I am a passionate about helping create a just, inclusive, and nonviolent world where individuals and families are cherished and supported, and communities are vibrant and resilient. In the society I want to help create, we will live sustainably having recognised we need to live in harmony with the Earth’s environment, and there will no longer be such an unfair distribution of the world’s wealth and resources.
Even though I sometimes feel an overwhelming sense of despair when I look at what needs to change, I still believe change is possible and that it is vital we do what we can to contribute to a better world. This blog is one small way I can contribute to creating change.
In the blog I mainly discuss strengths-based approaches to working with families and communities, but also touch on environmental issues, share an occasional song or write about other things that interest me. The main audiences I have in my mind are practitioner and university, college or vocational education students. This means that I usually:
- ensure my statements are backed up by evidence (defined very broadly)
- acknowledge my sources through referencing
- come from a strong value base but still try to remain fairly objective
- try to write in a clear, easy-to-understand style.
Recently my 18.5 years at the Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) came to an end when there was no longer any funding for my position. I am now busy, but semi-retired. I am still part of the team behind Name.Narrate.Navigate (NNN), a volunteer with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), an honorary lecturer, the treasurer of Transition Newcastle/Upcycle Newcastle and transitioning as a father (my daughters are now young adults).
At the University, I am:
- Working with Name.Narrate.Navigate, a project working with young people who use violence in their families and relationships
- Finishing of a project with NOVA for Women and Children to create a model of assertive outreach with women experiencing homelessness in the Hunter
- Supervising Louise Rak (a PhD student) and Dee Brooks (a Master of Philosophy student).
With AVP I am facilitating workshops on nonviolence and conflict resolution, working on a couple of books about AVP and co-convening an international AVP research subcommittee. I have been a facilitator with AVP since the mid-1990s (although I took 15 years off while my daughters were small) and am very passionate about this work.
I started working with communities in 1983 (through peace and social change movements) and families 10 years later, and have continued to do so ever since in both paid and voluntary capacities. Some of my roles include supporting homeless youth; community development; facilitating workshops on a range of topics in prison, schools and the community; volunteering with peace and environment groups; teaching at TAFE and University; and supporting community organisations with planning and evaluation.
Even though I left school before starting my final year of high school, I later returned with a real love for learning. My formal qualifications include:
- Bachelor of Music (but unfortunately I really wasn’t a very good musician) from the University of Melbourne
- Bachelor of Social Science (Welfare Studies) from the University of Newcastle
- Master of Letters (Peace Studies) from the University of New England
- PhD (with a dissertation titled “Nonviolence and youth work practice in Australia) from the University of Newcastle.
At the same time, I recognise there are many different types of intelligence and that formal education is very different to wisdom (and even common sense).
If you want to find out a bit more about me you could look at:
- 7 principles guiding my work
- My background in peace and environment groups
- Blogging as an academic
- Parenting for a better world
- Don’t call me doctor!
- 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
- My University profile
I recognise the strength, resilience and knowledge of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as custodians of my Country, and I acknowledge and pay respect to the Awabakal people on whose land I live, work and learn.
The Sustaining Community blog does not necessarily represent the views of the Family Action Centre, the University of Newcastle, nor the Alternatives to Violence Project.