A series of e-books developed to support children in defence families, stemming from UNE PhD research, has been named the joint winner of this year’s Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences awards for Distinctive Work for 2022.
“My PhD gathered the voices of young children from Australian defence and veteran families by directly working with 2-5-year-old children. This was the first study of its kind globally,” says project lead Dr Marg Rogers, UNE Early Childhood Education researcher.
“During the study, the children’s parents and educators communicated the lack of age and culturally appropriate children’s literature and apps to support children’s understanding of military and veteran family life. Parents and educators reported this made them feel isolated and ignored.
“Life within these families can be quite stressful, as they feature frequent and prolonged parental training and deployment, family relocations and parents who might be affected by service related physical and mental health conditions.”
Defence and veteran families are excited to finally see their lives reflected in Australian children’s literature, which is so important for children’s developing sense of belonging.
Using these children’s stories, the books were co-designed, co-created and co-edited with those with lived experience and stakeholders who support these families.
“The children’s narratives have been brought to life in the e-books by a large team of graphic artists, editors, digital learning designers, early childhood technology specialists, early childhood educators, social workers, family workers, and family and military family researchers. Many community members also volunteered their time to narrate the books for audio and video read-along recordings,” Dr Rogers says.
After stakeholder evaluations, the free, online books and accompanying educational resources are now available.
“Defence and veteran families are excited to finally see their lives reflected in Australian children’s literature, which is so important for children’s developing sense of belonging,” Dr Rogers says. “Parents, educators and family workers are thankful that they have a springboard to start conversations with children about what is happening at home.”
The Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences commented, ‘The jury commended the work for its significant contribution to supporting children and their families and your innovative, creative methods used in doing so’.
The books are being used by Open Arms (Department of Veteran Affairs) through a collaborative agreement, and the project team is currently drafting a collaborative agreement for the Canadian Institute for Military Veteran and Family Health to adapt the books for their families.
Educators, Defence School Mentors and family and social workers are also using the books with children.
Marg is now a Research Fellow with the Australian Government funded Manna Institute and is exploring new ways to support children, families and the professionals who support them.
The project is funded by The Ian Potter Foundation, the University of New England and the Association of Graduates of Early Childhood Studies.
Find the books and more about the project at ecdefenceprograms.com.‘ Printed copies of the royalty-free books are also available at the Australian War Memorial Shop‘.
Image: Project lead Dr Marg Rogers with one of the award-winning storybooks she has written for children in military families.