Vale Dr Kim Dunphy OAM, a pioneer in dance movement therapy and much-loved friend and colleague

Dr Kim Dunphy. By Giulia McGauran.
Dr Kim Dunphy. By Giulia McGauran.

It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of our colleague and friend Dr Kim Dunphy OAM, Program Coordinator and Senior Lecturer in Dance Movement Therapy at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music.

By Professor Barb Bolt, Director of the Victorian College of the Arts, and Professor Katrina McFerran, Head of the Master of Music Therapy

It is a very sad day for us at the Faculty as we mark the passing of our dear colleague, Dr Kim Dunphy. Kim, aged 59, passed away peacefully yesterday with her beloved family at her side after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

Kim, a pioneer of dance movement therapy, was an extraordinary colleague who played a foundational role in the development of the Creative Arts Therapy programs at the Victorian College of The Arts. We pay tribute to her generosity, passion, energy, enthusiasm and tenacity as a teacher, a researcher and as a friend. We acknowledge her extraordinary contribution to dance, to dance movement therapy and to creative arts therapy.

That contribution was celebrated earlier this year when Kim was recognised with a Medal of the Order (OAM) for her work with dance therapy in the disability field. The video which accompanied the news of this honour is testament to Kim's warmth and the incredible difference she made.

Kim was the first person in an Australian university ever employed to undertake dance movement therapy research, having just completed a three-year Mackenzie Post-Doctoral Fellowship. This opportunity made her one of very few dedicated dance movement therapy researchers, perhaps ten, in the world. And in 2020 she began teaching into the University of Melbourne's new Master of Creative Arts Therapy.

Interviewed last year about this new masters course, she said it was "a marvellous time to be here at the University of Melbourne and be part of this movement forward, because we need to have research and develop evidence in order to advance as a profession”.

Kim was also always interested in how other cultures express themselves, and not just through their traditional dances. This led her to Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor), where she studied the role of the arts in bringing about social change as part of a PhD, completed in 2014, and remained an area of ongoing interest and research.

“One of the great privileges of being an academic is that you have the freedom to explore your research interests as long as you’re doing it with integrity, producing research and getting grants,” she said in 2019. "We [the University of Melbourne] are a rich institution in a rich country and it’s our moral obligation to make a contribution, not just to Australian communities but also to our neighbours where we can.”

This amazing professional capacity was grounded in a loving home life and Kim frequently described herself as having the most wonderful family support. Because of this great love, as well as her incredible contributions to the profession, Kim frequently asked us not to be too sad for her. She often reflected on being deeply satisfied with her life and felt each day to be a great blessing.

Kim will be sadly missed.