about the author

Natalie Swann

PhD Student
School of Social and Political Science
University of Melbourne


PO Box 4241
University of Melbourne
VIC 3052

My faith background

I have known Jesus since I was a child thanks to the faithful witness of my parents. I was baptised and confirmed in the Lutheran Church of Australia, for which I still hold a strong affection, but I married an Anglican and have happily adopted that tradition. I grew heaps in my Christian faith while I was an undergraduate student at the University of NSW taking part in  Campus Bible Study. I matured even more deeply while my husband and I were part of the family of believers at Christ Church Inner West Anglican Community. My husband and I now go to Moreland Anglican Church (St Augustine’s).

My migration background

I was surprised when I realised I am not an Anglo-Australian. I am white-skinned, my first language was English and I feel like I owe a cultural debt to Shakespeare and Austen. Yet, my mother’s family is German and my father’s is Irish. Neither had happy experiences settling into British-ruled (‘Anglo’) Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Stories are told about the ways in which my great-grandparents’ German community endeavoured to demonstrate solidarity with their new Australian community during World War I—breaking up beautiful antique painted German harpsichords for firewood. Family legend has it that my father’s great-grandparents, farmers in the Riverina, would leave meat parcels out for the Kelly boys in support of their activism against British oppression.

Now, more than a hundred and twenty years later, the most indelible part of their identity that has been passed on to me is not language, or cuisine, or fashion. It is their faith: I was raised and confirmed in the Lutheran faith, with a sympathy for my Catholic brothers and sisters. My German-ness is entwined with my Lutheran-ness. My Celtic-ness is unalterably Catholic. Despite my exposure to these family stories and histories, it was studying migration that helped me grasp hold of my own migrant heritage.

My academic and professional background

I have a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW. I majored in Geography and have a minor in Biological Science. When I first started, I thought I wanted to be a national park ranger, but found that I flourished much more in subjects that dealt with what we call ‘human geography’; studies of people and place, cities and regions, economics, sociology, politics etc. I got first class honours for my final year thesis on the relationship between levels of travel and communication in four migrant communities. If you’ve got time on your hands, you’re welcome to download it HERE.

After graduating, I spent 3 ½  years working at Sydney University in the Institute of Transport and Logisitcs Studies (ITLS). My primary responsibility was to manage and analyse longitudinal surveys of travel behaviour to assess the effectiveness of a program called TravelSmart. Although I did some other things, like running focus groups, along the way.

I left ITLS to work in the Policy Unit at ANGLICARE in Sydney. I did lots of exciting things there, but most significantly I was the resident Australian Census data and statistics expert. I spent lots of time and had lots of fun mapping Census data. For about 8 months I was seconded to the team at NCLS Research, where I helped them develop their Community Connections Pack for Churches. I might be biased, but I think it is an absolutely awesome product. If you want some help using one in your church context, the team at NCLS Research would be happy to help, or feel free to contact me.

Since starting my studies at the University of Melbourne, I have tutored the Level 2 course Ethnic Nationalism in the Modern World and worked as a Research Assistant evaluating a pilot program seeking to deliver housing and employment services in a more holistic way to jobseekers experiencing housing insecurity.

If you’re interested in checking out either the subject matter or quality of my previous research, you can download a list of publications HERE.

The other things that make me human

I have always been fascinated by living things and my childhood hero is David Attenborough. I love action movies and science fiction novels. I listen to lots of different music, but if I could only listen to one genre for the rest of my life, it’d be the blues. I inherited a gift for hospitality from my family and love to have people over for dinner. At the moment, I am getting a buzz out of  everything to do with creative ways of visualising data.


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