Dr Penelope Bergen

Doctor of Philosophy (applied sociology), Bachelor of Arts in Music

Completed PhD

Penelope completed a joint PhD with Charles Darwin University and the Australian National University in January 2020.

She is interested in how cultures are formed; what people bring with them, how they adapt, what they retain of their own culture, what they leave behind, how geography affects them, and in this case, the position of power and privilege, and the effect of government policies. The ultimate goal of her study was to benefit remote Aboriginal communities: By understanding the culture of remote workers, we can develop a targeted approach to supporting them as a sector. This benefits everyone in remote communities. The findings of this study have implications in other settings, such the Arctic regions, the international development and aid sector and planned settlements on Mars.

Penelope grew up in Papua New Guinea and the island of Bougainville. She began her professional life as a classical violinist in Australia and the Netherlands. She also worked with Amnesty International in Amsterdam and had a parallel career in broadcasting, making documentaries on international human rights issues for Radio Netherlands World Service. She went on to work for the UNDP in East Timor. In 2006, her first novel was published in the Netherlands. After a decade of no sun in northern Europe, Penelope moved to Central Australia in 2007. She completed her PhD in Canberra where she currently resides.  

PhD Project Title

‘The Development of the Culture of non-Aboriginal government workers in remote Aboriginal settlements in Central Australia’.

Research Interests

  • The culture of small, isolated and/or unusual workplaces
  • People living and working in remote and isolated places
  • Government policies and their efficacy on the ground

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Publications & Resources


Bergen, P. (2006) Een Hemel vol Postzegels [Heaven is Covered with Postage Stamps]. Amsterdam: Archipel.


  • "Where sociologists work" commissioned by the Australian Sociological Association, May 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F394OR1L52A&t=39s  
  • Penelope has published hundreds of reports as a reporter and program maker for the ABC and dozens as a documentary maker for Radio Netherlands World Service.


Media Coverage

Penelope Bergen


T: 0431 336 720
E: Penelope.Bergen@gmail.com

Charles Darwin University
Alice Springs NT