Same-sex marriage – finally it’s done!

Yesterday was a historic day with the Australian Parliament overwhelmingly voting in favour of same-sex marriage.

Our family watched it live on TV and to see 130-140 Members of Parliament voting YES with four lonely figures voting NO was a wonderful sight. A few Members decided to abstain (including the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and the current Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce) but most listened to the clear message they had been given by the Australian public.

It would be interesting to see how future generations look back on this moment and how the arguments against same-sex marriage stand the test of time.

Imagine anybody supporting these arguments in favour of slave trade from the 1700s: Continue reading

Posted in Families & parenting, Social change | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Update to my introduction to community engagement

I’ve just updated my introduction to community engagement. As always I’d welcome any feedback or thoughts.

Posted in Families & parenting | 3 Comments

A video and some tips on family engagement

This is a useful short video (produced by the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health) introducing some key concepts relating to engaging families. While its focus is child and youth mental health, it is just as relevant to a range of other contexts.

It emphasises the importance of listening to families, being led by families and building on their strengths and resources—all of which are important in strengths-based practice and asset-based community development.

The Centre also identifies six tips for engaging families at a service delivery level: Continue reading

Posted in Families & parenting, Strengths-based approaches & ABCD | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Updated my introduction to asset-based community development

I’ve just completed a major update of my post What is asset-based community development (ABCD)?, in preparation for a major revision to a course I’ve been teaching for a while.

I’ve expanded on the importance of it being a community-driven and relationship-driven, added some more recent references and material, and added a useful graphic by Dan Duncan.

I’d love to hear about your experience with ABCD.

Posted in Strengths-based approaches & ABCD, Working with communities | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Evaluating the impact of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops on social capital

Participants from an AVP workshop in Sydney

The NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) have been supporting Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops in Sydney since 2012, and we are in the process of planning an evaluation of the impact of AVP on social capital.

For over 25 years, STARTTS has provided psychological and psychosocial treatment and support to people healing from the scars of torture and refugee trauma, and who are rebuilding their lives in Australia. In particular they support people and communities from refugee backgrounds, including asylum seekers, who were forced to leave their country due to persecution in the context of political conflict, organised violence and human rights violations. STARTTS also supports and resources service providers, educational institutions and volunteer groups to work more effectively with refugees.

AVP workshops are conducted in over 50 countries around the World, indicating that it can be culturally adapted to a range of settings, and they have been used in number of settings where there has been widespread experiences of torture and trauma1-5. AVP workshops are now regularly held with people who come to the workshops through STARTTS and from the broader community.

STARTTS supports the AVP workshops because they recognise that peace-building and reconciliation are important parts of trauma recovery, and see them as important components of their community development work. They also have a commitment to using research as a tool to explore, and share knowledge on, the psychological needs of traumatised refugees. (See for example their report on ‘The glue that binds’: Social capital in refugee communities settling in Australia6).

STARTTS are thus supporting an evaluation of AVP workshops that focuses on the impact of AVP on social capital, self-efficacy (the belief you can have an impact on what happens to you) and responding to conflict, particularly in the context of multi-cultural communities. I am involved in the evaluation not only because I am an AVP facilitator, but also because I hope to make nonviolence greater focus of my work again.

In order to measure the impact, we have identified five main objectives:

  1. Increased self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth
  2. Increased sense of safety and stability
  3. Increased trust
  4. Increased harmony with family and other close social contacts
  5. Strengthened or expanded connections with people from outside one’s immediate community.

Each of these objectives, which are from a social capital evaluation tool developed by STARTTS  and UNSW7, relate to at least one of the AVP objectives identified in Tomlison’ literature review8 and have at least one associated indicator (see below). Continue reading

Posted in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Being an academic | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s simple maths, not a once in a 1000 year phenomenon

(Photo: Pixabay)

There is a Facebook post going around at the moment that says:

Today, if you add your age + the year you were born you will get 2017.

This only happens once every 1000 years!

Beside that fact that the statement is wrong for anybody who hasn’t had their birthday yet this year, the idea that it only happens once every 1000 years is ludicrous.

It is actually the case on 31 December every year. It also works for anybody on any day of the year after their birthday. (Ok you won’t always get 2017, but you’ll get the year you are in.)

