Dr Tanya Riches

Dr Tanya Riches

Honorary Associate, Masters Program Oversight - Hillsong College

Tanya Riches has already achieved more than many dream of in a lifetime. Gaining scholarship to a PhD program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles, she lived in Los Angeles for over two years. In this time, she worked as Chapel Co-ordinator, in the team planning liturgical worship services for the world's largest evangelical seminary. But most recently she has returned to her homeland of Australia to complete fieldwork -  an ethnography of Australia’s Indigenous Christians attending urban contemporary churches.

Her worship ministry first began in the worship team of Hillsong Church where she served for many years under Darlene Zschech, and Reuben Morgan. She published a number of well-known songs through Hillsong Music Australia, including ‘Jesus What A Beautiful Name,’ which reached #6 on Australia’s CCLI worship charts. And, she administrated one of the most successful worship bands in history, Hillsong United, for its first six years. Her song 'Hear Our Prayer' was on their second album, Everyday.

As lead singer of Australian independent band ‘Speaking of Sarah’, she performed weekly across Australia for many years - including mainstage at Australia largest Christian music festivals. During this time the band recorded and toured the album Seven Hundred Seasons (2006). When the founding musicians made a difficult decision to focus on family life, Tanya felt called to pursue theological studies, and completed her Masters degree, then MPhil, finally enrolling in a PhD.

She is now not only now a respected academic working in Pentecostal Studies and Missiology, but one of the world’s most respected scholars regarding the phenomenon of Hillsong Church. She is an honourary research fellow for the Cadbury Centre for Religion at the University of Birmingham, UK. She has taught sixteen week semester courses at Alphacrucis College, Sydney, such as 'Post-modern Worship Community' (2005) and 'Contemporary Worship' (2006). She has taught many lectures in classrooms all over the world (at Trinity College in Singapore, Emmanuel College in Canada, Regent University and Liberty University in Virginia, and Andrews University in South Bend to name a few). Her intensive 'Pentecostal Worship' intensive will be hosted at Malaysia's AlphaOmega College in 2015.

Her PhD research is an attempt further reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, by bringing attention to the work of Indigenous Christian leaders in some of Australia's major cities (The Gold Coast, Perth and Cairns). Her deep desire is for justice.

This is not the first time she has sought to listen to those marginalized and quietened by dominant culture. Her first solo album Grace was a deliberate attempt to write from experiences she recorded during her research amongst people with disability while at The University of Sydney. This album was an ecumenical collaboration with some of Australia’s best songwriters.

Tanya believes that the power of worship is in individual voices joining as one to worship Jesus Christ. This is the power of Tanya’s leadership, in so many spheres. A thinker, a worshipper, a writer, a consultant, a poet. She will point you and your community heaven-ward. 


Ph.D. (Fuller Theological Seminary)
Dissertation Title Identity in the Spirit: Worship and Social Engagement in Urban Aboriginal-led Pentecostal Congregations 2016

M.Phil. (Australian Catholic University)
Dissertation Title Shout to the Lord! Music and Change at Hillsong: 1996 – 2007 2010

M.A. (Sydney College of Divinity) 2005

B.A. (The University of Sydney) 2000

Cert. IV TAE (Universal Education & Training) 2009

Field of Research

  • 1699 Other Studies in Human Society
  • 2002 Cultural Studies
  • 2103 Historical Studies
  • 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields
  • 2204 Religion and Religious Studies


  • 2019
    • Riches, T. (2019). Worship and Social Engagement in Urban Aboriginal-led Australian Pentecostal Congregations: (Re)imagining Identity in the Spirit. Brill: Leiden.
  • 2017
    • Riches, T., Wagner, T. (2017). The Hillsong Movement Examined: You Call Me Out Upon the Waters. Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke, UK.

Book Chapter

  • 2020
    • Riches, T. (2020). The Work of the Spirit’: Hillsong Church and a Spiritual Formation for the Marketplace In Christina Rocha, Mark Hutchinson and Kathleen Openshaw, Australasian Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: Arguments from the Margins (pp. ). Brill: Leiden.
  • 2019
    • Riches, T., Riches, V., O’Brien, B. (2019). “Colouring Outside the Lines”: Art-Makers with Disabilities In Loraine McKay; Susanne Garvis; Viviana Sappa and Georgina Barton (Eds), Arts-based research, resilience and well-being across the lifespan (pp. ). Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke, UK.
  • 2015
    • Riches, T. (2015). Panoptic or Pastoral Gaze? The Worship Leader in the New Media Environment In Anna Nekola and Tom Wagner (eds.), Congregational Music-Making and Community in a Mediated Age (pp. 61-80). Ashgate: Farnham, UK.
    • Riches, T. (2015). Dreaming Urban Indigenous Australian Christian Worship in the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit In Yong, Amos and Ingalls, Monique (Eds.), The spirit of praise : music and worship in global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (pp. ). Penn State University Press: USA.
  • 2013
    • Riches, T. (2013). An Australian Worship Leader's Journey: From Hillsong to "Singing Up Country" In , Handbook for Ethnodoxologists (pp. ). International Council of Ethnodoxologists.

Journal Article

  • 2019
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Glenda Ramsey. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 138-144.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Christie Jacobs. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 145-153.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Adam Gowen. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 100-104.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Pastor Ray Minniecon. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 86-99.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Will Dumas and Sandra Dumas. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 77-85.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Robyn Ober. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 128-137.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Spirit-filled Christianity and The Dreaming: Can Australia Create Space for Theological “Makarrata”. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 20 4-17.
  • 2018
    • Riches, T., Phillips, E. (2018). Pentecostal Worship: Introduction. Liturgy, Vol. 33, No. 3 1-3.
    • Riches, T. (2018). Liturgical Inculturation in Urban Aboriginal Pentecostalism. Liturgy, Vol. 33, No. 3 54-62.
    • Riches, T. (2018). Acknowledgment of Country: Intersecting Australian Pentecostalisms Reembeding Spirit in Place. Religions, 9 287.
  • 2016
    • Riches, T. (2016). Can We Still Sing the Lyrics “Come Holy Spirit”?. Pneuma, Vol. 38, No. 3 274-292.
  • 2015
    • Riches, T., Riches, V. (2015). “Making Room for Spiritual Abilities: Towards Worship Practices that include. Australasian Pentecostal Studies, .
    • Riches, T. (2015). A “Poetics” of Inter-faith Dialogue in Australia. Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue, Fall.
    • Riches, T. (2015). "My Identity is 'Indigenous Australian' and 'Christian' and it's not an Oxymoron": Urban Indigenous Australian Pentecostal Christianity. AnthroCyBib 'Milestones' Project, . | Link to journal
  • 2014
    • Riches, T. (2014). Ethical and Theological Reflections: Liturgical and Ritual Studies method in Australian Pentecostal Contemporary Congregational Worship. Australasian Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 16.
    • Riches, T. (2014). Aboriginal Australian Pentecostals taking the initiative in Mount Druitt’s urban songlines. Global Forum on Arts and Christian Faith, Vol. 1, No. 2 38-54.
    • Riches, T. (2014). God's Brand is Love: Australian Immigrant Churches in the United States. Australian Journal of Mission Studies, Vol. 2, No. 7.
  • 2012
    • Riches, T., Wagner, T. (2012). The evolution of Hillsong Music: From Australian Pentecostal congregation into global brand. Australian Journal of Communication, Vol. 39, No. 1 17.
  • 2010
    • Riches, T. (2010). The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Songs (1996 – 2007). Australasian Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 13.


