Nancy Ault  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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    Dr. Nancy Ault
    BSc (Toronto) MTh (Edinburgh) PhD (Edinburgh)

    Senior Lecturer in Practical Theology

    About me

    I am Senior Lecturer in Practical Theology at Murdoch University.  I have come to Murdoch University via a circuitous route which has shaped my teaching and research interests.  I originally graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a double major in physical geography and ecology.  My thesis investigated the flecking pattern in a mixed deciduous forest.  My under-graduate degree led to employment in a forensic science laboratory.  However, a passion for music resulted in music studies at the Morzarteum in Salzburg, Austria.

    I entered a protestant religious community in 1977.  Here I worked with alcoholics and their families and trained as a spiritual director.  After 13 years I left the community and worked as a warden in sheltered housing and later, as a warden for student housing at the University of Edinburgh where I completed an MTh and a PhD in the area of spiritual direction.   In my doctoral studies, I developed a metaphoric model for spiritual direction based upon landscape ecology.    This model was tested and found useful by spiritual directors, ministers and psychotherapists and counsellors with an interest in spirituality.

    I came to Murdoch University in 1999.  Here, over the years, I have developed and co-ordinated units in Pastoral Care, Worship and Liturgy, Spirituality Studies, Preaching, Religion and Popular Culture, World Religions, Supervision and Community Leadership.   I have continued studying as part of my professional development and I have obtained my Practitioners, Masters, Trainers in Neuro-linquistic programming and a certificate in Neuro-linguistic Teaching Excellence which, together with my previous study and work experience, have contributed to my teaching.

    Since coming to Murdoch University, my research has often arisen out of issues related to teaching and supervision.  Current areas of research include:

    • Theological reflection
    • Assessing transformative learning
    • Contemporary spirituality

    I am the Director for Supervised Theological Field Education and part of the formation team for the Uniting Church in Australia (WA).

    Teaching area

    Main Areas of Teaching

    • Spirituality
    • Pastoral care
    • Worship and liturgy
    • Leadership
    • Comparative religion

    Teaching in 2013

    Guest lectures in 2013

    Teaching in 2012

    Guest lectures in 2012

    • THE107 Thinking Theology: 1. Introduction to Practical Theology
    • SSH404 Advanced Research Methods in Social Sciences and Humanities: 1. Grounded Theology and 2. Action Research

    Research areas

    Current Research Areas

    • Theological reflection
    • Assessing transformative learning
    • Contemporary spirituality

    Current projects

    Current Research Projects

    • Monograph: The Landscape of the Soul: A Metaphor for Spiritual Direction
    • Research Paper: Assessing Integrative Learning: Can there be common ground?


    Awards and grants


    • 2011. Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning. Murdoch University.
    • 2003. Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award. Murdoch University.

    Events and speaking engagements

    Since arriving in Western Australia, I have given over 300 papers, retreats, workshops and multi-day training events in supervision, leadership, pastoral care and spirituality.  The following is a snapshot of some of my activities:


    • Theological Reflection: Bodily-Reflective Knowing, CPEWA Professional Development, Perth, 28 July
    • Styles of Congregational Spirituality, UCA Regional Meeting, Esperance, 23 June
    • Embodying Theological Reflection: Mind and Heart, Professional Development Workshop, Spiritual Directors WA, Perth, 14/ June
    • Introducing Theological Reflection, Perth Theological Hall, Murdoch University, 16 February


    • Teaching Theological Reflection, ANZAFE, Melbourne, 28-30 November
    • Supervision: Co-trainer with Marilyn Evans and Roger Evans from Pohly Center for Supervision and Leadership Formation, United Theological Seminary, Murdoch University, 21-25 November
    • Re-imaging Theological Reflection, Dayspring Centre for Spirituality, 4 November
    • Working in Groups, Joint Anglican Uniting Church Formation Day, Wolloston, 14 August
    • Congregational and Personal Spirituality, Perth Theological Hall on the Road, Merredin, 20 May
    • Congregational and Personal Spirituality, Perth Theological Hall on the Road, Denmark, 19  March


    • Plumbing the depths: theological reflection and spiritual direction. Inaugural National Symposium of the Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction, Centre for Theology and Ministry, Melbourne, 29-30October.
    • Styles of Congregational Spirituality, Wolloston, (Florieat UCA), 22 August.
    • Preaching through the Hermeneutic Square, Web of Learning, Mount Pleasant Uniting Church, 10 April.


