I’m employed as a lecturer at the Family Action Centre (FAC), University of Newcastle (Australia) which is a great place for somebody with my interests as the FAC incorporates teaching, research, and the delivery of family and community programs. (Before moving into a more academic role I was employed as a community worker supporting permanent residents of caravan parks.)
There is always something interesting going on. Here are some of the projects I’m currently involved in.
In 2013, the Family Action Centre introduced the first Australian postgraduate program in family studies (a Graduate Certificate of Family Studies and a Master of Family Studies) and we also offer a range of undergraduate subjects, focusing on family studies, in the Bachelor of Social Science and available as electives in other degrees.
This year I’m teaching three online subjects (all our teaching is done online to allow students from anywhere in Australia or even the World to study with us):
- Prevention & early intervention approaches in family and community services (HLSC2243)—an undergraduate subject exploring important concepts such as an ecological approach, social determinants of health, risk and protective factors and collective impact.
- Family and community engagement: An introduction (HLSC2241)—an undergraduate subject exploring family and community engagement in the context of community development and community building, planning and decision making, and service delivery.
- Engaging families and communities (HLSC6105)—a more in-depth exploration of family and community engagement for postgraduate students.
Best practice and trends in 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 counselling and mediation services in the context of post-separation?
- How do Uniting’s counselling and mediation services achieve positive outcomes for their clients?
- How can counselling and mediation services measure the impact/outcomes of their services?
The research focuses on Uniting 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 post-separation counselling and mediation services
- 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 counselling and mediation services about their experience
- Workshops with staff to reflect the implications for practice of the information we have gathered.
Funded by Uniting
Project team includes: Tamara Blakemore (University of Newcastle), Graeme Stuart, (University of Newcastle), Duncan Cameron (Uniting), Milena Heinsch (University of Newcastle), Amanda Howard (University of Sydney), Tom Mclean (Uniting), Chris Krogh (University of Newcastle), Shaun McCarthy (University of Newcastle).
Alternatives to Violence Project
I helping to facilitate Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops, with a particularly focus on parents and recently released prisoners. As well as the workshop facilitation, 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, and supporting the Red Cross in Tasmania to evaluate a project, also with refugees and new arrivals, based on AVP.
At an international level, I’m a co-convenor of the AVP international research sub-committee which is promoting research within AVP. Some of the projects we’re working include creating a collection of literature on AVP, developing a program logic and creating some sample workshop feedback sheets . Through my involvement on the sub-committee, I’m working with a small team working on a couple of books about the AVP.
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.
Partners include: Newcastle Family Support, Samaritans Foundation, STARTTS, Red Cross Tasmania.
Uni4You: A case study of a community-based University widening participation program
I’m working on a research project with Uni4You, a Family Action Centre 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 is exploring:
- 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 has involved
- One-on-one conversations with 17 people who have participated in at least one Uni4You activity
- One-on-one or group conversations with 32 practitioners who have worked closely with Uni4You or who have worked closely with people who attended Uni4You
- A group discussion with a group of current Uni4You students about the initial findings
- A 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
We are now working on a final report summarising what we have learnt.
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; Kathryn Puckeridge, Mary Ross; Nicole Roser and Roger Currie (The Uni4You team and other staff from the Family Action Centre)
Name Narrate Navigate Pilot Program: DSS Young Offenders Project
Name Narrate Navigate is trialing a program specifically targeted at young people who use violence in their relationships with their partners, parents and carers. Drawing on the results of pilot research in the Hunter Region of NSW as well as the collaborative input of a community of practitioners the program uses photovoice and other methods to engage with young people around key drivers of violence: emotional literacy, communication skills, empathy, power and control, blame, shame and choice.
I’m helping with planning the workshops and undertaking the evaluation. Tamara and I are also co-supervising Louise Rak who is undertaking PhD associated with the project exploring what can be learnt from the narratives of young women who use violence in their interpersonal relationships.
Funded by the Federal Government, Department of Social Services (DSS).
Project team includes: Tamara Blakemore (University of Newcastle), Graeme Stuart (University of Newcastle), Louise Rak (University of Newcastle), Adrian Wilkinson (Singleton Family Support), Sally Rust (Mission Australia), Chris Krogh (University of Newcastle), Shaun McCarthy (University of Newcastle), Felicity Cocuzzoli (University of Newcastle).
There’s also guest lectures; supporting family and community services with workshops, presentations or consultations; and trying to keep up my writing and blogging.
Outside of my Uni role, I’m the secretary of Transition Newcastle, the secretary of my younger daughter’s school Parent and Citizens Association (P&C) and the proud father of two teenage daughters.
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.
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
- My background in peace and environment groups
- 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
- Power and strengths-based practice
- Parenting for a better world
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.