Keeping contact with students in online teaching

Online teachingI’ve recently started emailing students more frequently in the online elective on community engagement I teach at the University of Newcastle. The students come from a wide variety of disciplines: since it started in 2008 there have been 1389 students from 59 different degrees. Because there is such a range of students, community engagement is not always their main interest or priority.  For some students, community engagement is clearly relevant to their broader degree, but for others, the direct relevance is not always as clear.

In addition, some students select the elective because they are on placement and they appreciate the online nature of the study. All this means that it can be fairly hard to engage some students. For example, I’ve tried some optional online tutes which have only attracted 1 or 2 students out of a possible 80 or more students.

This semester I’ve been much more conscious about trying to build connections with students. In particular I’ve been emailing students to try to combat the impersonal nature of much online study. Continue reading

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Connecting Communities Conference

Connecting Communities Conference

I’m looking forward to speaking next month at the Connecting Communities Conference organised by the Local Community Services Association (LCSA).

The title of my talk is “Community development in a world of evidence-based practice” and this is what I’ve said in the abstract:

The Targeted Earlier Intervention Program Reform argues there is a need for a service system that is, amongst other things, “Evidence based – grounded in what we know works and building on that knowledge”. What does an increasing emphasis on evidence-based programs and practice mean for community development practitioners? How can we understand evidence-based programs and practice in a way that is consistent with community-led approaches to community development? What skills will we need to flourish (as communities and services) in a world of evidence-based practice?

Continue reading

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Seven principles for a strengths-based approach to working with groups

Strengths-based groupsThere is surprisingly little literature on strengths-based approaches to group work. Most of the available literature focuses on groups as part of a broader strengths-based approach to a particularly issue or target group, rather than a strengths-based approach to actually working with groups.

The following are seven principles that underpin my strengths-based approach to group work. Continue reading

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Weaving Parenting Partnerships into Service Delivery


(Photo: towbar)

Coparenting has been described as the relationship parents share in the business of raising children, and the quality of this relationship is linked to both child and parent outcomes.1,2 Children from higher quality parenting partnerships experience superior social and emotional development including enhanced skills in emotional regulation.3,4 It is also important to note that most mothers and fathers report that their parenting partnership – not service providers – is their main source of parenting support. It is therefore not surprising that parents in stronger parenting partnerships experience lower levels of parenting stress and higher levels of parenting self-efficacy (the belief their parenting will make a difference).4,5 It is therefore encouraging to know that the quality of parenting partnerships can be enhanced through intervention, and that associated improvements in the parenting relationship have been linked to lower parenting stress, enhanced perceptions of child behaviour, and reduced antecedents of family violence.1,3 However, interventions to improve parenting partnerships have not taken a substantial foothold in family practice.

A key factor that limits the application of parenting partnership interventions in mainstream practice is that many of them have been designed to be delivered to parenting couples.1,6 Many practitioners, however, report that it is difficult to get more than one parent to attend parenting interventions – with the exception of antenatal classes where it appears that many fathers attend to support their partner7 – and this low rate of participation is often due to the reluctance of fathers.8 Continue reading

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How do we respond to the One Nation party?

Roberts and CoxWatching Q&A on Monday night was very disturbing. The recently elected One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, was arguing (amongst other things) that:

  1. “The empirical data says quite categorically that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a result of temperature changes, not the cause”
  2. NASA had “corrupted” and “manipulated” data
  3. The climate change models “the IPCC uses are unvalidated and erroneous and have already been proven hopelessly wrong and that’s a fact”
  4. “The satellites show that the Pacific Islands are growing in size”
  5. “The 97% consensus [of scientists who agree that who support the humans are causing climate change] has been debunked and found to be a 0.3% consensus and that, by the way, includes no one who has ever provided the empirical evidence that human production of carbon dioxide affects our climate”.

Continue reading

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Don’t call me doctor!

Graduation photo 2004In a recent article I wrote with some colleagues on engaging Aboriginal fathers, two of us (Chris and me) were called Dr and our colleague (Craig) wasn’t. What message does this give?

I suspect the differentiation gives the two of us with PhDs more status: it elevates us to the status of an expert. But Craig, who doesn’t have a PhD, has much more experience engaging Aboriginal fathers than the two of us. There is no doubt, that he is much more successful engaging Aboriginal fathers.

Who should be seen as the expert? Continue reading

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Cathy, upcycling and raising children

An upcycled dress made by Cathy and modeled by Jasmine

An upcycled dress made by Cathy and modeled by Jasmine

Cathy (my partner) has just been featured in Textile Beat, a website about slow clothing, dressing with conscience and natural fibres.

The associated story discusses Cathy’s passion for upcycling as a way of challenging consumerism and over-consumption, our approach to parenting, and the outfit she created for the Slow Clothing Project (beautifully modeled by our daughter Jasmine above). The outfit was made out of 15 T-shirts and 4 pairs of jeans.

