Personal profile

Personal profile

Dr Willhemina Wahlin is an Adjunct Lecturer with Charles Sturt University, a Senior Design Strategist with the Design Agency, Portable, a Research Fellow in Youth and Design with the Melbourne School of Government and the Creative Director for PROOF: Media for Social Justice, a New York-based non-profit organization that utilises visual storytelling for human rights and social justice advocacy.

Willhemina's research sits within the field of Design for Social Innovation, spanning the areas of exhibition design, design thinking, human-centred design, Co-Design and public policy, and design as a vehicle for inspiring civic activity. Her current research, The Social is the Thing: Taking a Designerly Approach to Local Government Strategic Planning and Evaluation, is developing a framework that combines public policy, co-design and community engagement principles to help build the capacity of both local government staff and stakeholder groups for the development of strategic planning and evaluation. For this project, Willhemina has teamed up with Co-Design expert, Dr Emma Blomkamp, and worked alongside staff and community stakeholders at Port Macqurie-Hastings Council to develop the Cultural Plan 2021-2025. The aim of this research is to enhance community engagement for the life of the cultural plan and to develop strategies for its evaluation. 

Prior to this, she led a team of researchers to develop a multidisciplinary program aimed at encouraging young regional Australians to develop critical creativity. This program, The Creative Citizen Project, has seen the development of a flexible model that combines Design Thinking with civics and citizenship education and storytelling skills that span photography, design and journalism.

With PROOF and for her doctoral research, Willhemina has designed multiple travelling exhibitions that have focused on issues such as genocide prevention, gender violence, child soldiers and criminal justice. These have been shown in locations across the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, including the United States Institute for Peace, The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, and Yale, Columbia and Dayton universities. She has also worked closely with PROOF and academics from the University of Dayton's Human Rights Centre's Moral Courage Project (MCP). Since 2016, MCP projects have included 'Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame', 'America the Borderland' and 'Poison and Power: The Fight for Water'. In 2023, she completed her fourth design for MCP, 'Unhousing: Fighting for the Right to Home'. 

Willhemina is a member of the Design Research Society (DRS), the Society of Experiential Design's (SEGD) Academic Task Force (2020-), Co-Design Co and IAP2. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Communication Design, Doctor of Philosophy, The Ligatures of Life, Charles Sturt University

01 Feb 201307 May 2019

Award Date: 07 May 2019

Communication Design, Bachelor of Arts (Visual and Performing Arts)(Honours)(Graphic Design) H1, The Rescuers Research Project, Charles Sturt University

03 Mar 201112 Dec 2011

Award Date: 12 Dec 2011

Communications, Bachelor of Media Communications, Charles Sturt University

28 Feb 200531 May 2013

Award Date: 13 May 2011

External positions

Creative Director, PROOF: Media for Social Justice

10 Oct 2008 → …

Subject keywords

  • Exhibition Design
  • Design for Social Change
  • Social Design
  • Design and Civic Education
  • Design and Public Policy


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