Archive for July, 2009

ARC Head contributes to celebration of ‘the research journey’

July 21st, 2009

sheilThe Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC), Professor Margaret Sheil, visited the University of New England last week to join young researchers and their mentors in a celebration of “the research journey”.

She presented a keynote address at the annual conference for postgraduate students in UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, and launched a newly-published book titled Qualitative Journeys: Student and Mentor Experiences with Research.

Professor Sheil (pictured here), who has headed the ARC since August 2007, said she tried to plan her visits to universities to coincide with an event or a celebration, and that her visit to UNE last Wednesday (15 July) was particularly rewarding because of the opportunity it gave her to talk to young researchers.

In introducing her at the book launch, UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb, outlined her distinguished career in the practice and administration of research, and said: “We’re very honoured to have you with us.”

Professor Sheil said that launching Qualitative Journeys, edited by Victor Minichiello and Jeffrey A. Kottler, gave her great pleasure because the book “recognises the importance of the student/mentor relationship”. She added that, as a molecular biologist, reading a book about qualitative – as distinct from quantitative – research had been “very educational”. (Professor Sheil is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.)

She noted that the book was a product of international collaboration, with Professor Minichiello based at UNE as Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions, and Professor Kottler based in the Department of Counselling at California State University, Fullerton, in the United States.

Qualitative Journeys, published by Sage in California, is a book for students and professionals in fields including the social sciences, education, human services and health. “The first two chapters describe the general nature of a qualitative research journey,” the editors say in their Introduction. “Each subsequent chapter tells the story of a research study with vivid, compelling descriptions of the struggles, joys, discoveries, surprises and interpersonal negotiations that take place.”

Professor Kottler, who was visiting UNE at the time of the launch, said that the book was unique in its focus on “the complex journey and partnership of research”. He also said that it was – among other things – a celebration of UNE and the impact of this University’s staff and students around the world. Many of the book’s chapters were written by staff members and students at UNE, and Professor Kottler made the point that in each case the student was the “senior author” of the chapter. Many of the authors were present at the launch.

Professor Minichiello discussed his and Professor Kottler’s experiment with an “interesting angle” in a book designed to teach people about qualitative research, and said that they had received “positive feedback from readers who say they were often unaware that they were learning about research methods”.

Research students meet to share ideas and encouragement

July 16th, 2009

tanAbout 100 postgraduate students in the Schools of Education, Law, Health, Rural Medicine, and Business, Economics and Public Policy at the University of New England are meeting this week to share ideas and support each other in their research projects.

The five Schools comprise UNE’s Faculty of The Professions. The Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty, Professor Victor Minichiello, assured the students at the outset that the postgraduate research conference would provide them with long-lasting friendships as well as encouragement and support in their academic endeavours.

The students have travelled to UNE from all States in Australia as well as from overseas countries including South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the United States. Among those participants based on the UNE campus are international students from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Dr Terrence Hays, the conference’s co-convener (with Associate Professor Rafat Hussain), said that this was the Faculty’s fourth postgraduate conference, and that the annual event had seen an increasingly extensive program and a steady increase in attendance since its inception in 2006.

This year’s conference, which runs from Tuesday the 14th to Friday the 17th of July, is titled – like its predecessors – “Bridging the Gap between Ideas and Doing Research”.

“The conference provides a friendly atmosphere for students to present their research and get feedback from academics and fellow students,” Dr Hays explained. “This year’s program comprises 45 presentations by students and eight keynote presentations by UNE academics and visiting speakers – including the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council, Professor Margaret Sheil, and Dr Jane Phillips from Cancer Australia.

“As part of the program, students also have the opportunity to attend skills sessions relevant to data collection and interpretation.”

Heather Buchanan, whose research project – supervised by Professor Minichiello, Dr Hays, and Dr Ingrid Harrington – concerns the use by musicians of mental “body maps” to help them in performance, travelled from the United States to attend the conference.

Tanongson (Tan) Tienthavorn from Thailand, who is studying on campus for a Doctorate in Health Management, said the conference was important for the participants in providing them with “various perspectives” from which to approach research problems. Tan (pictured here), now in the fourth year of a doctoral program that he said had “opened his world”, has attended two previous postgraduate conferences.