To quote a couple of things from the story:

Cathy Stuart from Newcastle in New South Wales believes that the act of making something, particularly from reused or old stuff, can create a deep sense of satisfaction, achievement and self-worth for the maker. Resourcefulness and resilience are enhanced. Being able to re-use and re-purpose an object is, in Cathy’s view, a key skill in becoming more environmentally sustainable. It reduces our need to consume new resources as well as makes us responsible for managing our own waste…

“With raising our two daughters, it is very important to us that we challenge the normal way our society consumes. Inherent in driving consumerism is the need to ensure that people are dissatisfied with what they have, who they are and what they look like. I believe this dissatisfaction is driven by advertising, magazines (fashion, beauty, home and lifestyle), TV shows (lifestyle, reality), high usage of social media and going shopping, and is contributing to increased levels of depression and anxiety in our young people (as well as older generations).”

I admit I’m biased, but the whole article is well worth a read.

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

  1. A passion for upcycling
  2. Parenting for a better world
  3. Being a father
  4. What’s your parenting style?
  5. Hmm, that’s an evil plan!
  6. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
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Engaging Aboriginal fathers

developing practice coverThe following is the final submitted  version of an article (just published in developing practice) by me, Chris May and Craig Hammond, all from the the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle.While it is the August 2015 edition, it has only just been published.

The full reference is:

Stuart, G., May, C., & Hammond, C. (2015). Engaging Aboriginal fathers. Developing Practice: The Child, Youth and Family Work Journal (42), 4-17.


The important roles fathers play in the lives of their children, families and communities are more clearly understood now than in the past and there is increasing emphasis on father-inclusive practice as a central component of working with families (Berlyn, Wise, & Soriano, 2008; Cameron, Coady, & Hoy, 2014; Fleming & King, 2010; Fletcher, Close, Babakhani & Churchward, 2008; Fletcher, May, StGeorge, Stoker & Oshan, 2014; Panter-Brick et al., 2014; Tehan & McDonald, 2010). Father-inclusive practice ‘responds to the needs of families as a system by including fathering in all aspects of the planning and implementation of service in a manner that enables families to make optimal use of their internal family resources’ (Fletcher et al., 2014, p. 5). While a range of service providers and funding bodies have demonstrated a commitment to working more closely and effectively with fathers (Beatty & Doran, 2007; Department of Families, 2009; Families First Northern Sydney, 2006; Family Action Centre, 2005) many practitioners and services still find it difficult to engage with fathers in their services, particularly when attempting to engage with Aboriginal (1) fathers (Hammond, Fletcher, Lester, & Pascoe, 2003). It is especially important when discussing Aboriginal fathers to adopt a broad definition of father, to include biological fathers, social fathers (men undertaking the role of fathers including step fathers, foster fathers, pops, uncles, the partners of mothers) and father figures (Fletcher et al., 2014). Continue reading

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Beware of the Magic Seven Travel scam

Magic Seven Travel scam

Magic Seven Travel scam

Dad just won $180,000! It must be true because, out of the blue, he received two scratch cards  only one of which won anything. The scratch cards included assurances of privacy, rules, and details of how to claim a prize. The cards came with a glossy brochure from Magic Seven Travel celebrating its 12th anniversary.

At first glance it looked fairly convincing. On closer inspection there were a few things that didn’t add up. The letter, which had stamps that showed it came from Malaysia, was not only to my father, but also my mother who had died four years ago. The brochure didn’t really say much about travel  and generally didn’t read very well. Dad hadn’t had any contact with a travel agency like this. Anyway, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

But I can see how some people could be fooled by the glossy brochure and the quality of the scratch card. Continue reading

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Conflict and homeless youth

(Photo: Wokandapix)

(Photo: Wokandapix)

This is an article I wrote over 20 years ago in Youth Studies.  When writing about my response to the Four Corners program, Australia’s Shame, about the treatment of teenagers in detention in the Northern Territory, I had another look at it. While I would probably change some of the language, unfortunately much of it still seems to be  relevant. 

During two and a half years working at a medium-term accommodation unit (called The Space in this article), I became increasingly concerned about the negative effect conflict had on most residents. At the same time I was concerned that many of my attempts to teach conflict resolution appeared to have little influence. For instance, during one workshop teaching the joys of conflict resolution, I had to intervene at lunch to stop two participants attacking each other with stones and a plank of wood. Something was not working.

Speaking to many of the residents, especially the boys, it was clear they didn’t have the skills to deal with much of the conflict in their lives and they often didn’t see conflict as something they could resolve positively. Violence was the accepted response to conflict.

What effect does conflict have on homeless youth? Why didn’t my attempts at teaching conflict resolution appear to be working? Where do we start addressing the problem? In trying to answer these questions, I will consider all the residents who stayed at The Space between 1 July 1991 and 30 June 1993 and investigate the effect conflict had on their placement. I will then develop a brief profile of the residents in order to identify a major barrier they face in learning conflict resolution – low self-esteem. I hope to encourage youth workers, and others, to accept the challenge of discovering more effective ways of teaching conflict resolution to disadvantaged youth. Continue reading

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