Associate Professor Siobhan McHughSiobhan McHugh

Position: Associate Professor, Journalism
Location: 25.G03
Phone: + 61 2 4221 4223

  • Doctor of Creative Arts (University of Wollongong);
  • B.Sc (University College Dublin)


Siobhan McHugh is an internationally recognised writer, oral historian, radio documentary/podcast producer and podcast critic, whose work over three decades has been concerned with capturing and transforming marginalised voices through the affective power of sound and storytelling. She has written award-winning social history, authored over 60 acclaimed audio documentaries and scripted international television documentary. Her theoretical research interests include the aesthetics and disruptive impact of podcasting and audio storytelling, critical analysis of the podcast/radio documentary/feature form, orality and aurality in oral history and the affective power of voice. Her latest project, a collaboration with Fairfax Media on the podcast ‘Phoebe’s Fall’ (2016), examined the bizarre death in a Melbourne garbage chute of a young woman and the botched police investigation that followed. It won three national and one international award and triggered a review of the Victorian Coroner’s Act.
McHugh is founding editor of RadioDoc Review, the first scholarly journal dedicated to critical analysis of the crafted audio feature /podcast form. She is also a member of the editorial board of The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media. Her practice-based research, conducted as non-fiction narratives in audio, print and digital media, has addressed sectarianism, extra-judicial killings in Indonesia, Irish-Australian studies, Australian multiculturalism, Indigenous history, women and war, migration and personal narratives. She was awarded four competitive Australia Council Literary Fellowships ($180,000 in total).
McHugh is currently researching relational aspects of the production of Indigenous art for an ARC Discovery led by art historian Ian McLean, for which she has recorded 35 oral history interviews with Indigenous artists and those who interact with them. The aim is to shift the perception of Aboriginal art from the modernist paradigm in which it is trapped to one that is more aligned with the thinking of current curators so that it can access the much more lucrative market of contemporary art that it has hitherto failed to occupy. McHugh is a noted oral historian, her collections being held in the National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales and online at the City of Sydney. She is also a sought-after public speaker, who has been invited to present in Iran, the US, Canada, China and Europe, as well as across Australia.


The open access journal RadioDoc Review brings together the international community of radio documentary and podcast producers, industry professionals and academics, and fills a crucial gap by providing critical analysis of the radio documentary and podcast form. It is developing a canon of the podcast/radio documentary/feature form and evolving a corpus of analysis for this under-theorised field. For this, McHugh received the inaugural Anne Dunn Award for research excellence, administered by the Australian and New Zealand Communications Association (ANZCA) and the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA). In 2017, she was shortlisted, with collaborator Professor Peter Fray, University of Technology Sydney, through two rounds of the Walkley Foundation Media Incubation and Innovation Fund, to develop a Hub for Innovation in Podcasting (HIP). The aim of the HIP is to research, teach, produce and publish podcasts, with content created by academics, cultural institutions and community groups.

In 2016, McHugh's article, ‘The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio’, was published in The Oral History Reader (Routledge: Oxford), the pre-eminent anthology of oral history scholarship, edited by Professor Alistair Thomson, Monash University, and Dr Rob Perks, The British Library. It was among the most-cited articles in the US journal, Oral History Review and was included in a special 50th anniversary edition that published "some of its most influential articles".


