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RESEARCH DIRECTIONS 2011

Faculty of

Education and Arts

Educational Research Institute Newcastle

Humanities Research Institute

Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing

Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition


The Faculty of Education and Arts Further information about the Faculty of Education and Arts and a web version of this publication is available at www.newcastle.edu.au/faculty/education-arts/research/

Project Coordinator Catherine Oddie, Faculty of Education and Arts

Writer Amy De Lore

RESEARCH IN THE FACULTY OF EDUCATION AND ARTS AT A GLANCE Theology and religious studies Sociology Social inclusion Social work Endangered languages documentation, theory and application Literature History, including Australian history and the history of violence and social order Education, including pedagogical reform; social theory; interdisciplinary research in physical activity and population health education; teaching and learning for students with multiple and severe disabilities; and professional learning. Computational stylistics.

We have emerging research strengths in: School stratification Social research in energy resources Solo and choral voice; and Australian sacred music Speech pathology Film, media and cultural studies Creative arts and health.

The Faculty has three Research Institutes and a Priority Research Centre: Education Research Institute Newcastle Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing

In concert with the three Institutes, the Faculty funds a research development program led by its own Research Development Manager. The program includes capacity building workshops and seminars on aspects of academic writing and grant development; and external and internal review mechanisms.

In the recent Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) exercise, over 60 per cent of the 13 fields of research submitted by the Faculty of Education and Arts for assessment were rated at or above world standard. Our religion/religious studies and social work research received the highest rating awarded in these fields in Australia.

Our research income is growing Total Faculty research income between 2007–2010 was $10.2 million Nationally competitive grant income accounted for $3.1 million or 41 per cent In the 2011 round of the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects and Indigenous Researcher Development funding, $946,133 was awarded to four Faculty research teams: Professor Allyson Holbrook, Dr Kathy Butler, and historians Philip Dwyer, Lyndall Ryan and Roger Markwick who were awarded more than $600,000 for two international projects directly related to war, massacre and violence. This success has been a catalyst for the development of a bid for a Centre of Excellence in the History of Violence.

McKean Photo Kitty Hill

Photo wrangler

Between 2005–2010, there were 268 Research Higher Degree completions in the Faculty.

Research development

Research excellence

Photography

Research Higher Degree completions

Humanities Research Institute

Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition (in partnership with the Faculty of Health).

Bounce Design

Research Directions is printed on Mohawk Options 100% PC White, which is made from recycled fibre and manufactured using nonpolluting, wind-generated energy. This paper has been independently third party certified as being 100% Post Consumer Recycled.

Linda Hutchinson

Savings from using recycled fibre in place of virgin fibre:

Educational Research Institute Newcastle (ERIN)

3 trees preserved for the future

Director: Professor Jim Albright James.Albright@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/educationalresearch-institute-newcastle/

4 kg waterborne waste not created

5,276 litres wastewater flow saved

Humanities Research Institute

70 kg solid waste not generated

Director: Professor Hugh Craig Hugh.Craig@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/humanities-research/

138 kg net greenhouse gases prevented

2,324,070 BTUs energy not consumed

Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW) Director: Professor Stephen Webb Stephen.Webb@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/researchinstitute-for-social-inclusion-and-wellbeing/

In 2011, the Faculty established its own scheme to support the development of collaborative research projects suitable for ARC Linkage Projects funding and began a pilot initiative to nurture cross-Faculty research with the Faculty of Science and Information Technology.

Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Director: Professor Ron Plotnikoff Ron.Plotnikoff@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/research-centre/pan/

The Institutes each hosted a Research fellow for one semester in 2011 so as to strengthen the capabilities of existing and emerging areas of research concentration and excellence and to support high calibre mid-career and early-career academics by providing time and support to maintain their research momentum: Dr Lisa Featherstone – Mid-Career Fellow with the Humanities Research Institute Dr Claire Lowry – Early Career Fellow with RISIW Professor Philip Morgan – Mid-Career Fellow with ERIN.

Faculty Research Development Manager Catherine Oddie Catherine.Oddie@newcastle.edu.au

Faculty of Education and Arts Faculty Research Institutes GP Building The University of Newcastle Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia UoN 2011/1071

We have established research strengths in:

Design

T +61 2 4921 5341 F +61 2 4921 7818 W www.newcastle.edu.au/faculty/education-arts/ CRICOS Provider 00109J

Additional savings if paper is manufactured with windpower and carbon offsets:

171 kg ghg emissions not generated ~ 70 windpower savings ~ 101 carbon offset savings

89 cubic meter natural gas unused ~ 36 windpower savings ~ 52 carbon offset savings

equivalent to not driving 599 km ~ 246 windpower savings ~ 353 carbon offset savings

equivalent to planting 26 trees ~ 10 windpower savings ~ 15 carbon offset savings


RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

Welcome to the first edition of Research Directions 2011, which showcases a year of achievement for researchers in the Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Newcastle — one of the most comprehensive faculties of its kind in Australia. It features some of our research leaders as well as early career and mid-career scholars who are all making impressive contributions to research in education, the humanities, social science, and the creative arts. To realise our full research potential, the Faculty has embarked on a path to maximise our research strengths. The Research Institutes strategy is part of that approach. Our major research strengths have been strategically concentrated into three Research Institutes and the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition. Together, the three Institutes aim to provide a critical mass of focused activity that supports the Faculty’s major research capabilities through their programs of research. A competitive funding round in 2010 awarded research program status to five teams in 2010; and funding to a sixth team was awarded in 2011. This escalation of research intensity, and deliberate focus on building teams, facilitates research outcomes that have high impact locally, nationally, and internationally. Our research excellence has been further extended by the Faculty’s first Priority Research Centre—an exciting interdisciplinary collaboration with the Faculty of Health that brings a strong educational approach to world-class research in an area of national importance. You can read about David Lubans’ research with physical activity in schools and two of the PhD scholars working with the PRC team on pages 10 and 11. We are proud to host one of only six prestigious ARC Future Fellows at the University — historian Associate Professor Victoria Haskins. Read about her research in cross-cultural history on page 5.

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The results of the Federal Government’s first Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative confirmed that much of the research undertaken by the Faculty of Education and Arts is at or above world standard. Religion/religious studies and social work were our highestachieving areas. Both these fields of research received an ERA rating of 4, which was the top rating awarded across the country (no institutions were awarded a 5). This is an exceptional result and a reflection of the Faculty’s investment in research intensive staff. The Faculty’s research was assessed to be at world standard in six other research fields: sociology, specialist studies in education, literary studies, linguistics, historical studies, and film, television and digital media. Significant new academic appointments have been made this year in sociology, education, cultural studies, and religious studies, which promise to augment our research strengths. The Faculty also conducts high quality and community engaged research in anthropology, the creative and fine arts, and language studies. I trust you’ll enjoy reading about some of the high impact and insightful research being conducted in the Faculty of Education and Arts. Professor John Germov Pro Vice-Chancellor Faculty of Education and Arts


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RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

FACULTY RESEARCH INSTITUTES EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE NEWCASTLE (ERIN) An investment in knowledge pays the best interest, Benjamin Franklin once said, and the Faculty of Education and Arts is confident its investment in the new Education Research Institute Newcastle (ERIN) will deliver a windfall in increased research capacity and expertise. The University has long been a leader in teacher training, with the largest cohort of face-to-face teaching students in Australia. Now, with the creation of ERIN, it also boasts a framework for first-class research in education. The inaugural director of the Institute, Professor James Albright, says it will allow the Faculty to capitalise on its strengths.

“We expect ERIN will improve our ability to attract government and external research grants, increase our profile in peer journals and allow our researchers to make a significant contribution to public debate and policy in matters of education.” Three programs of research have initially been funded under the umbrella of ERIN: Teacher Change, which will focus on problems and possibilities within the profession of teaching; Adaptive Knowledge and Production, with an emphasis on higher-order postgraduate and professional learning; and Physical Activity and Population Health (PATH). The PATH program was so successful that it has graduated to become the Faculty’s first Priority Research Centre, in collaboration with the Faculty of Health.

