‘Go goldfields’ – a Place Based Experience

Sharon Fraser, Central Goldfields Shire Council
Sharon Fraser

Presented by Sharon Fraser, Central Goldfields Shire Council and John Bonnice, St. Luke’s Anglicare

This session was about the ‘Go Goldfields’ project, coordinated in Central Goldfields Shire, which seeks to improve the community through partnerships and coordination so that children in Goldfields can live a full life.

This place-based initiative was planned and implemented entirely from within the community, uniting service providers, local government and community leaders to address the issues that face the area.

Central Goldfields Shire is positioned between Ballarat and Bendigo, with a population of about 13,000, with the main centre being Maryborough. This has been an area of socioeconomic disadvantage and the common problems that stem from this, however, ‘Go Goldfields’ want to change that story.

John Bonnice, St Luke's Anglicre
John Bonnice

Central Goldfields Shire council employed a place-based planning approach for this project. This means that the initiatives are driven from within the community, as opposed to being established and researched by bodies outside the area and then implemented in the community.

What’s critical to this is having a ‘critical enquiry approach’, where you keep asking the questions to try and identify and face the key issues of the community.

So, if the question is ‘why are children suffering in this area?’, keep asking that question, keep peeling off the layers until you can see the answer. This involves talking to and asking the question of all the players in this issue.

The ‘Go Goldfields’ project was implemented across the entire shire, with focus being given to poverty, social connection, community engagement, youth, family violence and workforce development. There’s a history of services focussing on one improving one part of community life in the hope that this would lead to greater advantage in other areas.

By uniting service providers and partnerships, the ‘Go Goldfields’ project can address the most pressing issues for the community from a wide range of angles.

Let’s talk about implementation and planning, are community development projects better implemented in a place-based approach, or is this re-inventing the wheel?

For more information on ‘Go Goldfields’, see the project’s website.

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.

Homelessness- ‘Through the eyes of a Child’

Michelle Clayton
Michelle Clayton, Children’s Resource program coordinator, Southern Region

Presenters Michelle Clayton and Susie Richards, both Children’s Resource Program Coordinators, from the Southern and Eastern Regions respectively looked at issues of homelessness and family violence through the eyes of the children involved.

The key is that, children’s experiences of homelessness are very different to those of adults.

The important moments in this journey might be leaving a pet behind or losing a teddy bear, these are things that need to be understood by the social workers who take on these cases.

But the question is do you have the resources to make a space nurturing for a child and to make your service suitable for a child?

There are plenty of barriers in working with children facing homelessness:

Susie Richards
Susie Richards, Children’s Resource program coordinator, Eastern Region
  • Who is the client? Is it the child, his/her family or parents?,
  • Children aren’t often funded as clients,
  • Children can be somewhat invisible to the worker (as they’re often as school and cannot often be accessed on week days),
  • There is a belief that children are resilient,
  • There is also a belief that fixing the homelessness problem will fix the child (even though the trauma of such an event will impact onto the child’s life for a long period),
  • Parents are protective of children and generally have reasonable parenting abilities,
  • Children’s issues not addressed because of the hierarchy of needs within the family.

The role of the Statewide Children’s Resource Program is to try and overcome these barriers through training, much of which is offered free to agencies, and resource distribution to aid workers who are trying to engage with children facing homelessness.

The program aims to raise awareness among workers about the impacts on health, mental health, education and emotional stability that homelessness can have on a child and some of the simple things that can be done to aid kids through this time, such as having toys for kids to play with in the office.

Toys for children to play with

Workers in this area need to assess their current ideas of children’s rights and their usual methods of dealing with family homelessness.

The Statewide Children’s Resource Program seeks to inspire this assessment and teach workers to improve their practice and support children who face homelessness.

For more information on the type of resources developed visit http://www.homelesskidscount.org/

Post written by youth bloggers from SYN Media.

The role of agency: Understanding children’s safety in the context of family violence

Anita MorrisAnita Morris from the University of Melbourne, presented the findings of her PhD thesis.

