Professor Alasdair Foster

Prof,Culture in Community Wellbeing

School of Public Health
Faculty of Medicine


Alasdair is Professor of Culture in Community Wellbeing in the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland and an Australian Compassion Council Scholar. He is also Adjunct Professor in the School of Art at RMIT University, Melbourne, a member of the RMIT Contemporary Art and Social Transformation research group and Ambassador to the Asia-Pacific Photoforum. In 2018, he was Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Dundee, Scotland, where he worked with staff on the development of innovative pedagogic approaches that promote the flourishing of both students and the wider community.

Alasdair is a writer, curator and researcher who works worldwide, especially in Asia and Latin America. He has twenty years’ experience heading national arts institutions in Europe and Australia and over 35 years of working in the public cultural sector. He has served as President of the Contemporary Art Organisations of Australia, Chair of the Conference of European Photographers and was for more than ten years the editor/managing editor of Photofile magazine.

A polymath, Alasdair has worked as an artist, curator, writer, editor, researcher, historian, policy advisor, photographer and filmmaker, integrating each experience into an expansive worldview. His academic research spans a wide range of paradigms to build a powerful argument for collaborative and participatory culture. It is an argument that sets the social, historical, economic and political context for understanding the arts in the public sphere within the frame of evolutionary psychology, neurophysiology, sociobiology and mental health.

Research Interests

  • Background
    Alasdair’s research explores and promotes cross-disciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration to establish practical ways through which to improve human wellbeing and recovery at the nexus of expressive, cognitive, analytical and practical forms of knowledge and experience. This is broad-canvas work spanning the arts, humanities, social science, law, behavioural and health sciences, social medicine and public health, and community collaboration.
  • Compassion, Wellbeing and Social Justice
    Human society is complex and resistant to simple analysis. This raises many challenges when considering the wellbeing of individuals and of populations; challenges whose intersectionality demands collaboration, synthesis and community partnership in formulating solutions that are both sustainable and fair. Alasdair’s research is set within the overarching theme of compassion. Unlike sympathy (feeling sorry for…) or empathy (experiencing the feelings of others within one’s self) compassion combines a recognition of and sensitivity to human need with rationality and dynamic action. Not just feeling but acting; and acting wisely.
  • Creating compassionate communities
  • Understanding the nature and drivers of compassion
  • Assessing the benefits of compassionate groups and systems
  • Creating robust policy for compassionate communities, institutions and polities
  • Developing effective, non-gameable ways of evaluating compassionate policy in action


  • Bachelor of Science, University of Edinburgh
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Monash University


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Journal Article