“This is very much geared to building capacity and programs and establishing the University as a recognised national and international centre for educational research,” Albright says.

One of ERIN’s first research initiatives is the PEPPR Register Project (Potential Enabling Program Participant Research), which will explore the success of the University’s 36-year-old Open Foundation course and the subsequent enabling programs Newstep and Yapug.

Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW)

about addressing deep structural inequalities in society, such as poverty, deprivation and homelessness,” says RISIW director Professor Stephen Webb.

Social exclusion is a compound process: exclusion in one area of life often leads to exclusion in another.

“It is also about concepts like engagement and citizenship and finding ways for people to be fully involved in their communities.”

A person living in poverty will also likely have poor job prospects. Their health may be adversely affected by their inability to afford good medical care and their social standing and self-esteem may be affected by their financial status. Recognising these connections is one of the key challenges in responding to social and economic change, and it underpins the work being done within the Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW) “The social justice arm of social inclusion is very important because social inclusion is not just about participation, it is also

RISIW is an interdisciplinary body that promotes the cross-fertilisation of ideas to advance our understanding of social inclusion and wellbeing and develop innovative research that leads to real change. The Institute boasts what Webb refers to as a “world class professoriate” supported by a strong core of early and mid-career researchers. Its senior researchers have a prolific output of articles published in top-ranked journals and their work contributed to the University achieving a rating of 4 for

“The University has the oldest and largest Open Foundation program in the country but the research in that area has for the most part been limited to small case studies,” Albright explains. “With federal government policy moving towards increasing access to higher education, we think it is timely to do some more robust research on this program by building a register of past students and finding out what the consequences of doing that study program were for them.” Research development and management will be an important function of the Institute and Albright regards the promotion of equity and better outcomes in education as overarching concerns. He says ERIN will play a key role in facilitating public discussion and “bringing people together around the key questions of education”. ERIN also has a strong international focus and is establishing teaching and research partnerships in developing countries.

social work in last year’s Excellence in Research Australia standings. This was the highest rating awarded in the social work discipline and indicates that the research is above world standard. The research program under the RISIW umbrella is Economic Insecurity, Public Governance and Neoliberal Paternalism, being led by internationally renowned Professor of Sociology Mitchell Dean, who commenced a two-year project earlier this year. Its Social Dimension of Energy Resources research program is another example of RISIW’s cutting-edge approach to human sciences research. The group has secured a $680,000 state government grant to study public perceptions of carbon capture and storage strategies, a recognition that public opinion is an important part of the climate-change jigsaw.


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From left: Jim Albright, Stephen Webb and Hugh Craig

HUMANITIES RESEARCH INSTITUTE “Researchers can only get so far working in isolation,” says Professor Hugh Craig. “To go to the next level you have to build groups, to bring people together to share ideas and resources.” Craig is reflecting on the role of the Humanities Research Institute, one of three institutes created in a restructuring of the research arm of the Faculty of Education and Arts last year. Craig, a Professor in Literary and Linguistic Computing is its inaugural director. The Institute encompasses the study of human beings and their culture, bringing together researchers from a range of disciplines including English, linguistics, cultural studies, the arts, history, anthropology, philosophy and religious studies.

Initially, it has funded two research programs for two years, one in Endangered Languages: Documentation, Theory and Application, led by Dr Bill Palmer, and another in Violence and Social Order, led by Associate Professor Philip Dwyer. However, Craig expects to see more funded programs emerge in the future. “What the Institute is about is identifying where we have clusters of research strength and formally recognising those strengths by establishing programs and offering those researchers financial and administrative support” he says. “As these programs grow in stature and prominence, we expect they will become more self-sustaining and better placed to attract external funding.” The Institute helps established and early career researchers navigate grants procedures and protocols, offers Fellowships and funding for travel and other research-related expenses and

helps facilitate conferences and seminars. It also assists researchers with getting their work published in high-ranking journals, an important part of building a reputation for expertise, and building collaborations both within the University and with other institutions. Craig says the Institute will enhance the standing of humanities research in a University that has traditionally been acknowledged for its strengths in engineering, health and science. “There was a strong feeling within our Faculty that we had a lot of untapped potential and that research in humanities was underdeveloped” he says. “We wanted to change that perception and create a vehicle that can showcase and build on the outstanding research being done here that is of national and international significance.”


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MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE The history of houseboys provides interesting insights into colonial culture. A fascination with the colonial aspirations of the city of Darwin and the intimate nature of master-servant relationships are behind intriguing research being undertaken by historian Dr Claire Lowrie. Lowrie became immersed in the culture of the tropical north while studying South-East Asian history as an undergraduate. She was intrigued by the desire of Darwinians around the turn of last century to shape their fledgling city as a colonialist stronghold in the image of Singapore. “Singapore was this big bustling colonial port and the white residents of Darwin wanted to create the same sort of place,” Lowrie says. Darwin was never able to shake off its “frontier town” status and become that bustling Asian metropolis but one of the ways that desire did manifest was in the trend among wealthy white people to employ Asian domestic servants. “It was a big cultural tradition in the tropics to wear white plantation suits and have an entourage of domestic servants, just as they did in Singapore,” Lowrie says. “It was all about demonstrating power by mimicking the culture of other British colonies.” Lowrie completed a comparative study of domestic service and colonial mastery in Darwin and Singapore for her PhD thesis. She is expanding that research through a collaborative project with Associate Professor Victoria Haskins, a colleague in Newcastle’s Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW), and two researchers from the University of Wollongong. Their Australian Research Council project will investigate the transcolonial culture of employing houseboys as domestic servants. “Houseboys are a common thread among these colonialist cultures and the most highly sought-after houseboys were Chinese,” Lowrie says. “It is an unusual aspect of this culture because in most other domestic-service situations, females are the dominant gender”. Lowrie also has an Early Career Research Fellowship from the Faculty to study the employment of Asian and indigenous servants by Indian and Chinese masters. “The ARC study looks at how European colonisers were influenced by each other whereas the other study will be more about Asian and indigenous relationships,” she says. “The thing I find fascinating in all of these studies is the intimacy of having servants in the home, which is so foreign to most of us today. Colonial societies were all about hierarchy and racial segregation, yet everyone came together in the home. It’s that ‘secret area’ of their lives that is so intriguing.”


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CROSSING CULTURES Australian history is not black and white in Victoria Haskins’ eyes. Indigenous and non-Indigenous experiences are entwined. Growing up in Kununurra, RISIW historian Victoria Haskins experienced race relations in the Aboriginal-dominated town in northwestern Australia through a filter of childhood innocence. Her friends were Aboriginal, but whatever cross-cultural tensions existed, they barely registered on the radar of a child in an outback town “where you could run from one side of town to the other in five minutes”. It was not until Haskins was a student studying history at the University of Sydney in the 1980s that she began to think more deeply about the issues surrounding black/white relations and Australian history. A PhD scholarship offered the opportunity to study Aboriginal history but as an Australian of European descent she felt awkward about how to approach this history. “There was a lot of criticism at the time of white historians writing Aboriginal history and I became quite paralysed about what sort of research I should do,” Haskins recalls. It was the chance discovery of a photograph showing her grandmother as a child with an Aboriginal woman that was to provide both the subject and purpose for her thesis. Haskins learned that her great grandmother had been an activist for Aboriginal rights in the 1930s and was outspoken against the removal of Indigenous children. The woman in the photograph was one of several young Aboriginal women who had worked for the family as domestic servants, after being removed from their own families. “I was leaning then towards writing about the history of relationships between white and Aboriginal women, so I decided to frame my PhD around my greatgrandmother’s life story and how the personal narrative of her relationships with the women who worked for her could help us understand Aboriginal Protection Board policy at the time,” she says.