What do we currently know about children experiencing family violence?

Undoubtedly it has a negative impact on children’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being but some children appear to have a certain level of resilience compared to others.

Anita’s research fills the gap in family violence research by bringing the voice of the children forward.

The study was based on the question ‘How is safety realised in the context of family violence?’

Anita scaled her participants on a scale from “Vulnerable and Unsafe” to “Safe”

Towards the vulnerable and unsafe end participants reported; forced or intrusive contact with the perpetrator, poverty, substance abuse, poor maternal physical earth, child sexual abuse, chronic mental health/trauma effects, limited informal supports and the role of formal interventions.

Some participants had positive experiences with interventions (relief etc) but for others it had caused unease or worry.

Key Finding: Mothers and children lacked agency for the above reasons.

What does agency mean?

Anita explored different aspects of agency through the interviews with participants and analytical theories.

She defined agency as, children being able to:

  • Act for themselves,
  • Seek and receive answers,
  • Be aware of their roles in the family,
  • Be able to make decisions about who they trust and have that respected,
  • And, that they acknowledge they play a role in family resiliency.

Mothers & children suffering family violence often lack agency

Anita finished the presentation showing a variety of quotes selected from her interviews with mothers and children exposed to family violence, who provided a variety of complex insights into a very complex issue.

Read more about family violence and a book on the subject in a previous post.

Written by bloggers from SYN Media.

Outdoor adventure experiences for vulnerable adolescents: what are the benefits?

Helen SkouterisIf we keep having this top down effect where ‘mum says’, ‘school says’ and ‘society says’, we’re not really making our young people active agents of change.

On an annual basis, thousands of adolescents participate in outdoor adventure programs that usually aim to connect these young people with their peers and nature.

When Associate Professor of Psychology Helen Skouteris started her research into these programs she found that it crossed over different areas of study such as socio-emotional development, cognitive development and obesity and weight gain. She also found that the benefits of participating in outdoor adventure programs are not limited to vulnerable adolescents.

Benefits of participation in outdoor activity programs include gaining a sense of belonging and growing an understanding the social environment. We can see how these would be hugely beneficial to vulnerable adolescents who are also enabled, through these programs, to achieve social goals, build trusting and meaningful relationships, meet more people and learn to control anger.

Hiking on the Gippsland Wilderness Program
Young people on the Gippsland Wilderness Program are encouraged to challenge their boundaries.

There are so many skills to be gained from this type of participation, including cognitive (e.g. problem solving), emotional (e.g. forming relationships) and physical (e.g. canoeing or hiking).

The outdoor environment pushes young people out of their comfort zones and allows them to take on responsibility and become an active agent of change for their own wellbeing and that is hugely beneficial to all adolescents!

Canoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness ProgramCanoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness Program
Canoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness Program

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.

Foster change by building hope

Maddie Witter“You can fail, and need to fail, in order to be a hopeful person.”

Maddie Witter gave an inspiring and motivating workshop today on building hope amongst youth in order to foster change.

The tools bestowed amongst the crowd were suitable for any person looking to increase their own hopefulness and success, but Maddie kept it aimed at young, disadvantaged and marginalised youth.

Maddie believes that in order for youth to be successful, they must achieve hope, persistence, and self-efficacy. If you can teach you these skills they can take these attributes and apply them to the rest of their lives.

“Self-efficacy is the ability to create a goal and then measure the progress of meeting that goal through reflection,” says Maddie.

Foster change by building hope

She then goes on to explain that persistence can be achieved through building stamina. This can be done through such strategies as:

  • Developing a list of things to do (not too long),
  • Predict how efficient you will be in completing a task, then measure it,
  • Control and cultivate choice in the curriculum without giving too many options,
  • Take 10 minutes twice a month to go through a calendar and see what you have achieved and still have to organise.

Maddie believes that anybody is capable of tremendous academic potential, and has experienced and developed firsthand the tools required to build hope among youth in order to foster change.

