Stephanie creates change across continents
A hand-written note telling Dr Stephanie
Hanrahan she was "the difference that people need" has made a
10-year project in poverty-stricken cities around the world all the
The University of Queensland
Faculty of Health and Behavioural
Sciences expert has returned from multiple missions to Mexico,
Argentina, Botswana and the USA.
In each country she ran her LifeMatters program, a series of
game-based sessions that focus on improving life satisfaction and a
sense of self-worth.
"On one trip to Mexico I was working with former gang members
and drug addicts," Dr Hanrahan said.
"Despite that background, they became one of the best groups I
have worked with and the results of the program were very
"One person there told me how they were sleeping rough on the
street at age seven, with a baseball bat to defend himself. By the
time he was nine it was a knife and then, at age 10, it was a
"Another participant had a brother who was shot three times. The
participant finished the program, visited his brother in hospital
and began to pass on what he learned in LifeMatters to help turn
his life around."
Dr Hanrahan said intervention with criminals often focused
on "deficit reduction" - curtailing their activities to minimise
harm to society - but LifeMatters focused on increasing positive
Through modified games, participants are encouraged to work on
the elements of their lives they can control, while better dealing
with disappointment in facets that are uncontrollable.
"The games are designed to be fun, but at the same time they
teach trust, communication and problem-solving," Dr Hanrahan
"Results indicated that, in addition to increases in life
satisfaction and self-worth, there were also increases in
happiness, resilience, confidence and perceived competence.
"My time in Cleveland, Ohio, was one of the rare chances I have
had to run LifeMatters in an English-speaking environment
"It was while there that I received a note that said 'Please
come back because you are the difference people need', and that
meant as much to me as any of the research findings."
A former national volleyball representative, Dr Hanrahan began
her academic career with intent to focus on high-performance sports
development, but has found her life's passion in LifeMatters.
She is an Associate Professor with joint appointments to the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences and
the School of