In recent years the phenomenon of loneliness has gained international prominence. In 2018, the UK appointed its first minister for loneliness, and policymakers in Australia and other countries have also called for action on the issue. The current COVID pandemic, with its physical distancing restrictions and increased reliance on digital technologies as means of social connection, has highlighted the potential for loneliness and social isolation to become more widespread. This symposium aims to promote debate on the dimensions of loneliness and effective interventions for its alleviation in our digital age. Do technologies help address loneliness—or do they exacerbate it? The event will be multidisciplinary and is intended to engender debate about the key issues among policymakers, service providers and members of the general community.
This interactive, virtual event took place over Zoom on the 24th June, 2020.
Hugh Mackay AO
Hugh Mackay is a social psychologist, researcher and bestselling author of 21 books, including What Makes Us Tick, The Good Life and Australia Reimagined. His latest non-fiction book is The Inner Self, to be published in August concurrently with his eighth novel, The Question of Love.
He has had a 60-year career in social research, and was also a weekly newspaper columnist for over 25 years. Among other honorary appointments, he has been deputy chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts, chairman of trustees of Sydney Grammar School, the inaugural chairman of the ACT government’s Community Inclusion Board and an honorary professor at Macquarie, Wollongong and Charles Sturt universities. He is currently a patron of the Asylum Seekers Centre and the ACT’s Havelock Housing.
Hugh is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Society of NSW. In recognition of his pioneering work in social research, he has been awarded honorary doctorates by Charles Sturt, Macquarie, NSW, Western Sydney and Wollongong universities. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015.
Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves
Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Monash University. She is also an elected board member of the International Sociological Association (ISA). Barbara is a sociologist of technology, specialising in ageing and social inclusion in later life. In particular, she studies loneliness and social isolation among older people, and the role of technologies (communication apps, robotics, VR) in providing opportunities and challenges to tackle the phenomena.
Prior to moving to Australia, she was an Associate Director and Researcher at the ‘Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab’ (TAGlab), Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Canada. At TAGlab, Barbara led interdisciplinary teams co-designing and co-evaluating digital technologies with/for older people living in long-term care facilities. Her studies have been used to improve the design of technology for older people and to inform care practices and policy in Canada, Europe, and Australia.
Last year, she was honored with the Jacques Leclercq Chair in Digital Technology & Society (2019) at the University of Louvain, Belgium. She was named by the ABC and University of Sydney among the Top 5 Humanities and Social Science Scholars in Australia for a media residency (2019).
Nick Tebbey is the National Executive Officer of the Relationships Australia. After over a decade of private legal practice, Nick has worked for a number of years in the social and community sectors, including as CEO of the Settlement Council of Australia, the peak body for migrant and refugee settlement services. In his role at Relationships Australia, Nick is proud to be working with a dynamic team to represent the Relationships Australia federation in policy and advocacy matters, and to help promote the rights of all people, in all their diversity, to live with dignity, and safety and to enjoy healthy, respectful relationships.
Professor Vanessa Burholt
Professor Vanessa Burholt (BSc, PhD, FAcSS) is Professor of Gerontology in the School of Nursing/School of Population Health, Faculty of Health and Medicine at the University of Auckland. She was previously the Director of the Centre for Innovative Ageing (CIA) in the College of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University, Wales, UK; Director of the pan-Wales Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research; and founder of the Institute of Creative Ageing Industries in Wales, UK. Vanessa’s research focuses on older people’s attachment to people and places and she has published on rurality, loneliness, support networks, intergenerational relationships, ethnicity and migration.
Dr Michelle H Lim
Dr Michelle Lim is a Senior Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist at the Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute, and Centre for Mental Health at Swinburne University of Technology. Dr Lim is the head of the Social Health and Wellbeing (SHAW) Laboratory. The main aim of the SHAW laboratory is to generate rigorous research related to loneliness across the lifespan. Specifically, the aim of the research is to develop and design evidence-based and consumer relevant interventions that can effectively target loneliness.
Dr Lim is a full member of the Australian Psychological Society. She received her PhD at the University of Melbourne and postdoctoral training at the Anxiety and Psychotherapy Laboratory at Washington University in St Louis, USA.
Dr Lim is the chief scientific advisor for Ending Loneliness Together, a national Australia network made up of 10 universities and 20 industry partners. She is considered the leading Australian expert in loneliness, with more than 70 national media appearances to date. Dr Lim also provides consultation to not for profit organisations and government. She has also written online articles for the conversation, which generated high readership of over 420,000 readers. Example is The deadly truth about loneliness. Her work has so far focused on developing evidence based digital interventions that can promote social health and wellbeing in young people. Dr Lim is currently the chief investigator on projects testing the effectiveness of a positive psychology-based intervention called Positive Connect for young people (18-25 years old).
Dr Lim is also currently conducting a randomised controlled trial of Peer Tree, a smartphone app designed to target loneliness in lonely young people loneliness. Dr Lim is the associate editor of an upcoming issue on loneliness, titled, “Loneliness: contemporary insights on causes, correlates, and consequences” for the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology journal.