McHugh contributes plain English articles on podcasting-related themes to The Conversation, a widely read academic journalism outlet which has gained over 3.6 million readers for University of Wollongong authors. For the September 2017 period, McHugh was ranked third most-read of 189 UOW authors. Overall, she had notably strong engagement with her publications, garnering 462 comments. More broadly, McHugh’s oeuvre has been widely recognised, in competition, via public engagement and in the media. She is an active, internationally awarded radio documentary maker and podcasting critic and her early work also continues to resonate. Her writings are held in over a thousand libraries around the world including Yale, Harvard, Library of Congress and the British Library (570 holdings for sole-authored works, 473 for chapters in anthologies – source: UOW Library 2017). Her first book, The Snowy - The People Behind the Power (Heinemann 1989), about the multicultural workforce that built the epoch-making Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, won the NSW Premier's Award for Non-Fiction and had thirteen reprints. Her associated children's fiction, The Diary of Eva Fischer (Scholastic 2003, 2013), was placed on the NSW Premier's Reading List. Terence O'Connell's stage adaptation of McHugh's book about Australian women's experiences of the Vietnam war, Minefields and Miniskirts (Doubleday 1993), played to over 50,000 people around Australia in 2005 and is still performed: it has been studied as part of the Verbatim Theatre subject for the Higher School Certificate in NSW and Victoria. Cottoning On (Hale and Iremonger 1996), her history of Australian cotton growing, continues to inform debate over water management. 
McHugh has been a guest at cultural gatherings including the Sydney and Melbourne Writers' Festivals and Melbourne's Wheeler Centre UNESCO City of Culture and at podcast industry events such as the Walkley Foundation’s Storyology and the ABC’s OzPod Conference (2017). She has represented University of Wollongong at showcase events such as Budding Ideas (TED-style short talks), Open Access Week and Uni in the Brewery. In 2017, she is a keynote speaker at the 54th Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union’s General Assembly in Chengdu, China. In industry-related consultancy, McHugh has been an invited speaker at the prestigious Paris-based Global Editors Network (GEN) media summits annually since 2015. At GEN Barcelona (2015) she appeared on a panel with Dana Chivvis, producer of 'Serial', the most successful podcast in history.
McHugh’s impact is also felt through her broad-ranging training and consultancy activities. She is a pro bono adviser on podcast development for public interest bodies such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (USA) and Rutas Del Conflicto (Colombia), a project that seeks to document the experiences of survivors of the FARC guerrilla group. Since 2012, she has led a sought-after residency in creative audio storytelling at Varuna Writers Centre, Katoomba. In 2016, all participants gave it a perfect 100% rating of “extremely valuable”; one, the award-winning novelist Carrie Tiffany, noted: “A whole new world opened up to me. Siobhan McHugh's enthusiasm for her subject is inspiring. An energetic week full of enthusiasm, support, and truckloads of new knowledge.” Carrie Tiffany’s first short audio feature, “The Loving Tree”, was broadcast on ABC Radio National Books and Arts in 2018.
See for details of oral history projects, radio documentaries and book publications. 

Recent media appearances - television:
McHugh S, (2015). The Great Australian Race Riot. (3 x 1hrs) television documentary. Ep 1, SBS. 4 January 2015, 50mins. Featured contributor.
McHugh S. (2015). Australia: The Story of Us. (7x 1hrs) television documentary. Channel 7, April 2015. Featured contributor.
McHugh, S. (2014). Mná Dibheartha, trans Banished Women. 4 x 1hrs TV documentary, TG4, Ireland. Featured contributor.

Research Interests

Podcast studies: podcasting as a medium and a genre
Aesthetics and impact of the radio documentary/feature and podcast form.
Oral history theory and methodology.
Audio storytelling as literary journalism.
Podcast as vector for academic research.
Affect and emotion in audio narratives.

Practice-based research: Publications (NTRO)
Phoebe’s Fall (2016): 6-part podcast series produced by Fairfax Media (McHugh was consulting producer). 1.3million downloads, 3 national, 1 international awards.
‘Eat Pray Mourn: Crime and Punishment in Jakarta’ McHugh, S and Baker, J (2013). ABC Radio National 360 Documentaries, ABC Radio Australia, 7 April 2013. Audio documentary, 52 mins: an exploration of extra-judicial police killings in Indonesia.
Bronze award, New York Radio Festival
Selected for screening, International Features Conference, Leipzig, 2014.
Accepted by Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) 2015 as a Non-Traditional Research Outcome (NTRO).
MARRYING OUT, HINDSIGHT, ABC RADIO NATIONAL 2009 (Audio documentary, 2 x 53mins)
Based on some 50 oral history interviews (archived at National Library of Australia), this radio series explores the religious bigotry and post-colonial tensions between those of English (Protestant) and Irish (Catholic) heritage still prevalent in Australia only two generations ago. It has been broadcast in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.
Gold medal, New York Radio Festival 2010
Finalist, UN (Australia) Media Peace Prize 2010
Accepted by ERA 2012 as a NTRO.

