The Background of Peter Westoby

Autobiographical Interlude: The Background of Peter Westoby

Westoby wrote a PHD thesis about the sociality of Sudanese resettlement and the text has been highly influential in the development of Jacobs Process. A little about his background is outlined here.

Westoby would not have known, when he wrote his PHD thesis about the sociality of healing that the text would be highly influential in the development of Jacobs Process, and hence the design of the Creative Arts text Global Citizen. Once an idea is realised into the Noösphere it can unleash a ripple effect.  With this in mind, this biography touches briefly on the background of Westoby as a researcher and writer.

It is in the introduction to his thesis, The sociality of healing Engaging Southern Sudanese refugees resettling in an Australian context a model of social healing, (2006) that Westoby chose to start the conversation with an autobiographical interlude.   It is well worth the read as it helps provide a foundation of knowledge upon which the arguments outlined on this channel Designing, Building and Maintaining a Sustainable and Viable Creative Arts Based Practice surface as an atmosphere of creativeness from which healing processes can be developed.

Seek First to Respect and Then to Understand 

Often people who have encountered migration or disenfranchisement in their developmental years may bring to the topic of emancipatory education a different focus. (Forced or otherwise)   If you think of the experiences of Paulo Freire, for example, his early formative history was one of dispossession and exclusion from which he recovered.  Ghandi also experienced rejection by others with respect his original culture, especially when he was in Africa.

Before we begin the long and challenging task of defining and describing Jacobs Process, let’s look at the experience of one of the prime movers and influencers with regards the key philosophical underpinnings of this process, Peter Westoby.

Jacobs Process has as a branding catch cry, a slogan designed to be easy enough for kids to fully understand without jargon or obfuscation.  It is…Seek First to Respect and Then to Understand.

What we will find when looking into the work of Westoby, is scaffolding from which we can craft a way of both respecting and understanding the viewpoints of others.

Peter Westoby: A Short Autobiographical 

It is necessary to know about the life of a researcher because the sociological space from which a researcher and educator approach any problem will affect the problem or exploratory task at hand.   Westoby says that many of the relationships of trust he built on when conducting research emerged out of his personal experiences within the refugee sector in Brisbane.

Westoby’s Early Arrival in Australia

Westoby came to Australia in 1981 as an English migrant youth, and was part of the process of acculturation (an official stance) or assimilation which is what he said he felt about it.  He immersed himself in Touch Footy and lost his connection to the world game of football. He says that he was trying to survive the onslaught of what felt to him like a new wave of school based opposition to migrants.  He felt that it was necessary for him to submerge in all things Australian to survive.   He suggests that this imposed an effect of forgetting his heritage and consequently, he abandoned his old sport and regained his power by playing rugby league.

Remembering: Becoming Literate about Self Again

10 years later, when working with refugees, he began playing soccer again and he found this healing.  Healing was embodied in psychological experience and was triggered by rebuilding the social world that he associated with the game.  In losing the game, he had been suffering cultural loss, and through the game he became literate about himself again.

He says…..I became literate about myself in context; the context of being among refugees, and the context of my past present relationship to the game of soccer. Which I reclaimed as football, and a social context that had marginalised my cultural and community resource. (P16)

Westoby calls the healing he explores, the healing of sociality.  He is an inspiration, and like Colin Peile, his work leads by example.  His thesis is worth a read as it defines and explains the process of healing through sociality as well as gives voice to the Sudanese community of Brisbane.

He talks of what is a ‘space to face internal dislocations and an awareness of how the dynamics of social exclusion operate.  He says as an aside,” (if you continued to play soccer you were punished on the school grounds) had impacted on myself and was critical to my journey.” (P16)

As you will see, throughout the text Global Citizen soccer comes up time and time again, as does the nature of game playing, and the place of cultural preciousness that games have on the heart of the people for whom the game is central to sociality within the culture.

Westoby goes on to make the point that Soccer has come into vogue in Australia and the region   He says that soccer could play a key role within a national process of social healing for, and with, others living in the geographical social places around Australia.

The key points here that are relevant to treatment of Jacobs Process are

  • That healing can be a social phenomenon
  •  That healing can be an embodied process
  •  That people can be disconnected from their culture
  •  And that they can be reconnected through sociality, respect and understanding
  • That the process not only can be fun but that it is more effective when it is fun
  •  Narrative also plays an incredibly influential role in healthy functioning

If you would like to know more about how this argument is to be developed and refined, stay tuned to this channel.

NB** The article is a part of a series about the history of influential writers such as FreireBoal, Peile and Bordieu.  An exploration of these biographies illuminates the forces that came together to inform the way of working called Jacobs Process.



Westoby,P.R. (2006) The sociality of healing Engaging Southern Sudanese refugees resettling in an Australian context a model of social healing, PHD Thesis Qld University. (Copy held in Fryer Library) School of Political Science and International Studies.

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