Haskins’ PhD was completed in 1998 and was published in 2005 as the book One Bright Spot. In the course of her research she was intrigued to discover that putting young Aboriginal women into domestic service was a key government policy prior to World War II and resulted in many adolescent girls being taken away from their communities. The thesis became the springboard for what has become a career focus on cross-cultural relationships, particularly between black and white women, and the curious link between enforced domestic service and government protection policies. Now an Associate Professor and part of the Faculty of Education and Arts’ renowned team of historians, Haskins is married to John Maynard, head of Newcastle’s Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies, whom she met at a conference in Newcastle. Coincidentally, Maynard was in the process of writing a PhD based on his grandfather’s life story so the pair established an immediate connection. Haskins was last year awarded an ARC Future Fellowship, a prestigious four-year research fellowship, which has allowed her to extend her research to encompass the experience of Native American women put into domestic service. During a Fellowship at Harvard in 2005 she discovered records that pointed to similar policy priorities involving Native Americans in the USA. There, the domestic service culture was enshrined in a system known as “Outing”, under which Native American

girls and young women were sent to work with white households, ostensibly for the summer school holiday break. But such placements often became permanent, and in some regions, as in Australia, the control of Indigenous women’s domestic labour became institutionalised. Haskins hopes to shed some light on why this form of regulation and intervention was so important to governments of the time and how it has subsequently affected relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in both countries. “What I am interested in exploring is how and why did governments seek to control that aspect of Indigenous life, what the impact of that was, and what it tells us about those societies,” she says. Haskins also has other research projects underway, including a joint long-term study with her husband on relationships between white women and Aboriginal men. Her discomfort about being a white researcher delving into Aboriginal history has eased over the years as she has come to see the stories she has uncovered as part of an important shared history. “I strongly think this history is a white history, too,” she says. ”It is something that needs to be understood as part of the white experience and it needs to be something that non-Aboriginal people are accountable for.”


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RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

VIOLENCE WRIT LARGE Philip Dwyer and his team from the Humanities Research Institute are leading a fundamental rethinking of violence in the modern world. One has only to turn on the television to become immersed in violence, points out Associate Professor Philip Dwyer. “It is such a present thing, whether it is the conflict in Libya, the war in Iraq, riots in London or the case of a footballer who has assaulted a female fan, violence is a constant within our world. “Yet, we don’t really understand the processes behind it, we don’t understand what it is that makes people commit these acts of violence. This, as a phenomenon, hasn’t been the object of detailed and profound research.” Probing the underlying historical factors of violence is an integral aspect of the research of the Violence and Social Order group, led by Dwyer, within the Humanities Research Institute, one of three institutes within the Faculty of Education and Arts. Dwyer describes the research agenda of the group, an alliance of historians, sociologists and language experts, as “violence writ large”, embracing anything from war and massacre to criminal acts, sexual and domestic assault, intellectual violence or violence in film and literature.

From left: Professor Lyndall Ryan, Associate Professors Philip Dwyer and Roger Markwick were awarded more than $600,000 by the Australian Research Council for two international projects related to massacre, violence and war.

With the momentum created by their interdisciplinary meeting of the minds, Dwyer and his team have developed grander ambitions for making the University of Newcastle a leading international research hub in the field of violence studies. The Faculty will formalise their research group by establishing both a Centre for, and a research Chair in, the History of Violence. On a much larger scale, they are negotiating with research groups from other universities in Australia and overseas with the aim of submitting a bid to the Australian Research Council for funding to establish what would be a world-first Centre of Excellence in the History of Violence, starting in 2014. “Violence has been studied within different disciplines over the past 10 or 15 years but it is really coming into its own as a field and researchers in Newcastle are at the forefront of this,” Dwyer says. “We see an opportunity to pull together researchers from lots of different universities and disciplines and substantiate, in effect, this new field of study. “We have consulted with potential partners, both universities and cultural organisations like galleries and museums, and we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the proposed Centre of Excellence.”

Dwyer says this large-scale, multidisciplinary centre would bring researchers together to talk about violence in ways they would never consider if they were working alone and solely within their own field. “You can ask the very simple question, ‘What is violence?’ and come up with all sorts of different responses depending on what field someone is in,” he says. Dwyer’s own interest in violence emerged from research into his award-winning book Napoleon 1769-1799: The Path to Power, which was published in 2008. “It was quite accidental; as I was writing the first volume of the biography I came across lots of massacres by Napoleon’s troops in Italy and Egypt and I had never really seen any detailed research on them, so I delved into it,” he says. “But even before that, I guess, there was this desire as an undergraduate teacher to be able to explain to students what it is that makes a ‘normal’ individual commit extreme acts of violence. “It’s a very intriguing question – it is all about us but we don’t really understand it.”


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From left: Bill Palmer with PhD scholars John Olstad and Lydia Green

THE POWER OF WORDS A dedicated team of Newcastle linguists is committed to studying the practical, scientific and cultural significance of dying local languages. A language that has 120 speakers on the island of Bougainville has the same scientific significance as a language such as English or Mandarin spoken by hundreds of millions of people, according to linguist Dr Bill Palmer. “Understanding language is important to understanding what characterises us as humans,” says Palmer, the leader of the Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application research program within the Humanities Research Institute. “Language is something all humans are born with a capacity to develop – children learn language without effort – so it is a fundamental thing that is unique to humans.” Palmer and his colleagues are interested in the 94 per cent of the world’s 7,000 languages that are spoken by just six per cent of the global population. “The big languages will still be around in 100 years’ time but many of the thousands of very small languages may well not be around, so we are in a race against time to document them and study their significance,” he says. “It is estimated that between 50 and 90 per cent of languages spoken today will

die in the next century. Basically, if children don’t acquire a language then it dies in that generation. “In Australia it is believed there were about 260 indigenous languages at the time of white settlement. There are still over 100 but only about 18 of them are spoken by the current generation of children. So in the space of one generation we face the loss of more than 80 of those remaining languages.” Why should we worry about the loss of languages spoken in some cases by only a single village in a small country? Palmer says there are several reasons, apart from the overarching scientific value of studying language. “Some researchers are interested in language endangerment for what you might call the philanthropic reason that it is an important cultural thing, that there is cultural identity and ethnic identity invested in language, so they should be at least documented for future generations of the community, even if the language cannot be preserved,” he says. “Another reason is that there is a lot of traditional knowledge enshrined in local language that risks being lost when the language dies.

“I have read that something like 75 per cent of plant-based pharmaceuticals were discovered by people talking to traditional healers and drawing on the terminology in their indigenous languages. “So another good reason to study endangered languages relates to the sum total of human knowledge, which is impoverished by the loss of human languages.” Palmer says researchers often spend up to a year living with villagers in areas where languages are endangered. That attention can itself elevate the status of local languages and convince people that they have something worth saving. He says many villages where there are endangered languages have to balance the competing interests of preserving local culture and fostering a more global outlook that will give their children a greater chance of success in the wider world. The recognition of the Endangered Languages research program by the Humanities Research Institute has boosted the group’s activity. It now has more than 15 researchers working across Australia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, Central Asia and Saudi Arabia, including two PhD students specifically funded by the Institute.


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RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

HIGHER LEARNING A new education research program examines how we prepare our best and brightest minds to participate in a knowledge-thirsty world. The question of how individuals move from being knowledge users to being knowledge producers underpins the work of researchers in the Adaptive Knowledge Production (AKP) program, one of three key research areas under the umbrella of the Education Research Institute Newcastle (ERIN). “We hear a lot of talk about the new innovation society and the knowledge economy, but how are we preparing people to produce the creative solutions required in this challenging environment?” asks Professor Allyson Holbrook, the program leader. “As we move into this innovation world we need to have a better perspective on how to teach people to fill those roles, to acquire that sort of higher-order thinking that creates new knowledge.” Building on earlier work done by Holbrook and other University of Newcastle researchers on how doctoral research should be benchmarked, the AKP program is concentrating on not only how to foster advanced thinkers in a university environment but also in the workplace. Holbrook says one of the key attributes of adaptive knowledge producers is their ability to deal with uncertainty.

