Association World Congress
  • 2018 to present - GEAR Coordinator, JCU
  • 2014 to present - Sociology major coordinator, JCU
  • 2022 - Associate Dean, Research Education, JCU
  • 2020 - Stephen Crook Award for best book in Australian sociology panel member, The Australian Sociological Association
  • 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 - Conference Convenor, The Australian Sociological Association (Cairns)
  • 2015 - Bachelor of Arts First Year Coordinator, JCU
  • 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
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
  • 2020 to 2022 - International Sociological Association member
  • 2015 to 2022 - Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies member
  • 2008 to 2022 - The Australian Sociological Association member
  • 2014 to 2019 - Asia-Pacific 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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 39+ 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 4 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 and Pauline Clague in collaboration with Stephen Cornell, Janine Gertz and Dennis Eddington (University of Arizona, University of Technology, Sydney, 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.

  • Risk Perception and Intersectionality: Implications for Large-scale Restoration and Adaptation (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Rifts and Reconnection: An Examination of Reconnective Mitigative Practices under Capitalism (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Social Media as a zone of violence: Neoliberal ideology and violent self-presentation in online spaces (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Experiences of embodiment and exclusion in northern Queensland healthcare systems (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • 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 Identity in the Tropics through the Language and Music of the French National Anthem (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Self-Determination Discourses of Zenadth Kes People through Time (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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