Dr Simone Deegan on achieving the V-C award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence

Research Associate
Centre for Crime Policy & Research

Thesis ‘The lives and adjustment patterns of juvenile lifers’

Here, she shares her incredible experience and insights;

The VC’s award for Doctoral Excellence is an incredible honor and something that my family (and colleagues) can be proud of as well.
Combining PhD studies with a very young family (my daughter was born during my candidature) can be daunting at times and doubt can start to creep in.
It gives me so much confidence in my abilities going forward- as a colleague once said to me, ‘that award lasts forever.’
Strangely enough, I was not actually aware of it when I first started the PhD. However, when I saw one of my peers from the Academic Internship for Doctoral Students, Himal Kandel, receive the award in 2018, I knew it was something I really wanted to achieve.

I really loved the relationships I was able to foster with other students, staff, and of course, my research participants. Without them, this award would not have been possible.

I had worked with my primary supervisor, Professor Mark Halsey, on his ARC funded project, Generativity in young male (ex)prisoners: Caring for self, other and future within prison. It goes without saying that this experience has been invaluable across my PhD journey and beyond. Along the way, Mark and I discussed my intentions to do a PhD when the project concluded.
Given our shared interest/experience in working with (ex)prisoner cohorts, Mark was the natural choice to be my supervisor.

Again, I am so proud of the relationships that I developed with a group of young people who were subject to so much hatred and condemnation, I didn’t know if I would get a foot through the door with them- let alone go on to produce award-winning research.

The fact that many participants still keep in touch speaks to the fact that they found the study a worthwhile undertaking and something that they are proud of too.

Why PhD and where are you now;

I would say, first and foremost, to anyone considering a PhD, that it is important to choose a topic that you are passionate about.
Everyone will become overwhelmed at some point and ask the ‘what am I doing this for?’ or ‘does this even matter?’ question.
Loving what you’re doing (not what someone else thinks there is call for) is what will get you through in those moments.

Choosing a PhD for me was a natural progression from being a lawyer, to working on an ARC funded project (at Flinders) to wanting to eventually do my own research projects.
The PhD was the next step. By the same token, I am a testament to the fact that things happen in different orders for different people.
I completed my undergraduate degree in 2005, worked as a legal practitioner, had a family, and returned to PhD student life in 2015!

I am currently working at Flinders University, as a research associate and teacher in Criminology. I am also lecturing in the Justice and Society school at UniSA.
I do consultancy work for various government agencies, such as the Guardian for Children and Young People in Care.

My hope is to continue to build on this research by exploring what happens next in the lives of my participants after they had served their sentences and were released from custody.

I would also like to study how other countries recognise and respond to certain warning signals and how they ultimately deal with kids who kill.

Arguably, the SBS short documentary, ‘Stuck in time’ that I made with one of my research participants, Howie, has challenged people’s perceptions of who a ‘murderer’ may be.
The film is also stark evidence that mandatory sentencing (particularly for youths) presents a risk for potential and very real injustices.
A copy of the documentary can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/285448803/33436d9f49

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