Alison Reedy, who travelled to the postgraduate conference from Darwin, where she works as a lecturer at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, said that the conference had provided her with much-needed support and encouragement to continue with her project concerning the use of computer technology to enhance participation in English language learning by Indigenous adults.

2nd Australasian Narrative Inquiry Conference

July 14th, 2009

The 2nd Australasian Narrative Inquiry Conference, held at UNE on Sunday the 12th and Monday the 13th of July, brought together more than 100 delegates from across Australia and from England, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to discuss their work of “discovery through narrative”. Narrative inquiry is a method of investigation that brings a holistic approach to research in the arts, humanities, health sciences and social sciences, and involves collecting otherwise
unobtainable information about a research topic by engaging in conversation with the subjects of the research. Keynote address were presented by Associate Professor Matt Englar-Carlson from California State University, (also an Adjunct Professor at UNE), and Lorina Barker, an Associate Lecturer in Australian History at UNE, who spoke about her research that has included making a film on the hitherto largely undocumented subject of Aboriginal shearers – a film that focuses on the story of her own family members, the Barker Brothers. Reports were presented on topics as diverse as Indigenous research, health and social care, education, ethics, gender studies, and the humanities. A separate, complementary stream of the conference, titled “Embracing Multiple Dimensions”, was convened by UNE’s Dr Myfanwy Maple and Dr Helen Edwards, dealt with “narrative through the arts”, and included seminar presentations, installations, exhibitions and performances. Dr Edwards said that visiting delegates had commented on the prominent position of Aboriginal people and their research in the conference.

Project to aid families of children with developmental disabilities

July 2nd, 2009

helpResearchers at the University of New England have received funding for a project that aims at improving access to services for families in rural and regional NSW that have a child with a developmental disability.

The project will involve mapping the geographical locations of service providers, surveying families’ experience of – and perceptions about – the accessibility of services, and identifying areas of need.

The services involved include those related to respite and accommodation, schooling, and post-school options for further education, training and employment.

“With regard to respite, for example, it’s crisis management only in many rural areas,” said the project’s Research Officer, Dr Annie Carn. Dr Carn, herself the mother of a child with a disability, said that while more services were needed, there was also a need to ensure that families were aware of all the existing services. “At the moment there seems to be a scattering of small agencies that only some people know about,” she said.

The principal researchers in the project, funded by the Apex Foundation, are UNE’s Associate Professor Rafat Hussain (Schools of Rural Medicine and Health) and Dr Kathleen Tait (School of Education), and Dr Louise Young from the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine. Their success in securing the competitive grant reflects their experience in – and enthusiasm for – research aimed at helping families with disabilities. “We want to enable children with a disability to have every opportunity to participate fully in their communities,” Dr Tait said.

Titled “Parental Perceptions of Quality of Life for Families of Children with Developmental Disabilities”, the project’s central research tool is a survey of such families. “We’re targeting families that include someone under 18 years of age who has a developmental disability,” Dr Hussain explained. “The survey will help us to understand the impact on their quality of life if there’s a mismatch between their needs and the available services.”

The researchers are contacting support service agencies and asking them to distribute the survey to relevant clients. “The survey should take about half an hour to complete,” Dr Hussain said. “Families completing the survey will also be given the option of being involved in a face-to-face interview with the researchers. The anonymity of all participants will be strictly maintained, and families will be free to withdraw their participation at any time.”

In addition to those who receive the survey through their agencies, the researchers are keen to hear from any families who would like to complete the survey and/or take part in an interview. For more information, contact: Quality of Life project, School of Rural Medicine, UNE (02) 6773 3678.

Health Research through the CRC for Spatial Information

July 1st, 2009

The successful rebid for the CRC Spatial Information opens up a further opportunity for cutting-edge rural health research, based at UNE. A joint research programme with the University of Western Australia and various collaborators with UNE targets three fundamental health challenges associated with distance. These are the challenges of workforce, matching capabilities with needs, and the additional costs due to distance. The research is predicated on the expectation that linking spatial technology with other technology and management methods can assist to deliver tangible healthcare improvement in rural areas. Whilst the details of the research are yet to be developed in consultation with our partners in the CRC, it is expected to address the role of technology (with an emphasis on spatial data) integrated with management and clinical methods to improve the effectiveness of primary healthcare networks in rural areas; better enable service delivery models in remote areas, improve the utility of health technology and datasets, and improve spatial intelligence for health service design and delivery. Industry collaborators, BSR Solutions and 43pl, have signed on in support of UNE’s bid.