    • Styles of Congregational Spirituality, Willeton UCA, 19 September.
    • Spirituality and Mission (3 Conference Workshops), UCA Ministers School of Theology, St Peter’s & Emmaus, 1 September and 3 September.
    • Worship Workshop: Writing Prayers, Web of Learning, Worship Centre, 18 July.
    • Hildegard of Bingen: On the Breath of God, Women’s Weekend Away, Shoalwater, 22-25May.


    • Leadership and NLP, Leadership in Building the Community Mini-Conference, Murdoch University, Perth, 23 April 2008
    • Christian Meditation, South Perth UCA, 30 March.
    • Christian Contemplation, Council of Christian and Jews, 11 March.
    • The Voyage of Brendon, Summer Spirit, Floreat UCA, 2 February.


    • “Perceiving Alternative Realities”: Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a Tool for Reflecting on Experience, ANZATFE, Brisbane, 21-23 Nov.
    • Forgiveness, UCA Consultation on Spirituality, Adelaide, November 12.
    • The Landscape of the Soul, St Augustine UCA, Bunbury, 24 February.


    • Pastoral Care, UCA Minister’s School of Theology, Trinity College, Perth, WA, 21-24 August.
    • The Voyage of Brendan, UCA Minister’s School of Theology, Trinity College, Perth, WA, 21-24 August.
    • Images of God. UCA Minister’s School of Theology, Trinity College, Perth, WA, 21-24 August.
    • Coming to your Senses, Pastoral Partners, Willeton UCA, 12 August.
    • Coming to Your Senses, Women’s Day Away, Shoalwater, 26 May – 28 May.
    • The Breath of God, St Augustine UCA, Bunbury, 13 May.


    • Spirituality for Pastoral Partners, Willetton UCA, 5 November.
    • 2005. Walking the Labyrinth of Spirituality and Religion. ANZATS Conference. Perth, 2-6 July.


    • 2004. Medieval Passion Piety in Contemporary Spirituality, Dayspring Centre for Spirituality and Spiritual Direction, 17 June.
    • Companions in Christ, All Saints Bullcreek, Perth, 7 August.
    • 2004. Cadbury Top Deck, Marble or Dairy Mild with Crunchie Pieces: Paradigms in the Post-modern Search of Wellness and Meaning, Out of the Ordinary: Contemporary Practices of Australian Everyday Life, Murdoch University. 23 April.


    • The Spanish Mystics, Great Spiritual Pioneers, St George’s Cathedral, 3 September.
    • Envisioning a Spirituality for Lifelong Christian Education, Keynote Address, Creating Lifelong Christian Education, a sustainable, reflective, and engaging spirituality, Uniting Education, Geelong, 12-14 August.
    • Spirituality in Educational Praxis: A resource paper, Creating Lifelong Christian Education, a sustainable, reflective, and engaging spirituality, Uniting Education, Geelong, 12-14 August.


    • Spiritual Life through Sayings from Christian Writers, Christian Women Breakfast–St Basils Anglican Church, Saturday, 5 November.
    • Pastoral Practical III: Supervision, ANZATFE (Australia and New Zealand Association for Field Education), Melbourne, 25-28 November.
    • Companion in Christ, Nedlands Uniting Church, Saturday, 14 September.
    • Breath of Life, Australian Church Women,WA Unit, Day of Reflection, Tuesday, 25 June.
    • Spirituality and Pastoral Partners, UCA Congregation Resourcing, Swan View Uniting Church,15 June
    • Our Lives as Soul Work, Cancer Support Association, 8 April.


    • Leadership Development, Cutin University, November (4 day training event).
    • Celtic Journeys and the Dislocation of Place, West Australia Association of Hospital Chaplains, St Andrew Anglican Church, 24 September.
    • Benedictine Spirituality (A series of talks on prayer), Yokine Parish 11 August – 13 August.
    • The Evolution of a Preaching Unit: 1998-2001, Australasian Academy of Homiletics, Melbourne, 10-12 July.
    • Apologue On The Parable Of The Wedding Garment, Reflection for the National Theological Consultation, Adelaide, 11-14 July.
    • The Space Between: Theological Reflection and the Sacramentality of Life, West Australia Association of Hospital Chaplains, June.
    • Forum on Spirituality, Interview for ABC Spectrum broadcasted 8 May.
    • Spirituality of the Everyday (Series of three papers), Ministers School of Theology, May


    • The Landscape of the Soul: A Metaphorical Meditation on Christian Spirituality – Ecotheology Conference, Christchurch, July.
    • Spirituality in the Workplace: Celtic Connections – Irish Australian Conference, April .


