Best practice and trends in family counselling and mediation services in NSW: A collaborative case study of Uniting
I’m the project manager (with Tamara Blakemore from Social Work as the Chief Investigator) on this major research project exploring three primary research questions:
- What does the existing evidence base identify as principles for best practice in terms of family counselling and mediation services?
- How do Uniting’s family counselling and mediation services achieve positive outcomes for their clients?
- How can family counselling and mediation services measure the impact/outcomes of their services?
The research focuses on Uniting family and counselling and mediation services in Central Sydney, Nowra, Wollongong, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Penrith, Parramatta, Gosford and Newcastle and includes a number of stages:
- A rapid review of current evidence of best practice in family counselling and mediation services
- 2–3 workshops with staff and other key stake holders to reflect on the implications of the rapid review, to what extent Uniting services are consistent with the literature and what, if anything, could be added.
- One-on-one interviews with 36 staff exploring the research questions (especially Questions 2&3)
- An online survey for families who have used Uniting’s family counselling and mediation services about their experience
- 3–4 workshops with staff and other key stake holders to reflect on what the findings from the interviews and survey mean, the implications of the findings for practice and policy, and how the findings can inform best practice.
- Reporting on the implications for policy and practice of the research to Uniting, other services and policy makers.
Funded by Uniting
Project team: Tamara Blakemore (Social Work, University of Newcastle), Graeme Stuart, (Family Action Centre, University of Newcastle), Duncan Cameron (Practice Lead Family Law, Uniting), Milena Heinsch (Social Work, University of Newcastle), Amanda Howard (Social Work, University of Newcastle & University of Sydney), Tom Mclean (Head of Research, Innovation and Advocacy, at Uniting), Pauline O’Neill (Director Burnside Out of Home Care and Resilient Families Norther, Central and Western Sydney, Uniting), Chris Krogh (Humanities and Social Science , University of Newcastle), Shaun McCarthy (University of Newcastle Legal Centre).
Uni4You: A case study of a community-based University widening participation program
I’m the Chief investigator for a case study of Uni4You, a Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) widening participation strategy supporting people with little access to lifelong learning and who never considered university as a possibility. Uni4You provides information sessions, preparatory workshops, learning support groups and scaffolded case management over 18–30 months to support participants as they make informed decisions about enrolling in enabling programs, journey through an enabling program and explore other lifelong learning opportunities or other options.
Drawing on the experiences of people who decided to undertake the Uni4You program and possibly a University enabling program or undergraduate degree, and those who decided not to continue at this time, the case study will explore:
- What influences their decision and ability to participate (or not) in life-long learning activities in the context of tertiary education?
- What strengths and resources do they bring to their study and the University?
- What challenges do they face in undertaking University enabling programs and transitioning to undergraduate programs?
- How can they best be supported (at an individual, family and community level) to succeed in University enabling programs and other lifelong learning?
- How do community-based widening participation programs such as Uni4You impact on individuals, their families, neighbourhoods, communities, and institutions?
The research will involve
- One-on-one interviews with 10-15 people who have participated in at least one Uni4You activity
- A group interview with 8-12 practitioners who have worked closely with Uni4You or who have worked closely with people who attended Uni4You
- Group interviews with practitioners at family and community service interagency meetings to include practitioners with little experience of Uni4You
- Group discussion with 8-12 Uni4You participants about the initial findings
- Workshop with Uni4You staff to discuss data and participant feedback, and to reflect on and identify implications for practice
- Further analysis of data incorporating insights from the group discussion and staff feedback
- An online survey of Uni4You participants, based on questions arising from the previous stages
- Group discussion with 8-12 Uni4You participants about the survey results and the rest of the research
- Workshop with Uni4You staff to discuss data and participant feedback, and to identify implications for practice
- Final analysis, reflection on practice and writing up of findings
Funded by a grant from the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle.
Project team: Graeme Stuart; Michele Oshan; Deborah Hartman; Kerrell Bourne; Mary Ross; Nicole Roser and Roger Currie (The Uni4You team and other staff from the Family Action Centre)
Alternatives to Violence Project
I’ve been disappointed that I didn’t build on the work I did on nonviolence and youth work practice for my PhD. Peace and nonviolence have long been a passion: in fact I began working with communities in 1983 through the peace movement. Over the past 12-18 months, it’s been wonderful seeing this interest and my work begin to align again.
Thanks to Leesa, I began facilitating Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops, again in 2016 and this has led to a number of research possibilities. I’m working with AVP NSW and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) on an evaluation of the impact of AVP workshops on social capital.
At an international level, I’m a co-convenor of the AVP international research committee which is promoting research within AVP. One of the projects I’ve been helping with is creating a collection of literature on AVP. Through my involvement on the committee, I’m working with a small team to start planning a book about the impact of AVP and exploring other potential research and writing opportunities.
Nonviolence is very relevant to the work of the Family Action Centre, there is lots of potential for research and research grants, and it is work I’m passionate about. I’m hoping that this will become an increasing focus over the coming years.
I’m teaching two online subjects: HLSC2241 (Engaging Communities) in both Semester 1 & 2 for undergraduates, and HLSC6105 (Engaging Families and Communities) in Trimester 2 as part of the Grad Cert and Master of Family Studies.
I’m on the organising committee for a two-day symposium exploring family and community strengths. (Details will be out soon.)
Deborah Hartman and I are guest editing an edition of Developing Practice exploring the integration of research, teaching and practice.
I continue to be the convenor of Transition Newcastle (but am not as actively involved as in previous years) and the Vice President of my daughters’ school Parent and Citizens Association (P&C).
There’s also guest lectures; supporting family and community services with workshops, presentations or consultations; and trying to keep up my writing and blogging.
One of the challenges of a role like mine is that there are so many possibilities and exciting projects. I do love starting new things and so the temptation to take on something different is always there, and I’m not particularly good at saying no to opportunities.
I hope to provide some updates on the research projects as they progress.
If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:
- Blogging as an academic
- 7 principles guiding my work
- Creating a collection of literature on the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
- Rethinking the roles of families and clients in evidence-based practice
- 12 principles of a problem solving approach to conflict resolution
- Nonviolence as a Framework for Youth Work Practice
If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.