Professor Peter John O'Connor

PhD, BA, DipTchg, DipRSADrama


Associate Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre. His research focuses on applied theatre in marginalised and vulnerable communities. It has led to developing cutting-edge models of interdisciplinary praxis that explore the nexus of critical pedagogies, aesthetics and social justice. Recent applied theatre research includes national programmes on preventing family violence and child abuse and parenting programmes in Youth Justice Facilities. His work in Christchurch following the series of earthquakes has lead to UNESCO funded research and programme development. In 2012 he was named the Griffith University  School of Education and Professional Studies Alumnus of the Year. He is currently engaged in the ongoing debates about charter schools and the nature of quality public education. Peter was previously the National Education Manager for the Race Relations Office and the National Project manager for the Like Minds campaign with the Mental Health Foundation. His 2003 PhD on his work in forensic psychiatric units won the 2006 AATE Distinguished Dissertation Award in Washington DC.

Research | Current

  • Applied theatre in trauma zones
  • Applied theatre and criticality
  • Charter schools

Teaching | Current

Postgraduate supervision

  1. Esther Fitzpatrick. Bringing home the Pākehā: a postcritical ethnographic study of what it means to be a Pākehā educator.  Enrolled 2011.
  2. Claire Coleman. Dancing through the fourth wall. How can the philosophical underpinnings of process drama and critical pedagogy explicitly interrelate?  Enrolled 2011.
  3. Sasha Mathewman. Ecocritical Education: the potential of a subject-led approach to sustainability.  Enrolled 2012.
  4. Katherine Thomas. Youth-Full Theatre: A definition of best-practice in fusing arts practices and positive youth development in New Zealand. Enrolled 2012.
  5. Deborah Greene. Quake Destruction/Arts Creation: Becoming an arts therapist during the Canterbury earthquakes. Enrolled 2013.
  6. Dennis Yue Feng. Love and the Pedagogy of Liberation.  Enrolled 2014.
  7. Anne Connolly. Dramatherapy and the Soul.  Enrolled 2015.
  8. Simon Dennan. Reggae Pedagogy. Possibilities of revolution.  Enrolled 2014.
  9. Amber Walls. Creative approaches to improving youth mental health and wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand: an evidence based framework to inform practice. Enrolled 2014.
  10. Leny Woolsey. Business theatre and the nature of Community.  Enrolled 2014.


  • 2012 Griffith University School of Education and Professional Studies, Alumnus of the Year Award.                                            
  • 2012 Inaugural recipient of the Antonio Rosmini Award for contributions to Social Justice.  Presented by The Rosmini Order.
  • 2011 Named as one of the New Zealanders of the Year by North and South Magazine for contributions to the children of Christchurch following the earthquakes.
  • 2009 Garth Boomer Memorial Address, Australian Association of Teachers of English, Tasmania                                                                                                                                                                          2006 American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) Most Distinguished PhD Dissertation Award,Washington D.C.        
  • 2006 Life membership of the New Zealand Foundation for Peace Studies.


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • O'Connor P, & Aitken, V. (2014). Arts education: Being awake in the world. In St. George A, S. Brown, O'Neill J (Eds.) Facing the big questions in teaching: Purpose, power and learning (pp. 11-19). Auckland, NZ: Cengage Learning.
  • O'Connor P (2013). Pedagogy of love and care: Shaken schools respond. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, 22 (5), 425-433. 10.1108/DPM-10-2013-0176
  • O'Connor P (2013). The Joseph Lister drama: John Carroll from a distance. NJ: Drama Australia Journal, 37, 7-13.
  • O'Connor P (2011). Beyond serendipity: Surviving the storm. Research in Drama Education, 16 (1), 96-100. 10.1080/13569783.2011.541612
  • O'Connor PJ (2011). Valuing Diversity in the early childhood arts classroom: A drama case study. Children, Meaning-Making and the Arts (pp. 177-194). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia.
  • O'Connor PJ (2011). There is a crack in everything: Romeo and Juliet, social justice and youth justice.. Paper presented at Pacific Circle Consortium Conference, University of Auckland, Faculty of Education. 12 August - 14 August 2011.
  • O'Connor PJ (2011). Stances and Territories: Drama, interdisciplinarity and social change. NJ Drama Australia Journal, 35.
  • O'Connor PJ (2011). Prison theatre: Letting the light in to disciplinary relationships. NJ (Drama Australia Journal), 35.

Contact details

  • Media Contact