“We know from the substantial literature on creativity that people who are highly original are people who harness uncertainty,” she says.

“But it is often misinterpreted by supervisors in academia or industry as being an emotional problem, rather than an important part of the creative process.”

“They don’t let it rule them – it is not a controlling force – they use it and turn it into something productive. Researchers deal well with that because to be a good researcher you have to deal with uncertainty every minute of every day.”

While research groups elsewhere have studied aspects of knowledge production in the tertiary environment, the AKP program will break new ground by adapting the research for the workplace.

AKP researchers have identified four markers that indicate when a learner is making the transition from being a user of knowledge to a producer of new knowledge: These are: That they exhibit a need for epistemic community (a nurturing, learning community) They engage in mindful uncertainty, which means that they no longer regard uncertainty as a barrier They enter into a state of immersion in what they are doing

“What we have done is create diagnostics and tools to detect these higher-level knowledge-producing attributes in novice researchers; our big next step in adaptive knowledge production is to take these into new contexts in industry,” Holbrook says. The potential for application in the professional sphere was recognised following a collaborative study with Dalhousie University in Canada, into the factors associated with decisionmaking by obstetricians performing caesarean sections.

They experience what is called “epistemological rift”, a feeling of being intellectually wrongfooted and alone that is a phase commonly reported by PhD researchers.

“We see huge scope for this work to be applied in the professional sphere,” Holbrook says. “Not just among people like software designers and scientists who might be considered research staff, but among doctors, teachers and other professionals who need to engage in that higher-order knowledge production.”

“That last one is really significant; it actually indicates that a person is at that breakthrough point to becoming a higher-order knowledge producer,” Holbrook says.

“It’s not just about teaching people to produce knowledge, it is about producing knowledge that is new and enabling them to continue to do this with different problems. Those are the key aspects.”


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THE NEW WELFARE ECONOMY A timely cross-disciplinary research program analyses whether marketisation has changed the nature of human services. The impact of the shift of welfare services away from the government sphere is being examined in a research program involving a team of sociologists and social work academics from the Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW). Program leader Professor Mitchell Dean says the Economic Insecurity, Public Governance and Neoliberal Paternalism study will bring overdue scrutiny to a regime of welfare delivery becoming increasingly commonplace in Australia. “We have seen here the marketisation of a lot of social welfare, with services like employment and the provision of emergency services for families in distress contracted out to private and nongovernment organisations,” he says. “This reconfigured welfare state on one hand treats the users of these services as consumers with a choice. But at the same time it exercises the paternalistic notion that the recipients of welfare are not in a position to judge what is in their own best interests. Participating in these programs is a condition to maintaining welfare benefits and if they do not, they are penalised.”

Researchers will examine the impact of this transformation in welfare governance in Australia over the past decade and compare it with the regimes in the USA and Denmark. “This will allow us to contrast the situation in Australia with both a very liberal welfare state, in this case the USA, and a more social democratic welfare state,” Dean says. Another significant component of the research program will document how these changes are affecting social workers and other frontline welfare professionals who are employed to deliver services for private and nongovernment organisations. This part of the study, conducted with focus groups from the Hunter and Sydney, will explore whether the new performancebased culture has redrawn professional boundaries and what impact it has had on employees’ decision-making processes or exposure to stress. “Marketisation creates the situation where agencies are pressed to do more with less resources and return a profit, so we want to look at the repercussions of that,” Dean says. By combining the disciplines of economics, sociology and public policy, the research will paint a detailed picture of what the new welfare regime means in terms of the social inclusion agenda.

“The wider question is about what is the best and most effective arrangement for the delivery of welfare services,” Dean says. The high-powered research team also includes renowned social work academic Professor Mel Gray as a Chief Investigator. For Dean, a Professor of Sociology, the program fits neatly with his career-long research interests in society, liberalism and neoliberalism and public governance. A prolific author of scholarly books, he is currently writing two new works. One looks at how concepts of society and social provision that were abandoned with globalisation are regaining credence and the other is on concepts of power. He is also involved in a collaborative project with researchers from the University of Queensland examining performance management in the public sector.


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ACTIVE THINKING Researchers are encouraging school students to get physical.

PRIORITY RESEARCH CENTRE for PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND NUTRITION Associate Professor David Lubans

one of the directions I see my research heading is towards improving teacher skills and re-engaging the most disengaged.”

Associate Professor David Lubans, Theme Leader for Physical Activity and Nutrition in Schools within the new Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Physical Activity and Nutrition, sees a strong link between opportunity and adolescent involvement in physical activity.

A former top-level rugby player who won a sports scholarship to the University of Oxford, Lubans appreciates the role of team sport in promoting fitness but says that creating “physical activity independence” is more of a priority for adolescents.

Students from private schools, with good facilities and well resourced teachers, have more opportunities to be physically active in the school setting. Teenagers from disadvantaged schools, where there is less access to quality equipment and staff labour under a multitude of problems, often miss out on positive physical activity experiences and consequently show less interest in leading active lifestyles. As a teacher Lubans taught at both ends of the spectrum, from disadvantaged public schools to the most exclusive of private schools. Now, as a Theme Leader in the research centre – the first PRC for the Faculty of Education and Arts and a collaboration with the Faculty of Health – his focus is on bridging the opportunity gap and improving physical activity among adolescents in general. “One of the things I saw as a teacher was that activity levels decline in adolescence and when there is little emphasis on physical activity in the school, students very quickly become demotivated,” he says. “It is a difficult area to address but I think by supporting those schools we can help them overcome some of those barriers and

“The reality is that as much as team sports are enjoyable, they can only contribute a small portion to the total activity a human being needs,” he says. “I’m a big advocate for promoting lifetime activities in adolescence and teaching them behavioural skills such as selfmonitoring and goal setting. “What we should be doing is giving teenagers skills that will lead to a lifetime of activity.” Lubans is also interested in investigating the link between physical activity and mental health in adolescents, to build on promising evidence relating to improved self-esteem that has emerged from some of the research programs he has implemented in schools. This outcome was evident in the his PALs (Physical Activity Leaders) program, a fitness and healthy eating project that targeted year nine boys from schools in low socioeconomic areas and was published this year in the journal Preventive Medicine. “Not only did we see improvement in body composition and shape, we also saw improvements in physical self-perceptions, and we have seen similar results in other physical activity programs we have implemented,” he says.

Narelle Eather Narelle Eather believes encouraging children to be more active is easier than people think – it is all about giving them the right tools. Despite pessimistic talk of a generation of computer-obsessed kids doomed to grow up unfit and overweight, Eather is encouraged by the early indications from an eight-week physical activity intervention program she has been delivering to primary school students. The physical education lecturer, former national league netball player and mother of two young girls is three years into a PhD project aligned with the Faculty’s new Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition. It is designed to improve the skills, knowledge and attitudes of children towards physical activity and boost their fitness levels. Called Fit 4 Fun, her program for children in years five and six was prompted by the former secondary school teacher’s observations of her students’ lack of confidence and competence in physical skills. “I found that even fundamental movement skills were poor in a lot of the kids I was teaching and fitness levels were low, largely because what they were doing in sport and physical education at primary school was not of a high enough standard to set them up for the rest of their lives,” Eather says.


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From left: Nick Riley, Narelle Eather and David Lubans

“It has been shown that attitudes and behaviour developed in primary school carry through to adolescence and adulthood, which is why I decided to target my program at younger children, so we are getting to them before those attitudes are cemented.” Eather recognised that primary school teachers were often ill-equipped to deliver quality physical activity programs, either because of their lack of knowledge and confidence or the absence of relevant teaching aids. Consequently, one of the aims of her project is to build a resource that can be used by any classroom teacher. Eather has this year delivered her tailored physical activity program to four schools in the Hunter Valley, working with about 250 students. She took baseline measures of each student’s fitness at the start of the year, accompanied by a questionnaire to gauge their attitudes to physical activity, and will complete two rounds of follow-up tests at staggered intervals. While the program was delivered at school, the children were also given “homework” to involve their parents. While Eather is still assessing the data from her program, the feedback from a feasibility study she did with 50 children last year was promising. “I saw that attitudes had changed and fitness had improved in just eight weeks,” she says, “which suggests to me that it is really not hard to make a difference to kids’ activity levels.”

