Dr Theresa Petray (she/her) is an Associate Professor in Sociology and Head of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences academic group. 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 was funded by an ARC Discovery Award, administered though UTS 2019-2023. 

Theresa has 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 also has research and professional interests in gender equity. From 2018-2022 she was Coordinator of JCU's Gender Equity Action & Research team (formerly Gender Equity Self-Assessment Team). In this role, she led the development of JCU's SAGE Athena Swan Bronze application, and the subsequent implementation of the Gender Equity Action Plan. 

Theresa supervises JCU students in sociology and related disciplines, and has been on supervisory panels for research students from University of Sydney, University of Copenhagen, and Ben Gurion University. In 2022, Theresa was awarded JCU's Advisory Panel Member of the Year award, and in 2016 JCU's Early Career Advisor of the Year award. 

  • SY2022: Family, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Society (Level 2; TSV)
  • SY3018: Power and Protest in a Globalising World (Level 3; 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
  • 2023 to present - Head, Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, James Cook University
  • 2019 to 2023 - Local Organising Committee member, International Sociological Association World Congress
  • 2022 - Associate Dean, Research Education, James Cook University
  • 2022 - Associate Dean, Research Education, James Cook University
  • 2019 to 2022 - BA Honours Course Coordinator, James Cook University
  • 2018 to 2022 - GEAR Coordinator, James Cook University
  • 2014 to 2021 - Sociology major coordinator, James Cook University
  • 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 - Journal of Sociology Best Paper Prize panel member, The Australian Sociological Association
  • 2016 - Indigenous Governance Program, Native Nations Institute (University of Arizona)
  • 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
  • 2022 - JCU Advisory Panel Member of the Year award
  • 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 2023 - International Sociological Association member
  • 2015 to 2023 - Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies member
  • 2008 to 2023 - 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 43+ 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.

  • Swimming Upstream: A narrative exploration of the lived experience of older LGBT people and how social work professionals can support and advocate for their community (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Risk Perception and Intersectionality: Implications for Large-scale Restoration and Adaptation (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Reading/Telling stories of Compounded Disadvantage: Regional perspectives in Novels and Memoirs of Higher Education (Masters , Secondary Advisor)
  • 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)
  • “You kind of have to keep fighting”: Young Activists Becoming Political and Acting Prefiguratively (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Experiences of embodiment and exclusion in medical systems: Power, knowledge and transvaginal mesh devices (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Aboriginal Social theory: The commonalities of Aboriginal Social Knowledge (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Affect and Relationality in #MeToo Literary Narratives (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Rifts and Reconnection: An Examination of Reconnective Mitigative Practices under Capitalism (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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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