Warrego Primary School: Stakeholders Perceptions

July 1st, 2009

Colin Baker’s Doctoral dissertation takes the form of a case study of Warrego Primary School as it operated to serve the Mungalawurru Outstation Community, 50 Km NW of Tennant Creek, NT, between 1999 and the school’s closure in 2007. The research examines the applicability of western style Anglo-Global education to an isolated Aboriginal community, and the development of a small school serving an isolated outstation community, and investigates the evolution of the school’s culture, curriculum, pedagogy and philosophy over the period of time it takes for a cohort of children to progress from grade one to grade seven against a background of changing circumstances for the school’s stakeholders as the ambitions of the community for its children interacted with systemic changes in curriculum, pedagogy and the freedom of the school staff to design education to meet local expectations.

Legal Responsibilities to Protect Knowledge

July 1st, 2009

Professor Paul Martin (AgLaw) and Professor Michael Jeffery (UWS) in a paper in the New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law, (Vol 11, 2007) have proposed that there is already a legal basis under which academic researchers have clear legal responsibilities to protect knowledge obtained from Indigenous people, as if there were a formal legal trust in place. This argument suggests that indigenous people have far stronger rights than previous commentators have indicated, and that special legislation may not be necessary to protect their interests. They suggest that the current methods of management of research interactions with indigenous people will need significant improvement if their theory proves correct. This research represents a radical rethinking of the interests of indigenous people, and is intended to form the basis for further research focused on legal aspects of indigenous social justice. Professor Martin can be contacted on

Setting them up for Strong Futures

July 1st, 2009

Dr Fiona Wood, in collaboration with Associate Professor Nereda White (Director of the Centre for Indigenous Education & Research at Australian Catholic University and member of the Gooreng Gooreng people of the Bundaberg area of Queensland) prepared a report entitled “Setting them up for strong futures: Education as a key to social and human capacity building for Indigenous People”, for the Queensland Department of Education exploring how education could be used to build social and human capital within Indigenous learners and set them up for success. The current global financial crisis has exacerbated the challenges facing Indigenous people living and working in Australian society. Educational outcomes for Indigenous Australian students remain unsatisfactory. By Year 3 Indigenous children are already falling behind non‐Indigenous children on basic English literacy and numeracy skills. The report addressed key attributes that Indigenous children need to achieve equitable outcomes, different points in the life cycle where specific attributes should be targeted, and a range of activities linked to the acquisition of the attributes. Contact Fiona on

Cultural Resilience, Social Wellbeing

July 1st, 2009

Dr Inga Brasche, and Associate Professor Neil Argent (BCSS), in collaboration with Dr Maitseo Bolaane of the University of Botswana and Professor Peter Stephenson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, are submitting an application for a 3 year ARC Linkage project: a transnational comparative analysis of two Indigenous groups – the Anindilyakwa of Groote Eylandt and the San of Botswana. Both groups have similar histories, comparable social issues and are dealing with tremendous cultural changes brought about, amongst other things, by engagement with mining companies. This project will investigate Indigenous agency in negotiating cultural futures, and will establish a link between cultural resilience and social well-being, facilitating stronger Indigenous positioning in negotiating with agents of cultural change. The project will allow for cross‐cultural and transnational understanding of Indigenous cultural resilience which will impact indicators of social well-being, by investigating policies of social sustainability and community resilience, some of the causal factors of Indigenous disadvantage, and strategies on inter‐cultural negotiation. Contact: Dr Inga Brasche at

Indigenous Family Forms and the Family Law Act

July 1st, 2009

Aileen Kennedy (Law) and Jennifer Greaney (Law) are currently developing an article examining the tacit assumptions which underpin family law legislation. The legislative framework of Australian family law constructs a biological hetero‐nuclear model of the family. The legislation is premised on this
model, which privileges the relationship between parents and their biological children. Indigenous family forms often do not conform to this model. Although the Family Law Act provides mechanisms whereby non‐parents may seek parenting orders, the cultural assumptions and biases which permeate the legislation will present evidentiary hurdles which can disadvantage non‐parental applicants. One consequence of the legislative bias may be to discourage indigenous ‘non‐parents’ from applying for parenting orders, and to render non‐parental and non‐biological relationships less visible. Contact Aileen on