Consultant, Academic, Author

Dr Samantha Battams

Years at WHS
• 1983 – 1987

Journey after School
After intending to major in humanities and starting with Drama, English and Psychology, I ended up with majors in Sociology and Psychology and a minor in English Literature in a BA (Social Science) at Flinders University and a BA (Hons) in Sociology at the University of Tasmania. I also did a Grad Cert in Health (Health Service Management) at Flinders and a PhD (Public Health) at Flinders University. I also learnt French in Geneva and obtained a Diploma of French Language Studies at the Catholic University of Lyon. I’ve always been interested in mental health and am the co-convenor of the mental health special interest group at the Public Health Association of Australia and advocate on mental health issues.

Career highlights
After working in health and community services (1993 to 2002), I started in the University sector as a teacher and researcher (2003-2016) and then became a consultant (2016-current). I have academic status as Associate Professor at Flinders University and set up the public health program at Torrens University. A highlight was working in Geneva in Global Health at The Graduate Institute, Geneva (Research Fellow on Global Health Europe at the Global Health Programme) and the University of Geneva (2011-2013) (as Course Director of the first Massive Open Online Course on Global Health). I have also written and will have published two non-fiction history books this year: The Secret Art of Poisoning: The True Crimes of Martha Needle, the Richmond Poisoner (2019) and The Red Devil: The Story of South Australian Aviation Pioneer Captain Harry Butler (with Les Parsons, forthcoming, Wakefield Press, 2019).

Favourite WHS subject & why
My favourite subjects were Drama, Art, English and History. I was advised not to do both Drama and Art in Year 12 PES due to the demands, so chose Drama (after much angst). I loved performance and the stories of Drama and English – the teachers were also great (Seidel, Sandercock & Tamblyn). I liked learning about History, although only Modern European History was available then and I would have liked to learn more about Australian history. I did not choose a career in these fields, although have just authored two non-fiction history books and continue to enjoy attending theatre and art through the Arts festival and fringe and other events, and do art sometimes.

Favourite School memory
The group drama performance from Year 12 was fun and educational – ‘Chicago, Chicago’ by Australian playwright John Romeril. It was a play that reflected the social and political change of the times. It’s amazing that some of the themes from that play are highly relevant today; racism and inequitable position of African Americans (reflected in Australian society), and we are starting to see more public protest on political issues again. We also used a soundtrack that introduced me to music from the 60s and 70s (e.g. California Dreamin’). I also remember doing meditation and visualisation exercises before drama classes, learning skills that were very useful for life but probably weren’t on the curriculum.

Advice for students
Stay open to opportunities and don’t be afraid to take risks and stand out. Choosing to do something well will pay off (but you don’t need to decide what too early). Be kind, encouraging and supportive of yourself and one another and value compassion. Others are often in the same boat but sometimes it can feel lonely – it may take some people a bit longer to find their tribe. Look for mentorship from others and ask, ask, ask (there are no dumb questions).