Nick Riley The idea that classroom learning and physical education can be complementary is the concept behind a novel PhD project being conducted by Nick Riley, a lecturer in the School of Education and researcher with the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition. Riley believes integrating physical activity into core subjects such as maths, English and science can improve not only students’ health but their behaviour and potentially their academic performance as well. “There are lot of health benefits that come from increased activity and there is a lot of research that suggests that active children actually have the potential to perform better cognitively and academically,” Riley says. Riley, who trained in physical education but spent 18 years as a classroom teacher in primary schools in the north of England, has developed a program called EASY Minds (Encouraging Activity to Stimulate Young Minds) as a research project. His program integrates physical activity into maths, English, science and HISE (history/social science) lessons. Riley has completed a feasibility study in one school and will repeat the program across four schools in a pilot study next year. For the initial study he went into a school three times a week over a six-week period and taught hour-long lessons in core subjects, employing physical activity as a learning tool.

“If I was teaching multiplication, for example, rather than have the students do an exercise on paper, I might take them outside and time them running over 20 metres then get them to calculate how long it would take them to run 100 metres, or 90 metres, using that information,” Riley explains. “Or, rather than measuring area and perimeter in a book, they might go out and measure the area and perimeter of the playground. “It’s still a maths lesson but it integrates physical activity, and because the kids have ownership of the data, they are more engaged in the exercise.” The children in the study wear an accelerometer, a device that records their activity levels, over the school week. The primary aim of the intervention program is to increase daily activity but Riley says it can influence classroom behaviour and self-esteem as well. While all children responded well in the feasibility study, Riley says integrated activity can be particularly beneficial for kinesthetic, or physically oriented, learners who are more inclined to become disengaged with traditional classroom teaching methods. “Often they are the kids who end up getting in trouble and get a reputation for being disruptive,” he says. “I believe all kids have huge potential and as educators and teachers we have to find the key to unlock that potential.”


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OPENING THE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS Two “hands on” research projects are taking cutting-edge educational techniques into challenging classroom situations. “Practical research” is the way Associate Professor Michael Arthur-Kelly describes his work aimed at improving educational outcomes for children with special needs and their teachers. He has a special interest in enhancing the educational experience of students with severe disabilities by developing and testing innovative methods of engagement and communication that can be used in mainstream and special school classrooms. Arthur-Kelly is the director of the Faculty’s Special Education Centre and works closely with Professor Greg Leigh, Director of the Centre for Special Education and Disability Studies, and the Renwick Centre at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, a long-standing educational partner with the University. Arthur-Kelly’s work is also aligned with the Educational Research Institute Newcastle (ERIN). Arthur-Kelly has taken a leading role in two recent large-scale projects that have taken research to the coalface, putting special education experts into schools to simultaneously interact with teachers while using and evaluating the educational tools he and his team have developed. One of those projects, undertaken in collaboration with Emeritus Professor Phil Foreman and funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Projects grant, seeks to improve communicative engagement in students with the most severe disabilities. It uses what is known as a mentor modelling approach, which involves placing a highly experienced special education practitioner in classrooms to partner with teachers and aides. “We are working with some of the most vulnerable students in the community, young people who have profound intellectual and physical disabilities, so we have to tailor individual interventions that will address the needs and requirements of each child,” Arthur-Kelly says. “The staff and the researchers together try different methods of engaging the child, trying to find their sensory preferences, taking their lead from the child and using various communication strategies.”

The second study on which Arthur-Kelly is Chief Investigator, The Early Childhood Intervention – Professional Development Project, supports early childhood teachers and aides in dealing with students who have challenging behaviour, with an emphasis on children on the autism spectrum. The researchers facilitate professional development sessions led by expert practitioners that train staff in a technique called functional behavioural assessment, which helps them identify a challenging student’s needs and address them appropriately. “One of the most critical things for teachers is understanding why children behave the way they do,” Arthur-Kelly says. “For example, we know that children on the autism spectrum have particular challenges with finishing routines and changing activities, so early warning of classroom transitions can be helpful, as well as reinforcing the message with a visual sign, like a hand signal, to indicate ‘finish’.

“Those simple measures may well reduce the chances of a child melting down and having a tantrum, because the child knows what is going on.” The NSW Government-funded project is in its fifth and final year, with the training having been delivered to approximately 1000 teachers and aides around the state. The team is producing a DVD of bestpractice strategies to be distributed to every NSW preschool and childcare centre. “Our research is evidence-based but it is also practical,” Arthur-Kelly says. “There is a shortage of special educators, so our projects are helping to address that shortage by educating teachers in these methods. “Ultimately the aim is that we have students who are more engaged and teachers who are confident and competent in dealing with these classroom situations and supporting the growth of social and communicative abilities in the children they teach.”


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BETWEEN THE COVERS A historian’s informative new book talks about sex – the Australian way.

which are illegal, and you see people appearing in front-page exposés in the newspapers. But overall there is a movement to more liberal attitudes.”

Much has been written about the mores of the swinging sixties but how did society get to the point of sexual liberation?

Even the sixties themselves come late to Australia – at least in a metaphorical sense.

That is the question Dr Lisa Featherstone has tackled in an ambitious research project tracking the history of sexuality in Australia during the first 60 years of the 20th century. “People have this idea that sex was invented in the 1960s but of course it wasn’t,” Featherstone says. “There is surprisingly little broad history on sexuality in Australia – and virtually nothing on the period prior to the sexual revolution – that covers multiple and varied forms of sexual identity and practice so I saw that as a very rich area for research.” Featherstone is a Mid Career Research Fellow with the Faculty of Education and Arts’ Humanities Research Institute and a researcher strategically aligned with the Violence and Social Order program. The result of her most recent endeavour is the book Let’s Talk About Sex: Histories of Sexuality in Australia from Federation to the Pill. In it she moves through the decades analysing the ways sexuality is understood and practised and how sexual behaviour is shaped by attitudes, regulation, prejudice and fears of disease, pregnancy and being ostracised. Featherstone found that although attitudes to sex were quite conservative throughout the first part of the century, there was a disparity between what people talked about and what went on behind closed doors. “People were quite prudish but it doesn’t mean they weren’t having sex,” she says. “Around 1910 about one third of women who got married were already pregnant, so sex before marriage was going on.” Society’s evolution towards sexual enlightenment takes place gradually over the period studied in the book, with Featherstone finding little evidence of radical shifts in public opinion. “It’s not always a neat history of progress,” she says. “For gay men, for instance, the 1950s are worse than the 1930s because there is higher policing and surveillance of gay relationships,

“We don’t really swing that much in the sixties,” Featherstone says. “The sexual revolution doesn’t really take hold here until the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Even the arrival of the pill is received quite conservatively. Australian women were early adopters of the pill but they found it hard to get if they were not married. It was really aimed at married women who had completed their families, not single women who wanted more sexual freedom.” However, there are some deviations from the systematic advance towards the sexual revolution, notably the loosening of attitudes that comes with the influx of foreign soldiers in World War II. Featherstone notes that this shift puts the Church on the front foot in regard to issues of sexual behaviour.

“The Church says as little as it can about sexuality before then but when it starts to become obvious that pre-marital sex and abortion are becoming more commonplace, you start to see much stronger condemnation.” Featherstone expects to find a faster pace of social change in her next research project, which will look at sexuality in Australia beyond the advent of the pill. In the meantime, she hopes her book brings new perspective to contemporary conversations about sexuality. “Not a day goes by where you don’t see one of the issues discussed in this book being aired in the media, whether it is gay marriage, abortion, teenage sex or any one of a number of topics relating to sexuality,” she says, “Attitudes may have shifted, and mostly for the better, but we are still a long way from resolution and acceptance.”


