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 audience I have in my mind as I write 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.
Although I am in a period of transition, I write as a lecturer (based at the Family Action Centre [FAC] at the University of Newcastle), a practitioner, and father (my partner and I have two wonderful daughters aged 20 and 17).
As I said I am in a period of transition. The first transition is that, due to lack of funds at the University, this year I am only employed 15 hours a week and in October my work at the University will finish. This will be a major change because I have worked at the FAC since 2003: first as a community worker with the Caravan Project (supporting permanent residents of caravan parks) before moving into a more academic role in 2008. As an academic, my focus has been on strengths-based approaches to working with families and communities through teaching, practice-based research, and projects or consultancies supporting family and community services.
The second transition is that for 20 years, a very important part of my identify has been as a father but, as my daughters rapidly approach adulthood, this role is changing (as it always has). In a few years when they have left home and living even more independent lives, it would be strange to suggest that I write as a father.
At the University, I am working on two projects this year:
- Name.Narrate.Navigate, a project working with young people who use violence in their families and relationships
- A project with NOVA for Women and Children to create a model of assertive outreach with women in the Hunter.
In addition to my University work I will be working voluntarily with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) 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 will also continue as the secretary of Transition Newcastle (a local environment group) and the secretary of the Parent and Citizen Association at my daughter’s school (and volunteer in the canteen).
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
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.