Part 1. In conversation with Dr Juliet Watson, Deputy Director of the Unison Housing Research Lab


Dr Juliet Watson is the Deputy Director of the Unison Housing Research Lab.  

The Lab was established through a five-year partnership between Unison and RMIT University, and is building a strong body of work, steeped in academic rigour and engagement that examines ‘real world’ problems that exist in the housing and homelessness sector. In addition, The Lab has an education stream, offering a unique undergraduate homelessness course. 

Juliet is a sociologist and social worker. Prior to entering academia Juliet worked in a range of services across homelessness and gender-based violence, which led her to do her PhD, researching young women and homelessness. 

In our three-part conversation serieswe chat with Juliet about her background, what she enjoys about working as part of a unique research team, and what is next for The Lab.  


Part One 

How did you first connect with The Lab? 

I joined the Research Lab as the Deputy Director, six months after Guy (Lab Director, Professor Guy Johnson), in a research and teaching role. I was already based at RMIT and the job was perfect for me with my interest in homelessness. 

Knowing the research work is being directed by what Unison needs as a housing and homelessness service was a really satisfying prospect.  The fact that the partnership allows for multiple projects is also unique and very satisfying. There are very few long-term partnership research opportunities where you can be involved in longitudinal work. 

What excites you about working in The Lab and where do you see the opportunities for the research to influence change? 

I love working with the team! We have a real identity, being part of The Lab.  

It is really great to have a group of people who are connected by our work with the Unison team.  We get to bounce ideas off each other which makes the research very fulfilling. Being part of the same team over a period of several years allows for more in-depth research that progresses over time. 

The research reports are a direct reflection of the work being undertaken by Unison and designed to assist with Unison’s ongoing work. It makes the work real and alive.  

As a researcher, working directly with an organisation like Unison more readily influences change.  The research program was developed together around what was needed to inform service delivery. Unison is very invested in the research and how the findings can influence their work, and inform policy and practice in the sector, more generally.  

You know that the research findings will not end up on a shelf somewhere. 

We meet regularly with the Unison Executive to talk about what the research has identified and future projects.  


More information about Juliet’s work 

Unison Housing Research Lab papers

Additional publications and profile

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