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KEEPING IT REAL This leading human services researcher takes a practical approach to her work.

“So it is a reality, and the profession needs to respond to that and work out how practitioners can make best use of that limited time.”

Keeping pace with the rapidly changing environment of social work has always been the motivation for Associate Professor Debbie Plath’s research.

Working within the Hunter Area Health Service network, Plath and Gibbons found that about ten per cent of hospital social work interventions were single sessions.

“I like to regard my research as being responsive to current issues for social work practitioners and human services,” says Plath, who is aligned with the Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW).

By interviewing practitioners and clients they were able to produce some guidelines on how to conduct an effective single-session intervention. They have since run workshops on the subject for social workers in the hospital system and have several international publications on their research.

“I want practitioners to have access to knowledge that informs their work and shapes better services for their clients.” Her experience as a social worker before progressing into academia has influenced this view and shaped her research directions. Plath has been at the University of Newcastle for nearly 20 years and was part of the team that established the Bachelor of Social Work program at Newcastle. Typical of the profession-focused nature of her research is a recent project undertaken with colleague Dr Jill Gibbons that evaluated single-session social work in the hospital system. “The literature and textbooks make the assumption that social workers will build up a relationship with clients over a period of time but with the length of stays in hospital getting shorter, there is a greater prevalence of single-session work,” Plath explains.

“We came up with principles for effective practice that encompassed things like the importance of early engagement and realistic goal setting for what can be achieved in a session, and the need to provide information in a form that clients can take away with them,” Plath says. “There was, particularly among new graduates, a feeling that single-session work wasn’t real social work. So I think the research went a long way towards validating this kind of work, especially with the feedback we received from clients that it was a valuable intervention.” Plath is internationally recognised for her work on ageing, particularly her research into independent living among the elderly. In 2007 she was invited to participate in research through the International Federation on Ageing, conducting a comparative study of ageing policy across

different countries and evaluating the definition of independence from varying cultural perspectives. She has also written widely on the merits of evidence-based practice in social work and co-authored the book EvidenceBased Social Work: a Critical Stance with RISIW director Professor Stephen Webb and leading social work researcher Professor Mel Gray. The impressive publication portfolio of all three contributed to the Faculty of Education and Arts this year receiving an ERA (Excellence in Research Australia) rating of 4 in Social Work. It was the highest rating awarded in Australia and indicates that the quality of the Faculty’s research in Social Work is above world standard. The trio is currently involved in a project funded by the Australian Research Council investigating the implementation of evidence-based practice in the human services, which Plath hopes will assist social workers in understanding and applying research findings. “The University has very strong connections with social work practice and a commitment to facilitating the translation of research in the field,” she says.


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QUESTIONS OF FAITH The relevance of religion in modern society is a discussion that extends beyond theological boundaries. It is fitting that the acronym of the Group for Religious and Intellectual Traditions is GRIT because grit is an attribute its members are sometimes called on to display. “It’s fair to say dinner parties are a nightmare for most of us,” laughs theologian Dr Tim Stanley. “Once you tell people you study politics and religion, that’s the end of polite conversation.” Jokes aside, GRIT is a research group within the Humanities Research Institute that probes searching and relevant questions about the way religion intersects with everyday life. It draws together academics from diverse disciplines including classics, history, sociology, anthropology and theology. It promotes dialogue about the relevance of religion in its various forms, how it is portrayed and perceived, and the role it plays in areas of life such as politics, economics and cultural identity. “One of the things we are interested in is what is referred to as the new visibility of religion,” says Stanley, who convenes the group. “Some sociologists predicted that religion would dissipate, but the big surprise is that it has continued to not only survive, but thrive. In many parts of the world we are seeing a resurgence in religion and the number of people identifying as religious. “Even in areas such as Europe where church attendance is in decline, belief is still being reported in censuses and values studies, so we are interested in what that means. But you can’t get at these questions strictly with theology; you need to inform your research with sociology and history and philosophy and take a broad approach to really understand what is going on.” Stanley was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Christianity and Contemporary Culture at the University of Manchester in England before his appointment last year to the Faculty of Education and Arts as a lecturer in Theology. His appointment, alongside Professors Roland Boer and John McDowell, has further enhanced the Faculty’s internationally recognised research strength in Religion and Religious Studies, which received a rating of 4 in the recent ERA exercise – the highest rating awarded in Australia.

Typical of his work in bridging secular and religious thought is his recently published PhD thesis, which draws links between the writings of a dogmatic theologian, Karl Barth, and an atheist philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Stanley argues that it is important to be religiously interested, regardless of whether one has a religious affiliation, because religion plays an integral role in society and can’t be viewed in isolation. He sees religious stereotypes and media representation of religion as significant challenges to stimulating reasonable and educated discussion. “An interesting example of this was a speech given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in 2008 in which he spoke about Shariah law and how some of the more moderate aspects

of it could be accommodated by British law,” Stanley says. “Unfortunately to most people in Britain, Shariah law means brutal physical punishments and oppression of women, so there was an absolute uproar over this speech. “What became apparent as a result is that it is almost impossible to have a nuanced conversation about Islam because the media presentation of the religion in the West is so negative.” As a vehicle for encouraging robust discussion, GRIT convenes and promotes regular seminars and public lectures. Themes for this year’s events have included Sainthood in Australia, The Dead Sea Scrolls, and Lenin’s use of parables in his texts.


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CIRCUS ATTRACTIONS In the first study of its kind, Gillian Arrighi is investigating the benefits of recreational circus training.

industry during that period. Further primary research in that area fed into her latest line of research, which is about the phenomenon of youth circus in Australia over the past 40 years.

Dr Gillian Arrighi’s work space does not resemble the stereotypical office of an academic. There are theatre masks on the walls, juggling sticks on the desk and a large box in one corner overflows with a felt hat, a fox stole and myriad other items of costuming.

“There has been an explosion of community-based circus and circus skills groups since the 1970s – groups like The Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Cirkidz and Flipside,” Arrighi explains.

Arrighi is a lecturer and early career researcher in the School of Drama, Fine Art and Music – one of three Schools within the Faculty of Education and Arts. She spent more than 20 years as a performer and performance collaborator in travelling theatre and working in the music industry before returning to university to study a Master of Creative Arts in 2002. Now she is carving out a new career in academia. Although not a circus performer herself, Arrighi’s interest in touring forms of popular entertainment prompted her to devote her PhD thesis to a study of the FitzGerald Brothers’ Circus, the largest circus working in Australasia at the close of the 19th century. In researching her PhD she recognised a gap in the historical narrative relating to the role of children in the entertainment

“What I am investigating is the social significance of this; why they have proliferated and why parents are keen for their children to engage in this type of activity.” Anecdotal evidence emerging from Arrighi’s work points to the inclusive nature of circus and its combination of physical and mental challenge as reasons for its popularity. “Circus training is a hybrid; both sporty and creative. It produces imaginative and creative outcomes as much as it develops highly skilled physical proficiencies,” she says. “It is community-based and generally performed in an environment that is non-competitive and non-judgmental.” She has received testimonies from parents about the perceived therapeutic benefits of circus training within this environment: from boosting self-esteem to physical improvements in children suffering from autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, nervous conditions and executive function disorders.

Arrighi says there is a strong historical connection between the indigenous community and circus in Australia, while her research has also uncovered evidence of circus skills successfully being used in work with disadvantaged young people, including refugees and homeless youth. Once this foundational study into the cultural history of youth circus in Australia has been completed, Arrighi hopes to pursue further research into the health and wellbeing advantages of circus training. There is great potential for an interdisciplinary study, possibly linking with physical education experts from the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition – a collaborative research enterprise supported by the Faculty of Education and Arts and the Faculty of Health. “This is a subject that begs further investigation,” she says. “We have anecdotal evidence that circus helps build strong bodies and minds, enhances creativity and can benefit people who have been marginalised, but there has been no close study undertaken to validate these claims. “What I think is really significant is the arts/health nexus and the larger question of what impact creative engagement has on everyday life.”


