Empathetic Narratives is a mixed medium project exploring stories and understandings of empathy. The project wishes to encapsulate ideas around empathy, utilising a multi disciplinary approach of discussion and story telling to unpack and look at empathetic engagement and it’s use as a tool for social change. The project aims to utilise a qualitative research approach to engage with themes around the ideas of what are the tools that support and encourage empathetic engagement and what are the barriers that work against empathy. The project began engaging with a close circle of women and is growing to engage the wider community.

How the project has progressed so far:

  • 9 women have engaged in a short survey, answering the questions “what does empathy mean to you?”; “what are the barriers to the use of empathy?”; and “what sustains empathetic connections?”.
  • The collective response has been written up using a qualitative method of social research, and can be found here.
  • 4 women participating in a small focus/discussion group (Empathy tea & cake #1), engaging in discussion around key themes from the findings of the collective response. 
  • Interviewing individuals, exploring elements of empathy & narrative within everyday life, professions, communities.

The onward vision of the project is vast and varied, though at this stage I would like to engage more people in the discussion of empathy and what it means to us, maintaining an ongoing conversation individually and collectively around empathy, utilising one-on-one interviews and portraiture; online group discussions; artistic responses to key themes and findings; and in person, warm and wonderful ’empathy tea & cake’ sessions.

Please get in contact if you are interested in engaging in this project, or would like some further information.


So you ask, who am I and why am I wanting people to engage in this project:

My name is Jessie Giles and I am, among many things, a community engager, art maker and (r)evolution puzzle piece. I have a keen interest in the cultivation of empathy, as a way of life, and a way of healing.

Having grown up in Central Australia and having had the privilege to be raised by strong Arrernte people and community, I have witnessed first hand the challenges faced by Aboriginal people in Australia. This has allowed me to observe the often limited and ignorant (and arrogant) understanding of these challenges by the general Australian population.

As a young woman this experience encouraged me to study Psychology, as a way to better understand the confusion I felt around the issues I could see. Psychology helped to some degree. Though it wasn’t until I began to write poetry and share these works in performance, that I saw the power of narrative as a tool to cultivate empathetic understandings, and slowly change the trajectory of people’s views around the first people of the land on which we thrive.

Empathy is a big thing. Many people have varied ideas of what it means, whether it is useful, what it can be used for. I want to run my fingers through the depth of these understandings and get to know empathy intimately. And I want to share that with others.