By definition, if you add the number of years you’ve lived to the year you were born, you will get the current year.

The main lesson from this is how easily things circulate on Facebook and how fake news can spread quickly! Continue reading

Posted in Social change | Tagged | Leave a comment

Creating a collection of literature on the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)

(Photo: jarmoluk)

For the last six months or so, I’ve been working (slowly) with a small team (mainly Anne Wallace-DiGarbo, Katherine Smith, Judy Litke and me) to create a collection of research and literature on the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). It went live today!

The collection, which is available from, is grouped under four headings:

  1. Descriptions of AVP – non-research literature about AVP (e.g., descriptions of AVP workshops and discussion of the history of AVP)
  2. AVP Research – evaluations of AVP and other research about AVP
  3. Related research – research that is relevant to AVP but is not directly about AVP (e.g., research about related programs or violence prevention)
  4. Research methods (coming soon) – discussion about research designs, methods & instruments that might be used in AVP research.

We originally started working on a collection of AVP research, but as we found other useful material we decided to expand the focus to AVP literature. So far we have concentrated on AVP research and will continue to look for more material for the other sections.

Creating the collection have raised a number of dilemmas. Continue reading

Posted in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Being an academic | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

New resources on asset-based community development (ABCD)

Asset-based community developmentI’ve just added the following resources to the reading list on asset-based community development (ABCD) I’ve created.

Cameron, C., & Wasacase, T. (2017). Community-driven health impact assessment and asset-based community development: An innovate path to community well-being. In R. Phillips & C. Wong (Eds.), Handbook of community well-being research (pp. 239-259). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. Available from (Link to abstract only)

Chinyowa, K. C., Sirayi, M., & Mokuku, S. (2017). From needs-based to asset-based community development: The ABCD method as an effective strategy for engaging with grassroots leaders in South Africa. In S. J. Erenrich & J. F. Wergin (Eds.), Grassroots leadership and the arts for social change. Bingly, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited. Available from (Need subscription to access)

Chiu, M. Y. L., Zhou, R. D. H., Tong, A. K. K., Tonsing, K. N., & Yiu, M. G. C. (2017). Asset-based community mental health: An evidence-based support program by lay mental health ambassadors. Asia Pacific Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 8(2), 150-164. doi: 10.1080/21507686.2017.1349684 (Link to abstract only) Continue reading

Posted in Strengths-based approaches & ABCD, Working with communities | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Conflict resolution and nonviolence workshops with young people

A model for Alternatives to Violence Project and Help Increase the Peace workshops with youth

This paper was originally published in 1999, but is still quite relevant.

SINCE 1994, the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and Help Increase the Peace (HIP) have conducted workshops in Newcastle on conflict resolution and nonviolence with adults and young people. As we reflected on the successes and failures of the workshops, we developed a model which identified the features of effective workshops with young people in schools or youth services. This model was developed with the support of the Samaritans and 12-month funding from the Crime Prevention Division of the NSW Attorney General’s Department.

The paper discusses the model in terms of project experience and the translation of the model into practice.

Workshop structure

While there is some variation in the length and structure of workshops, the essential elements remain the same and include:

  • beginning with group-building exercises and the establishment of group agreements;
  • a variety of structured experimental, interactive activities and small-group discussion;
  • energisers to encourage cooperation, let off steam, change the pace of the session and have fun; and
  • feedback from the participants.

Continue reading

Posted in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Facilitation & teaching, Families & parenting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Community engagement and the Stop Adani national day of action

Stop Adani Day of Action at Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle. (Photo: Ryan Jago)

Last weekend (7-8 October 2017), people around Australia put their bodies on the line to send a message about Adani’s plans for the Carmichael Mine in Queensland: one of the World’s largest coal mines. In over 45 locations in Australia, people spelt out “Stop Adani”.

My family and I were in Lismore visiting friends the week before so Cathy took photos of us creating letters with our bodies and then put the photos together to create our message.

My family and some friends spell out our message re the Carmichael Coal Mine (Photo: Cathy Stuart)

On Saturday we joined over 600 people in Newcastle to spell it out on the beach (we’re in the bottom of the T, with Cathy’s parents who are both in their 80s). Continue reading

Posted in Environmental sustainability, Social change, Working with communities | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments