Rethinking the removal of a rail line into the heart of Newcastle

Newcastle has been embroiled in ongoing debate about the removal of a heavy rail line into the heart of Newcastle. This year, the State government announced that the line would close on Box Day and be replaced by buses until a light rail system was built. Yesterday, the Select Committee on the Planning Process in Newcastle and the Broader Hunter Region released its interim report focusing on the rail line.

The committee, consisting of six members of the Legislative Council (two ALP, two Liberal, one Green, one Christian Democrat) has strongly supported the retention of the rail line. In its introduction the committee states: Continue reading

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How painting can transform communities

In this TED talk, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn talk about their community art which involves working with local communities to paint entire neighbourhoods. It is a wonderful example of a bottom-up approach to community development.

I found their description of trying to obtain funding interesting.

We started looking for funding, but instead, we just ran into questions, like, how many houses are you going to paint? How many square meters is that? How much paint are you going to use, and how many people are you going to employ? And we did try for years to write plans for the funding and answer all those questions, but then we thought, in order to answer all those questions, you have to know exactly what you’re going to do before you actually get there and start. And maybe it’s a mistake to think like that. It would lose some of the magic that we had learned about that if you go somewhere and you spend time there, you can let the project grow organically and have a life of its own. (8:00)

In the current neo-liberal context there is managerialist focus on quick, tangible and measurable outputs which doesn’t always sit easily with the longer-term, social transformations of bottom-up approaches to community development. When we focus on relationships and process, our approach needs to be organic and flexible and so it’s not always possible to have a clear plan with timelines, outcomes and detailed strategies.

Like in asset-based community-driven development, their approach is reliant on building relationships. When starting a new project, they move into the community and throw BBQs. They essentially start as guests of the community, but, as they say, “When you throw a barbecue, it turns you from a guest into a host” (5:08).  Their initiatives sometimes start as a top-down initiative – when they are asked to work in a marginalised community –  but by moving into the neighbourhood, building relationships and taking it slowly, they can adopt a bottom-up approach.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (towards the top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Take a street and build a community
  2. What is the Transition Streets Challenge?
  3. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
  4. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?
  5. What is community capacity building?
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Some definitions of family

Everybody knows what a family is, but trying to find a widely accepted definition is actually very hard. I’ve been looking at how various writers define families and the following are some examples. I’m not going to comment on them except to say that historically, like today, families took (take) many forms (Beck-Gernsheim, 2002) and so I believe we need to have inclusive definitions of family that recognises the diversity of experiences in relation to families. (Some of the following do not pass this test!) It is worth remembering that defining family can be a political strategy to exclude some people. For example, in 2004 the Australian Marriage Act was amended by the Howard Government to specifically exclude same sex couples from marrying. I do not support this type of exclusion. The family studies I am interested in recognises there is a wide diversity in families. Continue reading

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Workshops for Aboriginal fathers in prison – what we learnt

Photo (OZinOH)

Photo (OZinOH)

In this post, the last in a series on some fathering workshops I helped facilitate for Aboriginal men in jail, I explore some of the things we (Craig Hammond and I) learnt from doing the workshops. The workshops, Brothers Inside, were generally 4½ days spread over 2-3 weeks and focussed on the roles the men played as fathers (both in and out of prison) and ways in which they could strengthen these roles, and encouraged the dads to think about how they could improve their connections with their children.

What we learnt

I’ve already discussed what I learnt about the experience of the men as fathers in prison, so here I discuss what we learnt about facilitating the workshops. Continue reading

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Workshops for Aboriginal fathers in prison – what worked

Photo (OZinOH)

Photo (OZinOH)

In this post, part of a series on some fathering workshops I helped facilitate for Aboriginal men in jail, I explore some of the things that worked well. The workshops, Brothers Inside, were generally 4½ days spread over 2-3 weeks and focussed on the roles the men played as fathers (both in and out of prison) and ways in which they could strengthen these roles, and encouraged the dads to think about how they could improve their connections with their children.

What worked well

Strengths based approach. The foundation of the workshops was a strengths-based approach. Craig Hammond (my co-facilitator from the Family Action Centre) and I believe that all the men had strengths they can build on as fathers and we respected the opinions and experiences of the workshop participants. Many of the men said Brothers Inside was the best workshop they had every attended. Continue reading

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Workshops for Aboriginal fathers in prison – challenges

(Photo: Kate Ter Haar)

(Photo: Kate Ter Haar)

I mentioned in my last post that, as part of shifting the focus of my work to parenting and families, I’ve been reflecting on some of the work I’ve done with families over the years. Yesterday I wrote about the experience of Aboriginal fathers in prison based on some fathering workshops I helped facilitated for Aboriginal men in prison. This time I will talk a bit more about some of the challenges in running the workshops, and later, what worked and what we learnt.