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THE CONSERVATIVE VIEW

Michael Ondaatje is helping bring to light a neglected chapter in the story of the black American struggle. A politically aware mother and an astutely chosen birthday gift were the triggers for Dr Michael Ondaatje’s fascination with African American history. “My mother always encouraged me to be interested in matters of social justice,” Ondaatje, a lecturer and researcher in the School of Humanities and Social Science, says. “For my 16th birthday she gave me a book, which I still have, called Martin & Malcolm & America, which was about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the civil rights movement. I read it and found it was pretty interesting stuff.” Ondaatje went on to study American history and during his Honours year at the University of Western Australia came across the little-explored subject of black conservatism. “As a young student I was intrigued,” he recalls. “My first reaction was: what could black Americans possibly want to conserve? “The more I looked into it, the more it fascinated me. These people seem to have been largely airbrushed out of black history because they don’t fit the heroic liberator mode.

“There has been a tendency to see them either as anomalies or morally perverse types unworthy of attention.” Ondaatje wrote a thesis on the career of conservative Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas. He completed a PhD in African American history in 2007 and came to the University of Newcastle the following year as a teaching and research academic. Ondaatje describes his position as part of the renowned team of historians in the Faculty of Education and Arts as “my dream job”. His research is strategically aligned with one of the two current programs within the Humanities Research Institute – Violence and Social Order – which seeks to develop new conceptual frameworks for understanding violence and social order in historical, political and sociological contexts. He is also an enthusiastic educator who begins each session with music pertinent to the lesson and has in a short career already picked up a number of teaching excellence awards. Last year he published the book Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America, which received favourable reviews in scholarly journals and climbed into the top 20 on the international list of best-selling titles on US history. With a research grant from Sydney’s US Studies Centre, he is working on a biography of a little-known but influential African American named William H. Councill.

Councill was an emancipated slave who symbolically built a school on the same land on which he and his family had been sold into slavery years earlier. He founded a university for black students in Alabama and was proactive in bettering conditions for African Americans but was also regarded as accommodating of white supremacy. “He seems to be a person of almost split personality; he engaged with the reality of race on a daily basis but then had a tendency to be quite sycophantic in the company of whites,” Ondaatje says. The historian hopes a comprehensive study of Councill’s life will shed light on the roots of black conservatism and the extent to which those conservatives were motivated by self-help or survivalist instincts. “We don’t have to agree with what these people said or did but it is an interesting and important phenomenon and it challenges the one-dimensional view of black history that implies that all African Americans felt the same way about freedom,” he says. Ondaatje, whose lineage is Sri Lankan, has occasionally been challenged about what authority he has to write on black American history but he argues that there is no ownership of history. “I think history is a democratic discipline that encourages people to examine other people’s circumstances,” he says. “And the so-called tyranny of distance can sometimes be a good thing. It helps you bring a fresh approach.”


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QUEER DISTINCTIONS Lesbian representation in popular culture is explored in the work of early career researcher Rebecca Beirne. Dr Rebecca Beirne’s interest in the portrayal of lesbians on screen was sparked by a poster she saw, while a first year PhD student, advertising an academic conference on the popular television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thinking it sounded like fun, Beirne went along and delivered a paper on Willow, a gay character in the Buffy cast. When she started to receive “fan” emails praising her discussion, she realised the subject had struck a chord. Beirne, now a lecturer in Film, Television and Cultural Studies and a researcher aligned with the Humanities Research Institute, has since devoted her academic pursuits largely to media studies and the representation of queer women in popular culture. Although still an early career researcher, she has already published a monograph, Lesbians in Television and Text after the Millennium, and she is working on a follow up, this time devoted to the big screen, titled Lesbians in World Cinema. A second edition of her popular 2007 edited collection Televising Queer Women is due for release in April 2012. She has also co-edited the book Making Film and Television Histories with colleague Dr James Bennett, a History academic. Televising Queer Women was hailed as the first book to address the portrayal of lesbians on the small screen in an overarching way. The collection of essays analysed lesbian and bisexual representation in popular shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ER, Queer as Folk, Sex and the City, The L Word, The O.C. and Prisoner.

While Beirne’s book notes much evidence of stereotyping – queer women portrayed as criminals, tough women, vampires, evil stalkers and so on – she says that in revising the edition she was encouraged to find there had been a shift in recent years towards a more diverse representation of gay female characters. “There is a relative wealth of new programming that either focuses on lesbian characters or has them as significant secondary characters, shows like Lip Service and Sugar Rush from the UK, South of Nowhere (US) and the American reality show The Real L Word,” Beirne says. “There can be a bit of tokenism – I think there is increasingly a sense that shows need to have a queer character in the cast – but even the storylines of these characters are much more developed than what we have seen in the past. “I have found about 300 films from all around the world dating back to 1931 that have some level of lesbian content,” she says. “My favourite example is Show Me Love, a low-budget Swedish film featuring two teenage protagonists which, on its opening weekend in Sweden, actually beat Titanic at the box office. “The number of lesbian-focused films released has radically increased in the past 10 years. I think that is a really positive thing, both for lesbian and mainstream audiences.”


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A CONTRAST IN CULTURE Working with Indigenous communities has allowed Daniela Heil to apply her anthropological expertise in rewarding and practical ways.

Spending 18 months with an Aboriginal community as part of anthropological fieldwork for her PhD gave Dr Daniela Heil a rare insight into the way those Indigenous people understand wellbeing. “Aboriginal people consider wellbeing not just in terms of health but their connection to the land, their spirituality and their relationships with other people in their families and community,” Heil says. “When policymakers talk about wellbeing they are often, not necessarily intentionally, equating it with health. However, in Indigenous understandings these are two distinctive concepts.” With health statistics showing poor outcomes for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, including life expectancies of up to 15 years below those of nonIndigenous Australians, Heil’s work has illustrated that such cultural differences are major factors in explaining why mainstream health intervention is not embraced by Aboriginal peoples in the same ways. Heil, a researcher aligned with the Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing, has built on her PhD research to address the question of whether the distinctive characteristics of Indigenous cultures can be successfully accommodated in health policy and practice, in Indigenous peoples’ terms.

Heil first took an interest in Indigenous peoples when studying her undergraduate degree in Germany, completing a Masters thesis based on archival material of Aboriginal cultures in Arnhem Land. She came out to Australia in 1997 to undertake a practical, ethnographic study for her PhD. An Aboriginal ethics committee directed her to an all-Indigenous community in NSW that is home to about 250 Ngiyampaa people. Heil originally intended to focus on diabetes but discovered that local people did not relate to her proposed project in the same way she expected. “People expected I would turn up with a magic pill and fix things,” she says. “So, I started to ask why, and how, their understandings were different to mine.” Heil observed that the Aboriginal people in the community she lived in put a relatively low priority on their physical health, and a much greater priority on their social engagements and relationships with others. “If someone explained to a person with diabetes that they needed to take their medication and eat breakfast before leaving their house, that advice wouldn’t necessarily be taken up. However, if a relative turned up and wanted a ride into town, that person’s needs usually took priority over their own,” she says.

“That is a challenge for healthcare workers and it is very hard to set out a step-by-step plan for mediating those differences, but that is where the research I am doing can inform health policy and practice. “Applying anthropology is about addressing cultural differences and translating them into practice.” Heil’s PhD was awarded in 2004 and she has maintained regular contact with the community, visiting regularly as she continues to expand on her research into Indigenous wellbeing. She has also worked with Indigenous peoples in Western Australia and the Torres Strait Islands. “I work with real people who face real problems of cultural difference as a constituent part of their everyday lives,” she says. “It’s a huge responsibility and a huge challenge but it is work that is worthwhile and I am gratified that people are prepared to welcome me into their lives and contribute to that work by offering their perspectives and understandings.”