Reading Without LimitsFor more information on Maddie and her work, see her the website for her book http://reading-without-limits.com/, or follow her on Twitter @Maddie_Witter.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

What’s a Dog Got To Do with Education? Presented by Bern Nicholls, PhD.

Dr Bern NichollsIn meditation you focus on your breathing to anchor yourself, [the students] focussed on Gus [the dog] to anchor themselves, to be calm in the classroom.

Many of the keynote speakers spoke about the benefits of forging strong relationships for children but there are other relationships that can enrich a child’s environment and childhood – like the one you have with your pets!

Bern Nicholls, PhD, presented her Masters research findings on the effect of Gus the dog’s presence in the secondary school classroom environment. As a high school teacher for many years, Bern took her Masters research as an opportunity to introduce Gus to her class and to study how Gus affected the classroom environment.

In the classroom, Gus would sit under tables, put his head on students’ shoes, sit next to particular students and, for the most part of the day, sleep. His presence was definitely felt, with students reporting that they felt:

  • More relaxed,
  • More trusting of the classroom environment,
  • A stronger connection to the class and other students,
  • More understanding and empathetic of other students,
  • It was easier to concentrate in class, and
  • Safer in the classroom.

Most noticeably, Gus gave students more confidence to speak up in class. Many students who were often shy or afraid would speak more freely if Gus was sitting at their feet.

So, what’s the explanation?

Koda Kayaking
One of the instructors in our Gippsland Wilderness Program is studying Animal Assisted Therapy, you can see his dog Koda loves the kayaking!

There’s a connection to the evolutionary history of people and dogs: they evolved with us, became our protectors and then a part of our families. Gus became this sort of canary in the classroom, wherein he had a calming effect on all the kids, and with a calmer mind, there’s more room for learning.

Bern’s research can be used to think about how teachers work with and form relationships with their students.

Bern highlighted three areas in her research where teachers could change their practice to form stronger relationships and improve their students’ learning environment:

Trust and care: acknowledging the courage it takes to teach and then acknowledging that students want teachers to care about them to build relationships with them, just as Gus did,

Relationships: understanding that children want meaningful and respectful teaching and, in turn, working to build this relationship, and

Educating with the brain in mind: remembering that stressed brains don’t learn and trying to create a relaxed environment in the classroom.

Whats a dog got to do with education

For more information on Bern’s work, see her company Learning Labyrinth.

Post by bloggers from SYN Media.

The rhythm of life, relationships and individuality

Simon Faulker presenting Drumbeat workshop“The most powerful thing for me is that the repetitive nature of drumming provided a regulating experience”

Simon Faulkner developed Drumbeat based on his experience in addictions counselling. After travelling across North America researching rhythm-based therapies and working with Native Americans and African Americans, the impact of drumming as an analogy to relationships, community and expressing yourself became the basis for the music therapy.

For Drumbeat, the emphasis is taken away from musical ability. Upon determining that the group at the Conference was largely musically inexperienced, Simon began to lead the circle into drumming exercises that would be undertaken in the workshops with younger members.

Simon Faulker presenting Drumbeat workshop

Despite the lack of actual drums due to a mix up, the group managed to generate enough noise to fill the room. The exercise kicked off with a core beat, what Faulkner described as a “mongrel beat”, mimicking the simple heartbeat. Once everyone was comfortable with slapping their knees, Simon threw in a hand clap and before long, the sound of foot stamps, hand rubbing and voices dominated the ground floor of the venue.

Simon concluded the workshop with the analogy of rhythms within life. Everybody has various rhythms, whether it be at school or in the home, but a person’s own individual rhythm can fit within a community’s.

If you make a mistake and miss a beat, the community is still there to support and help you get back into your rhythm.

During the lunch break, just before Simon’s workshop, students from Corpus Christi Primary in Melbourne had demonstrated Drumbeat to anyone interested; see the video below:

If you’re interested in music therapy, read further information about Drumbeat here.

Blog post by: SYN Media bloggers