Though the workshops we recognised the importance of fathers in their children’s lives, explored the roles the men played as fathers (both in and out of prison) and ways in which they could strengthen these roles, and encouraged the dads to think about how they could improve their connections with their children. In a way the workshop title – Brothers Inside – could have been a bit misleading (after all the workshops were about being a father, not being brothers) but Aboriginal men often call each other “Brother”, hence the name. Continue reading

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Being an Aboriginal father in prison

As part of shifting the focus of my work to parenting and families, I’ve been reflecting on some of the work I’ve done with families over the years. One that had a particularly significant impact on me was helping to facilitate a series of workshops with Craig Hammond (an Aboriginal colleague from the Family Action Centre) for Aboriginal fathers who were in prison. The workshops provided me with the opportunity to discover more about the backgrounds of the men and gain insights into some of the challenges of being a father in prison. While I struggled with some of the attitudes and behaviour of the men, at the same time it was easy to respect them and to recognise that they really wanted to be good fathers and wanted the best for their children.

In this post I want to reflect on their experience as fathers and in my next post I’ll explore the workshops themselves.

Being a father in prison was not easy. Often the fathers talked about the pain of being separated from their children. Continue reading

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A great 1 minute video of fathers and their kids

After my post yesterday about creating positive images of Aboriginal fathers, I was flicking channels on TV last night and saw the following ad. It was so refreshing!

The video, produced by the Fatherhood Foundation, wasn’t specifically about Aboriginal dads (although I’m sure some of the featured dads were), but showed a variety of dads and their children. While I doubt I would agree with all the Foundation’s work (they seem to have a conservative view of the ideal family consisting of a married man and woman) this is a great initiative and I think they have created a powerful ad.  I wish we were exposed to more images of fathers like these.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Creating positive images of Aboriginal fathers
  2. Being a father
  3. Parenting for a better world
  4. Focusing more on parenting for the environment
  5. Being an Aboriginal father in prison
  6. Workshops for Aboriginal fathers in prison – challenges
Posted in Community engagement, Videos | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Creating positive images of Aboriginal fathers

Be there for usWe are surrounded by negative images of Aboriginal men and fathers. In the mainstream media, and even academic literature, they are mostly portrayed in a negative context: the focus is on crime, domestic violence, alcohol and other drugs, unemployment, and child abuse. It is time we started seeing more of the positives. A recent study (Stoneham, Goodman and Daube, 2014) looked at 335 media stories relating to Australian Indigenous health and found that 74% of them were negative, 11% were neutral and only 15% were positive.

Craig Hammond, one of my colleagues at the Family Action Centre, has produced a range of resources (DVDs, posters and a book)  that offer more positive images.  In 2011 he  published a paper Making positive resources to engage Aboriginal men/fathers (Hammond, 2011)  in which he discusses some of his work helping to create posters with positive images of Aboriginal fathers in a number of communities. He argues: Continue reading

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Go home on time day!

Go home on timeToday is Go home on time day, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

The day was conceived in 2009 by the Australia Institute as a light-hearted way to start a serious conversation about the impact of poor work/life balance on our health, relationships and workplaces.

Although Australians often have a reputation for being lazy and taking lots of time off work, we actually work long hours and put in many unpaid hours (not including unpaid work in the home and volunteering). According to the Institute’s report Hard to Get a Break:

  • Australian’s contribute an estimated $110 billion per year in unpaid work
  • 1 in 5 workers don’t take a lunch break
  • Over half do not take all their annual leave each year
  • 50% of Australians who are overworked would like to spend more time with their family

Children need love and attention to thrive, so it is especially important that parents balance home and work. It’s also good for the parents! (The Raising Children Network has some great tips on easing the transition between your work life and home life.)

Although I work quite long hours, I’m lucky that my work is flexible and I’m able to make time for my family (e.g., get to special events at school, take time off if the kids are sick). I will often do some work after they have gone to bed so that I can take time off during the day or arrange my work hours around the family. Many people do not have the luxury of flexible hours and so leaving work on time is especially important.

Do you normally leave work on time?

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