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SWEET sweet MUSIC

Philip Matthias is in search of a sacred Australian sound. Leading the University of Newcastle Chamber Choir to a win in the keenly watched Battle of the Choirs national television series in 2008 had unexpected but welcome consequences for the choral group’s director, Dr Philip Matthias. Not only did it bring the choir welldeserved acclaim, the win proved to be the catalyst for interesting research developments that the Senior Lecturer and founder of the University’s Church Music Studies is now pursuing. As an organist, composer and choral director, Matthias has performed in some of the world’s most revered places of worship, including Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral in London and Notre Dame in Paris. But one of his passions is developing a repertoire of liturgical music that is uniquely Australian. The surge of interest in choir singing that accompanied the Battle of the Choirs series has ignited Matthias’ interest in seeing that dream come to fruition. “Our choir has been part of this movement around the country that has seen lots of young people take up choral singing,” he says. “They are performing a lot of Australian music and developing a sound that we can really now identify as an Australian sound.

“I want to tap into that with liturgical music because most of our church music comes from America or England or other parts of Europe. “I would love to see an Australian identity come through, including Indigenous music, by setting up a long-term project that links musicians, theologians and authors and creates the first all-Australian congregational songbook.” Matthias is behind a proposal to the Faculty of Education and Arts’ Humanities Research Institute for program funding towards the formation of a centre for Australian choral and vocal research to promote study into choir music, both sacred and secular. “What I want to do is build a cohort of postgraduate students embracing singers, conductors, arrangers, composers, music technologists and other artists who can collaborate on large-scale research projects with each other and with researchers from health and science disciplines including physiology and psychology,” he says. “A feature of the centre would be that it would promote research that crosses disciplines outside of music.” A research project underway, coincidentally also a spin-off of the Battle of the Choirs win, demonstrates just this style of interdisciplinary research, merging the fields of health and music.

It involves the formation of a choir for stroke survivors, an idea that was suggested to Matthias by the Hunter New England Health community stroke team in the wake of the chamber choir’s successful run on the popular television show. “Because speech and music are processed on different sides of the brain we are looking at how music may act as a form of speech therapy and perhaps help to rewire parts of the brain that have stopped working,” Matthias explains. The project has been adopted as a PhD study by Conservatorium music teacher and qualified speech therapist Bernadette Lennan, who will direct the choir and measure any changes in its members’ speech function over a 12-week period. While other studies have proved that choirs can be beneficial to the mental wellbeing of participants, this groundbreaking pilot project will explore whether choir singing can produce physical benefits as well, in this case by improving communication. “What we hope to be able to do ultimately is secure enough funding to support this research with brain imaging technology that can more conclusively track any health benefits the stroke survivors derive from participating in the choir,” Matthias says. “It is a very exciting project that could have application for people who suffer other kinds of brain disorders or injuries as well.”


The Faculty of Education and Arts Further information about the Faculty of Education and Arts and a web version of this publication is available at www.newcastle.edu.au/faculty/education-arts/research/

Project Coordinator Catherine Oddie, Faculty of Education and Arts

Writer Amy De Lore

RESEARCH IN THE FACULTY OF EDUCATION AND ARTS AT A GLANCE Theology and religious studies Sociology Social inclusion Social work Endangered languages documentation, theory and application Literature History, including Australian history and the history of violence and social order Education, including pedagogical reform; social theory; interdisciplinary research in physical activity and population health education; teaching and learning for students with multiple and severe disabilities; and professional learning. Computational stylistics.

We have emerging research strengths in: School stratification Social research in energy resources Solo and choral voice; and Australian sacred music Speech pathology Film, media and cultural studies Creative arts and health.

The Faculty has three Research Institutes and a Priority Research Centre: Education Research Institute Newcastle Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing

In concert with the three Institutes, the Faculty funds a research development program led by its own Research Development Manager. The program includes capacity building workshops and seminars on aspects of academic writing and grant development; and external and internal review mechanisms.

In the recent Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) exercise, over 60 per cent of the 13 fields of research submitted by the Faculty of Education and Arts for assessment were rated at or above world standard. Our religion/religious studies and social work research received the highest rating awarded in these fields in Australia.

Our research income is growing Total Faculty research income between 2007–2010 was $10.2 million Nationally competitive grant income accounted for $3.1 million or 41 per cent In the 2011 round of the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects and Indigenous Researcher Development funding, $946,133 was awarded to four Faculty research teams: Professor Allyson Holbrook, Dr Kathy Butler, and historians Philip Dwyer, Lyndall Ryan and Roger Markwick who were awarded more than $600,000 for two international projects directly related to war, massacre and violence. This success has been a catalyst for the development of a bid for a Centre of Excellence in the History of Violence.

McKean Photo Kitty Hill

Photo wrangler

Between 2005–2010, there were 268 Research Higher Degree completions in the Faculty.

Research development

Research excellence

Photography

Research Higher Degree completions

Humanities Research Institute

Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition (in partnership with the Faculty of Health).

Bounce Design

Research Directions is printed on Mohawk Options 100% PC White, which is made from recycled fibre and manufactured using nonpolluting, wind-generated energy. This paper has been independently third party certified as being 100% Post Consumer Recycled.

Linda Hutchinson

Savings from using recycled fibre in place of virgin fibre:

Educational Research Institute Newcastle (ERIN)

3 trees preserved for the future

Director: Professor Jim Albright James.Albright@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/educationalresearch-institute-newcastle/

4 kg waterborne waste not created

5,276 litres wastewater flow saved

Humanities Research Institute

70 kg solid waste not generated

Director: Professor Hugh Craig Hugh.Craig@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/humanities-research/

138 kg net greenhouse gases prevented

2,324,070 BTUs energy not consumed

Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing (RISIW) Director: Professor Stephen Webb Stephen.Webb@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/institute/researchinstitute-for-social-inclusion-and-wellbeing/

In 2011, the Faculty established its own scheme to support the development of collaborative research projects suitable for ARC Linkage Projects funding and began a pilot initiative to nurture cross-Faculty research with the Faculty of Science and Information Technology.

Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Director: Professor Ron Plotnikoff Ron.Plotnikoff@newcastle.edu.au www.newcastle.edu.au/research-centre/pan/

The Institutes each hosted a Research fellow for one semester in 2011 so as to strengthen the capabilities of existing and emerging areas of research concentration and excellence and to support high calibre mid-career and early-career academics by providing time and support to maintain their research momentum: Dr Lisa Featherstone – Mid-Career Fellow with the Humanities Research Institute Dr Claire Lowry – Early Career Fellow with RISIW Professor Philip Morgan – Mid-Career Fellow with ERIN.

Faculty Research Development Manager Catherine Oddie Catherine.Oddie@newcastle.edu.au

Faculty of Education and Arts Faculty Research Institutes GP Building The University of Newcastle Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia UoN 2011/1071

We have established research strengths in:

Design

T +61 2 4921 5341 F +61 2 4921 7818 W www.newcastle.edu.au/faculty/education-arts/ CRICOS Provider 00109J

Additional savings if paper is manufactured with windpower and carbon offsets:

171 kg ghg emissions not generated ~ 70 windpower savings ~ 101 carbon offset savings

89 cubic meter natural gas unused ~ 36 windpower savings ~ 52 carbon offset savings

equivalent to not driving 599 km ~ 246 windpower savings ~ 353 carbon offset savings

equivalent to planting 26 trees ~ 10 windpower savings ~ 15 carbon offset savings


RESEARCH DIRECTIONS 2011

Faculty of

Education and Arts

Educational Research Institute Newcastle

Humanities Research Institute

Research Institute for Social Inclusion and Wellbeing

Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition

Research Directions 2011  

Research Directions 2011

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