Recent Academic Articles:

McHugh, S. (forthcoming). `Memoir for Your Ears: The Podcast Life’, in The Literature of Remembering: tracing the limits of memoir, B. Avieson, F. Giles, & S. Joseph (eds), Routledge: Oxford. 
McHugh, S. (forthcoming) 'A Perfect Storm: Podcasting, Audio Storytelling and RadioDoc Review' in Transnationalizing Radio Research: New Encounters with an Old Medium, G. Föllmer & A. Badenoch (eds). Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany.
McHugh, S. (2016) “The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio” in R. Perks & A. Thomson (eds), The Oral History Reader, Routledge: Oxford, pp. 490-507.
McHugh, S. (2016). “How podcasting is changing the audio storytelling genre.” The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media, 14 (1), pp. 65-82.
McHugh, S. (2014). “RadioDoc Review: developing critical theory of the radio documentary and feature form.” Australian Journalism Review, 36 (2), pp. 23-35.
McHugh, S. (2014). “Audio storytelling: unlocking the power of audio to inform, empower and connect.” Asia Pacific Media Educator, 24 (2), pp. 1-16.

Academic Research - Current

Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP150103082): 2015-2017. $122,259
Investigators: Prof Ian McLean; Dr Siobhan McHugh; Ms Margo Neale

Project Title: A new theory of Aboriginal Art
McHugh has recorded 35 oral history interviews in remote and urban Aboriginal communities on cross-cultural aspects of the production of Indigenous art. These will be archived as a research collection and drawn on for a radio documentary/podcast for "Earshot" on ABC Radio National (2018).


Walkley Foundation Innovation Award: shortlisted 2017
Gold, New York Radio Festival 2017, for Phoebe's Fall podcast (team award: McHugh was consulting producer)
Kennedys Award for Outstanding Radio Current Affairs for Phoebe's Fall podcast (team award: McHugh was consulting producer)
Best Storytelling/Documentary Podcast, Australian CastAway Awards, for Phoebe's Fall podcast (team award: McHugh was consulting producer)
Melbourne Press Club Quills Award 2016 for Phoebe's Fall podcast (team award: McHugh was consulting producer)
Anne Dunn Award for Research Excellence (ANZCA/JERAA) 2014
Walkley Foundation Innovation Award: shortlisted 2014
Varuna Writers Centre: Creative Digital Audio Storytelling Residency 2016, 2014, 2012
United Nations Media Peace Prize - shortlist 2010
Gold, New York Radio Festival 2010, for radio documentary series Marrying Out
National Trust Heritage Award - short film 2006
Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union: Best Radio Documentary, 2004 (with K Merani: 'Sweet Sorrow - Indentured Indian Labour in Fiji')
NSW Premier's History Fellowship 2005
NSW Premier's History Award: radio shortlist 2004
Varuna Writer's Fellowship 2003
United Nations Media Peace Prize - shortlist 2002
Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism - finalist, 2000
Australia Council Literary Fellowship, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1999 (total $180,000)
NSW Premier's History Award: book shortlist 1997
Eureka Science Award shortlist, radio 1997
Winner, NSW Premier's (Douglas Stewart) Award for Non-Fiction 1990

Current HDR Supervisions (6)

Doctor of Philosophy - Transnational subjectivity in Australian Women's Fiction/Writing with intertexts: Aesthetic Reflections. Pike, Deborah
Doctor of Philosophy - Missingness: Stories from a liminal space. Stewart, Erin
Doctor of Creative Arts - Studio Of The Four Winds: The Adventurous Artist. Turnbull, Sarah
Doctor of Creative Arts - Konfrontasi: The Untold Experiences of Australian Soldiers and their Families in a Forgotten War Novel: "Konfrontasi'. Stevenson, Kylie
Doctor of Creative Arts - Memory and Hope: Stories of Loss and Renewal in the Lives of People of the Illawarra. Oliver, Joanne
Doctor of Philosophy - Locative Audio Walks: In Pursuit of a Critical Theory of Practice. St Clair, Jeanti 

Research topics for potential supervisions:
Evolution and impact of podcasting, radio documentary and audio storytelling
Inter-disciplinary applications of audio storytelling
Culturally distinct formats of audio storytelling
Impacts and interconnections of affect, voice, listening and story 

Professional Activities

Member, International Association of Media and Communication Research
Member, Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia
Member, Oral History Association of Australia
Member, Australian Society of Authors
Member, Irish Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand (ISAANZ)
Member, Varuna Alumni (Varuna Writers Centre, Katoomba, NSW)
Former Deputy Chair, NSW Writers' Centre 

Last reviewed: 22 January, 2018