    • The Landscape of the Soul: A Metaphorical Model of Christian Mysticism, University of Edinburgh, New College, December.
    • Spirituality in the Workplace, Chaplains and CEOs of  Uniting in Care, November.
    • Spirituality in the Workplace, CEOs of Uniting in Care, September.


    Professional and community service

    University Service

    • Learning and Teaching Committee (2013-)
    • SSH Learning and Teaching Committee (2010-2012)
    • Recognition of Excellence in Teaching Working Party (2006-2007)
    • Professional Behaviours Working Party (2005-2006)
    • School of Social Inquiry School Committee (2000- 2003)

    Service in the Wider Community

    Since arriving in Perth in 1999, I have been a member of the Clinical Pastoral Education Advisory and Management Committee at the Royal Perth Hospital.  I am also a member of the Religion and Life Panel for the Curriculum Council, Department of Education (2005-). In 2009, I wrote a resource paper for the Curriculum Council, “Religion and Life: Where is the spirituality?”  This paper can be found on their website.

    Theology is taught at Murdoch University as part of an industrial partnership with the Perth College of Divinity and its member churches.   I act as the Director of Supervised Theological Education for the Uniting Church in Western Australia.  I also am a faculty member of the Perth Theological Hall (UCA) and contribute to its formational and educational programmes.

    Over the years, I have sat upon numerous boards within the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and the Anglican Church.  I have also given and continue to give talks, workshops and retreats throughout Australia in the area of spirituality, pastoral care, supervision and leadership.

    Doctoral and masters supervisions

    PhD Completions

    2013. Beth Roberton. ʺBringing women into a broad placeʺ (Spiritual Direction with women from conservative religious contexts)

    2010. Alisoun Nicol. Toward an Inclusive Model of Relational Spirituality: An Exploration of Spiritual Type Among Australian Anglicans

    2008. David Cohen. Exploring and evaluating the psychodynamic effect on individuals of utilizing the Lament Psalms intentionally as a form of ritual prayer for engaging with personal distress

    2007. Stephen Truscott.The Contemporary Practice of Spiritual Direction: An Examination of the Influences that Shape the Contemporary Practice of Spiritual Directors, with Particular Reference to three Western Australian Groups of Spiritual Directors: Anglican, Churches of Christ and Roman Catholic

    Current PhD Candidates

    Deborah Robertson. Transformational Leadership in the Roman Catholic Church

    Emma Nattress. Belief and Experience: An Investigation into the role of personal experience of mystical and or psychic phenomena in contemporary spirituality and religious practice

    Brain Spittles. Non-Medical Models for Conceptualising and Treating Psychosis

    Anne Wright. The Place of Worship in a Church School: an enquiry into the theory and practice of Uniting Church Schools in Western Australia

    MPhil Completions

    2008. Emma Nattress. Worlds not realised–An Inquiry into the Actuality of Specific Psychic Phenomena

    Master Completions

    2006. Julie Barrett-Lennard. Responding Pastorally to the Ageing Population: With a Proposed Training Programme for Clergy and Lay Pastoral Workers

    2001. Pearl McGill. Union with Christ in the Theologies of Clare of Assisi and John Calvin




    • Ault, N., (2010),Worship as Information, Formation and Transformation,In: In Praise of Worship: An Exploration of Text and Practice, Pickwick Publications, pages 176 to 192.


    • Ault, N., (2005), Envisioning a systems-based spirituality for lifelong Christian education, Colloquium, 37, 1, pages 45 - 67.
    • Ault, N., (2001), Spiritual Life as a Journey: A metaphor of exclusion for children?, Journal of Christian Education, 44, 1, pages 29 - 38.
    • Ault, N., (2000), Spirituality in the workplace: space to dance and grieve, Saint Mark's Review: a journal of Christian thought and opinion, 183, , pages 9 - 14.