Towards the flourishing self 

I acknowledge the Jagera peoples, the traditional owners of the land on which I live and work, and honour the elders past, present and emerging.

The arts in health and wellbeing sector in Australia is still developing. As an art therapist, I have a vision for an integrated arts and health-wellbeing service grounded in humanism and social justice. 

Just as people attend an integrated medical centre to see a doctor, have their pathology tests, get their prescriptions filled at the pharmacist, and perhaps go to the physiotherapist or other allied health professional, I envision an integrated interdisciplinary arts-in-health-and-wellbeing service which provides:

  • individual and group art therapy programs for children, young people and adults who are experiencing significant illness, disability, grief or sorrow.
  • individual and group art therapy programs for organisations who provide specialist support services for children, young people and adults (eg schools and other education institutions; child care services; health and aged care services; palliative care services; etc)
  • interdisciplinary/ intersectional arts-based research to support, and contribute to, the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.
  • opportunities for teaching institutions and employers to support clinical art therapy placement and practice experiences.
Snapshot of professional highlights

I am an art therapist and artist with research affiliations with QUT, Access Arts Victoria, and Griffith University. 

A former social worker and with a PhD in Creative Writing, I convened and taught in the Disability Studies stream in the School of Human Services and Social Work from 2011 to 2015. In 2015-2016, I led an NDIS readiness research partnership with Endeavour Foundation to better understand people’s experiences of disability services delivery. I enjoyed a thirty-plus years career as a social worker and policy advisor, and served as a social inclusion advisor in the government and community sectors.

Arts in health and wellbeing service priorities 

Using the creative arts to support and engage with people experiencing disability, serious illness, and grief and sorrow.

Learning more about narratives of  disability, illness and sorrow and their implications for health and wellbeing.

Finding and teaching new ways of understanding the historical and contemporary experiences of people with disability and illness, and people experiencing grief and enduring sorrow.

Participating in Arts Front 2030, a four-year project supporting artists to take the lead in shaping the future of culture and the arts in Australia. 

Professional memberships

Australia, New Zealand and Asia-Pacific Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA); Oncology Social Work Australia (OSWA); Impress Studio; Flying Arts Alliance (FAA); Brisbane Institute of Art (BIA).

'Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do. So, in each lake, the moon shines with splendor because it blooms up above'. Fernando Pessoa 

In 2016, I exhibited a suite of mixed-media drawing works, ‘Talking back to Diane Arbus’, in The 5 FIVE Show: Queensland Artists Thinking, at the Logan West Library’s Artists’ Walk and in The Four +One Show: Queensland Artists Exploring at WAG Upstairs Gallery. In 2017, I participated in the Everywhere World exhibition at WAG Upstairs with a series of Jungian-influenced works expressing the tensions between my internal world and my urban environment. In 2018, my painting, 'Looking Across Albion at Sunset', was shortlisted as a finalist for the Milburn Prize (BIA). I am planning a new series of works for 2018-2019, exploring the 'five sorrowful mysteries' in the context of our contemporary times.


 My memoir of grief, 'Jack’s Story', following my infant son’s sudden death in 1987 was published by Allen & Unwin in 1991. I followed this up in 2014 with an essay, 'When Time Stops: The Courage for Joy', which was published in Stories of Complicated Grief: a critical anthology (Eric D Miller, editor)

I have written about being deaf in essays such as 'I Hear with my Eyes' (Griffith Review 2006) and 'The Reluctant Memoirist' (Griffith Review 2011). My book, 'The Art of Being Deaf: a memoir', was published by Gallaudet University Press: Washington DC. March 2014.

My publications include several book chapters; peer reviewed journal articles; NDIS-relevant research reports; and essays. I have co-edited two journals; exhibited research-based art works in art shows; published several commentaries in various media outlets including The Conversation; and written almost 20 commissioned policy submissions and reports. 

Donna McDonald BA BSW MA PhD 

ABN: 57 565 376 193 | E: