Archive for October, 2008

New Zealand local government expert visits UNE Centre

October 27th, 2008

dolleryreid A leading authority on New Zealand local government visited the University of New England last week to discuss research collaboration with UNE’s Centre for Local Government.

Mike Reid is the Governance Manager of Local Government New Zealand, an organisation that provides policy, advice and training to local government councils throughout New Zealand. His discussions with the Director of the UNE Centre, Professor Brian Dollery, and its Deputy Director, Bligh Grant, centred on issues of local government sustainability.

Professor Dollery, a widely published authority on Australian local government finance and reform, said: “The UNE Centre for Local Government has been collaborating for some time with Local Government New Zealand in general – and Mike Reid in particular – on various questions in contemporary local government. There are great similarities between the local government systems of Australia and New Zealand, and so there is much that can be gained through a comparative analysis.

“Mike has an unparalleled knowledge of local government reform in New Zealand and we are delighted and privileged that he has been able to visit us in Armidale. He and I are in the process of developing a framework for an edited book on sustainability in local government that considers not only financial sustainability, but also other aspects of the problem such as the sustainability of local communities and environments.

“Mike has already contributed chapters on New Zealand local government reform to two of our most recent books. One of these, Local Government Reform: A Comparative Analysis of Advanced Anglo-American Countries (edited by myself, Joseph Garcea and Edward LeSage), was published in July 2008, and another is forthcoming.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH published here, shows Professor Brian Dollery (left) with Mike Reid.

Award for research on maths intervention program

October 24th, 2008

award An outstanding postgraduate student at the University of New England has won a national award for research that will help school students who have difficulty with basic mathematics.

Anne Bellert has won the Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA) Tertiary Student Award for 2008. This is an occasional award through which LDA recognises significant research in the field of learning difficulties.

In a carefully-designed trial, Ms Bellert implemented and assessed an intervention program called QuickSmart that gives students confidence in the automatic application of basic skills in mathematics. Her research report, after documenting the successful outcome of the trial, emphasises the importance of helping students struggling with basic mathematics to develop the use of these automatic procedures.

The judges commended Ms Bellert’s research for its applicability to students with learning difficulties in a wide range of classroom situations.

Anne Bellert, who works for the Catholic Education Office of the Lismore Diocese, is a PhD student in the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR). Her academic supervisors, Associate Professor Lorraine Graham and Professor John Pegg (the Director of SiMERR) have led the development of the QuickSmart program over the past eight years.

Dr Graham said Ms Bellert’s work provided thoroughly documented evidence of the effectiveness of the QuickSmart program in “making a difference to students’ school performance”. “This is important and useful work, given the impact of school failure on individuals’ aspirations and society,” Dr Graham added.

The President of LDA, Dr Ruth Fielding-Barnsley, presented Ms Bellert with the award during a ceremony in Brisbane at the end of August. In accepting the award, Ms Bellert presented a brief overview of her research, acknowledging the support of her family and her supervisors. She thanked LDA for providing “motivation and encouragement” through the Tertiary Student Award.

Her award-winning research paper will be published in the LDA journal, the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows the President of Learning Difficulties Australia, Dr Ruth Fielding-Barnsley (right), presenting the Tertiary Student Award to Anne Bellert.

Thai researcher into ageing gains Australian perspective

October 3rd, 2008

prapapornmanorathA Thai researcher into healthy ageing has just completed four months of collaborative academic work at the University of New England, complemented by experience of everyday life in regional Australia.

Prapaporn Manorath (pictured here), a lecturer at Boromarajonani College of Nursing in Thailand’s Uttaradit Province, is completing a four-year investigation of measures that people in their early 50s can take to prepare themselves both mentally and physically for retirement.

Working in Thailand with primary school teachers between the ages of 50 and 55, she found, through an initial sampling of 328 teachers, that knowledge and practice  of health-promoting behaviours was not a high priority for professional people such as these. She then developed a health-promotion program for a group of the teachers to follow, and found that it had a positive effect on indicators such as blood pressure and stress levels.

“This ‘health promotion model’ focused on the teachers’ physical, mental and social wellbeing,” Ms Manorath said, “and involved them in taking responsibility for their own health by managing stress, maintaining healthy levels of nutrition and exercise, developing positive mental attitudes, and strengthening their social relationships.”

“And they actually did change their behaviour in these respects,” she added.

The study is the basis of Ms Manorath’s PhD thesis, which she will submit at Thailand’s Naresuan University next January. UNE has a collaborative arrangement with Naresuan University that facilitates exchange visits by scholars such as Ms Manorath, as well as large international projects. Naresuan University, like UNE, is a regional university with strong programs promoting the delivery of health services to people living in rural areas. Ms Manorath’s work in UNE’s School of Health over the past four months has been guided by David Briggs, a Senior Lecturer in the School who has wide experience of collaborative projects in Thailand.

One of Ms Manorath’s missions during the visit was to develop her English language skills through interaction in a variety of academic and social settings. Her achievements in this respect  and in her scholarly work were displayed when she presented a research seminar in the School of Health last week. After her presentation, the Head of the School, Associate Professor Jeanne Madison, said: “I’m most admiring of your elegant study and your presentation today.”

Referring to the importance of Ms Manorath’s research, Dr Madison said: “You came to UNE to learn from us, and we’ve learnt so much from you.”

For part of her time in Australia, Ms Manorath stayed with a retired couple Jo and Gavin Moore on a farm near Manilla. She said this experience had contributed greatly to the development of her English language skills and her understanding of Australian lifestyles particularly post-retirement. She also stayed in an Armidale home, experiencing family and social life in this regional city.

Coming from Thailand to a New England winter was, she said, something of a shock. But the friendliness of everyone she encountered, and the benefits she derived from her academic program at UNE, made her “warm at heart” even when “cold in the body”.

Mr John Page, School of Law

October 2nd, 2008

Me John Page

The publication of two articles by UNE School of Law Property Law lecturer, John Page, and Lincoln University Public Policy lecturer Dr Ann Brower, is causing a high profile re-appraisal of the nature of Crown pastoral tenure in New Zealand. Covering nearly 10% of New Zealand’ land mass, Crown pastoral and iconic landscapes, the high country known world-wide as the setting for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Challenging the traditional orthodoxy surrounding Crown pastoral tenure, the articles have questioned the legal bases for run-holder’s assertions of exclusivity of possession. Tapping into Dr. Brower’s research that examined the policy implications of tenure review (the conversion of former Crown leasehold into freehold title and conservation land), Page and Brower’s legal analysis has initiated an invited seminar at the University of Canterbury Law Faculty, a Parliamentary Select Committee submission, legal opinion from New Zealand’s Crown Counsel in response to the research, and national press attention.

In the latest development Fish and Game, a Crown entity mandated with protecting the interests of recreational fishers and hunters, has commenced High Court litigation. Fish and Game are seeking a declaratory judgment that Crown run-holder’s rights do not preclude public recreational access. A hearing is expected by March 2009.
This collaborative research project was facilitated by Professor Paul Martin of UNE’s Centre for Agriculture and Law. Additional research outputs from the project are anticipated in the near future.