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Inclusive Institutions: A Day in the Life at Deakin University

29 Nov 2022 | Danni McCarthy, Alcyone Meehan, Dr Yasmin Mobayad, Rachel Finneran & Peter Oslewski Deakin University is utilising the latest technology to create 'A Day in the Life', an immersive experience for staff and students that is increasing awareness of non-inclusive and discriminatory behaviour some in the community experience.

The iBelong program at Deakin aims to build a strong culture of belonging, safety, respect and inclusion. The program includes innovative and evidence-informed interventions to engage staff and students in culture change activities. A Day in the Life, an immersive learning experience, brings the principles of iBelong to life: to inform, challenge, and encourage staff and students to contribute to an active culture of inclusion at Deakin. 

The Nyaal Precinct building on Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong, Australia.

Image: The Nyaal Precinct building on Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong, Australia.

A Day in the Life takes advantage of Deakin's state-of-the-art interactive learning precinct, Nyaal (meaning to 'open your eyes' in Wadawurrung language). This is a 360-degree theatre that delivers collaborative immersive audio-visual simulations. Nyaal enables the iBelong team to reimagine professional development scenarios usually delivered as text. Nyaal breathes life into a series of scenarios representing real-world examples of discrimination, sexual harassment, barriers to inclusion and victimisation. The theatre places the viewer in the scene where they witness events as they unfold. The immersive experience acts as a primer for further training.  

A Deakin staff member standing and viewing a video in the Nyaal 360-degree theatre.

Image: A Deakin staff member standing and viewing a video in the Nyaal 360-degree theatre.

A Day in the Life aims to increase awareness and understanding of the various forms of non-inclusive, or discriminatory behaviour members of the Deakin community may experience due to various identity factors. Our research seeks to understand if scenarios delivered within an immersive experience provoke human connection and empathy. Does bearing witness to another's experience open more than eyes, but also hearts and minds? Does it lead to sustained changes in attitudes, behaviours and beliefs in our staff and students? 

The study aims to:  

  • analyse the immersive learning experience and its potential to positively affect the research participants' behaviours, attitudes and beliefs.  
  • better understand the affordances of this immersive environment in ways that will guide approaches to the future use of the A Day in the Life experience.  
  • examine the intentions and expected outcomes that drove the design decisions of the experience designers.  

Our study examines not just the effectiveness and feasibility of Deakin's A Day in the Life but the power of technology to connect us as humans and enact sustained culture change. As the research progresses, we continuously discover new potential for facilities such as Nyaal and immersive learning experiences like A Day in the Life. You can read more about of research findings in our case study.

Please note: The report discusses hypothetical scenarios regarding discrimination, sexual harassment, barriers to inclusion and victimisation. Some readers may find the content distressing. The report does not contain any explicit material. For support, please contact your local area wellbeing and support services.

Download Inclusive institutions: enabling and supporting culture change - iBelong at Deakin University here


Danni McCarthy is a Lecturer in Inclusive Education at Deakin University. In this role she provides evidence-based leadership towards the development of education environments that are intentionally designed and capable of maximising the participation and achievement of all learners.

Alcyone Meehan is an Officer with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Deakin. In this role she assists with the evaluation of the Student Equity Program and works across the division to support initiatives relating to building knowledge and promoting inclusion. Alcyone has a passion for helping others and a desire to assist in the progress of positive change.

Dr Yasmin Mobayad works as Coordinator of Disability Inclusion at Deakin. In her role Yasmin builds capacity in the Deakin community through training, strategic negotiation, and diverse project management across the organisation. Her work as a researcher focuses on acknowledging intergenerational traumas associated with low-socioeconomic (low-SES) communities and creating awareness in the wider community of entrenched inequalities.

Rachel Finneran has recently submitted a PhD which examined the relationship between the policy and practice of student voice in Victoria and highlighted how class, schooling, and affect mediate student voice enactment. Rachel has previously worked as a research assistant on the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) Teach the Teacher: Ignite and Primary School Engagement Evaluations. In this role she was involved in the ethics application, data generation, analysis, and reporting. In her current role as a research fellow she is involved in data generation, analysis and reporting of a project that examines the experiences and perceptions of Deakin students with disabilities of work-integrated learning placements.

Peter Oslewski is a Senior Manager with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Deakin University. In this role Peter leads the Disability Access and Inclusion strategy, Student Equity programs and engagement activities with partners across the University and externally. He is passionate about empowering people to contribute to a higher education environment that enables equitable access for all learners.

Facilitated by Advance HE's Collaborative Development Fund 2021-22, four HE institutions explored the challenges of understanding, enabling and supporting an inclusive culture from student to board.

We invited applications to support a project entitled ‘Inclusive Institutions: enabling and supporting culture change’, involving collating, understanding and sharing practice to deliver organisational transformation in an inclusive and sustainable way.

This immersive learning experience is Deakin University's contribution to the project. Find out more

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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