Academic Conference

  • 2019
    • “ Tensions of Community and Belonging in a Service-Provider landscape.” Inclusion: Creating Spaces of Belonging into the Future (2019), L'Arche Australia 40th Anniversary Conference, Sydney, Australia, 07 Feb 2019
      Co-presenter: Taylor, D., and Jessep, S.
  • 2018
    • The Publishing Project (2018), Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability, Gold Coast, Australia, 12 Nov 2018
      Co-presenter: The CDS Inclusive Research Network
    • My Story, My Voice: Life Since the NDIS (2018), Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability, Gold Coast, Australia, 11 Nov 2018
      Co-presenter: The CDS Inclusive Research Network
    • Universal and Contextual: Marketing and Meaning in Hillsong’s Worship Music (2018), Durham Conference on Ecclesiology & Ethnography, Durham, UK, 11 Sep 2018
    • The Third Day: Syncretism, Heresy or Mediating Australian Realities? (2018), Pentecostal Charismatic Christianities in Oceania, Sydney, Australia, 18 Aug 2018
    • Embracing the Poor: Poverty and Disability in Oceania (2018), Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting, Cleveland, TN, 08 Mar 2018

Scholarship Publications

Book Review

  • 2019
    • Riches, T. (2019). Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective. Pneuma, Vol. 41, No. 1.

Popular Article

  • 2016
    • Riches, T., Jennings, M. (2016). Explainer: why some churches teach that women are ‘separate but equal.’. The Conversation, .
    • Riches, T. (2016). Redeeming Australia Day: How Aboriginal Christians are Challenging Australian Spirituality. ABC Religion & Ethics, . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2016). Hiding the Truth: Honouring the Coloured Diggers - A Conversation with Ray Minniecon. ABC Religion & Ethics, . | Link to journal
  • 2015
    • Riches, T. (2015). Closing the Gap – Who is it really about?. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2015). Motherhood is not the only stage where women face inequality. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2015). What Makes Worship Pentecostal?. Crucis, . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2015). Why musicians can not only hear in tune, but see in tune also (What?). , . | Link to journal
  • 2014
    • Riches, T. (2014). The baby vs the PhD: What will you do with your uterus?. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2014). Why the media doesn't get Hillsong: Reflections of an Australian Pentecostal. ABC Religion & Ethics, . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2014). S&M: Can you be an intelligent feminist and attend…Hillsong Church?. , . | Link to journal

Other Publication

  • 2018
    • Riches, T. (2018). We Have Rights You Know.

Professional Memberships

American Academy of Religion (AAR) (since None)

Association of Australian Mission Studies (AAMS) (since None)

North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL) (since None)

Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) (since None)

Current Supervision

  • None
    • Cassandra Webb, What is “a word”? A comparative analysis of the Ancient biblical and modern Australian Pentecostal rhetoric of words and religious communication (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Han Shen Teo, How can vulnerability be exhibited within Asian Christian Pentecostal leadership? (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Leger, E.M., Organisation Theory and Hillsong Church (Doctoral Thesis)
    • Chan, K., The Use of Mandarin translation in Christian Congregational Music and Its Meaning within Chinese-Australian Diaspora Churches (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Cody Nesper, Small beginnings: How do Globalisation and indigeneity interact in the roots of local Pentecostalism? A case study of Early Pentecostal movements in Australia (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Anna Kirkpatrick, How can ecotheology contribute to Christian vocational discipleship for millennials in the East Asian context? (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Dorothee Kern, How can Hillsong's Youth ministries resource multicultural/international youth ministry in the International Baptist Convention (IBC) (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Glass, J., An Examination into Koinonia in Hillsong’s Sudanese Youth Community (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Naidoo, J., A Critical reading of Desmond Tutu’s theology of Ubuntu (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Mendez, D., Ser Mujer’ (To be Woman)- Latina Spiritual Authority in Pentecostalism: An Ethnographic Study of the Private and Public lives of Latina-Canadian Pentecostals (Masters Project/Thesis)

Completed Supervision

  • 2019
    • Rheynita Limata, What is an effective prison Christian discipleship program (Masters Project/Thesis), 2019
  • 2018
    • Texiera, R., Unknown (Masters Project/Thesis), 2018

If you’d like to contact Tanya, you can use the form below.

If you’d like a reply, please include your return email address in the box provided.