Community Engagement

The Social Work discipline at UNSW has a major impact on practice and policy in the field. Our scholars and staff work in research, consultancy, training and policy development with a wide range of State and Federal Government departments in the areas of health and human services, as well as with local and international NGOs, community organisations, and multilateral bodies. These partnerships have contributed to ground-breaking developments in practice and policy in relation to child welfare, refugees and asylum seekers, family and gendered violence, people with disabilities, international social work, professional ethics, and social development.


Linda Bartolomei has been actively engaged in refugee-related research since 2000 and has extensive links with refugee groups and advocacy networks in Australia and internationally. She is former Director of the UNSW Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) and a founding member of the Faculty's Forced Migration Research Network. She recently completed a community-based protection project with refugee communities in partnership with UNHCR and the NGO, Bosco in New Delhi, India. Together with UNSW’s Eileen Pittaway and Richard Hugman, Linda is also a Chief Investigator on an ARC Linkage Project ‘The Meaning of Rights in Refugee Settlement’ in partnership with five key refugee settlement services – AMES Australia, Diversity,  QPASTT, STARTTS and TMSG.  Linda is the UNSW focal point for the Refugee Alternatives Conference being held at UNSW in February, 2017, in partnership with the Refugee Council of Australia and supported by the UNSW Grand Challenge on Refugees and Migrants. 


Jan Breckenridge has been actively engaged with the social services sector related to domestic violence and child/adult sexual assault for 30 years. She has had extensive involvement nationally with domestic and family violence agencies and workers through research partnerships with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, NSW Housing, the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, AHURI (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and ANROWS (Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). Jan’s international work includes collaborating with the IFC (International Finance Corporation), a member of the World Bank Group, to address family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea. In addition, as the Co-Convener of UNSW’s Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) Jan has convened an International Asia Pacific Conference on Gendered Violence and Violations and hosted numerous Forums and events showcasing the research and knowledge translation work of GVRN members. In 2015 Jan established the UNSW Gendered Violence and Work Program (GV & Work) which engages with Government, Private and Third Sector Organisations to provide specialist advice, development and provision of innovative and tailored training and E-Learning packages. To date select organisations include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deloitte, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and UNSW Kensington Colleges. In 2016 Jan was appointed as a member of the National Advisory Committee for 1800Respect the National Sexual Assault and Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service and in 2017 was appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Customer Advocate Community Council 


Elizabeth Fernadez has undertaken significant roles in Australian and international child welfare through engagement with government and non-government stakeholders: Family and Community Services (FACS), Barnardos Australia, Association of Children Welfare Agencies (ACWA), International Society for Child Welfare Indicators (ISCI, Board Member) and International Association for Outcome Research in Child and Family Research (IAOBERfcs, Board member). She has led several ARC funded projects on child welfare, including early intervention and child abuse prevention, longitudinal research on outcomes of children in foster and adoption, children’s court decision making, and reunification of children from care. Most recently she has collaborated with six Australian industry partners and two international partners in researching the long term outcomes of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants and members of the Stolen Generations. Elizabeth chairs the Scientific Committee of the National Biennial Conferences of the Association of Children Welfare Agencies (2006 to 2016) and chairs its quarterly Research and Practice Forum, mechanisms to extend disciplinary expertise and promote knowledge transfer in the professional community. Elizabeth is Associate Editor of Journal of Child and Family Studies and serves on the editorial boards of Child & Family Social Work, Children & Youth Services Review and Children Australia. She serves as expert Assessor for Australian Research Council since 2010, and for other international funding bodies.


Carmel Flaskas has had extensive engagement with social work and family therapy professional associations. She is a Foundation Fellow and Co-Chair of the Australian College of Social Work, established within the Australian Association of Social Work to recognise and promote advanced social work practice. She has also had long-term involvement with the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy (journal of the Australian Association of Family Therapy) and the Journal of Family Therapy (journal of the (UK) Association of Family Therapy), currently serving as an assessor for both journals and as a member of the Advisory Panel of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy.


Maree Higgins is an executive member of the National Field Education Network and a committed member of the Combined Universities Field Education Group NSW/ACT, both of which work at an inter-university level to promote quality social work and welfare field education through regular discussion and collaboration. Maree convened the 2016 Advanced Supervisory Practice Course, and is developing the 2018 Advanced Supervisory Practice Course (PDF) [2 Mb], which is an 11-week masterclass series from August to November 2018 that offers intensive training for supervisors in the techniques of student supervision. In addition Maree has partnered with social workers in South Eastern Sydney Local Health District and FACS South Eastern Sydney to build capacity in student supervision


Richard Hugman has worked with UNICEF Vietnam since 2004 to advise the Vietnam Government on the development of professional social work. These efforts were instrumental in the government’s decision in 2010 to formally establish social work as a profession in Vietnam. Between 2008 and 2014, Richard was also the ethics commissioner of the International Federation of Social Workers and a member of the ‘expert panel’ which drafted the current international statement on ethics for social work. 


Jung-Sook Lee is actively engaged with research in the wellbeing of children and family. Together with UNSW’s Elizabeth Fernandez, Jung-Sook is a Chief Investigator of a 3-year ARC Linkage Grant on the Long-term Outcomes of Forgotten Australians Study in collaboration with six Australian industry partners and two international partners. Together with UNSW’s Leanne Dowse and other colleagues, Jung-Sook is also a Chief Investigator of a 3-year ARC Linkage Grant on the Lost-In-Transition in collaboration with four industry partners and a government department. With Linda Bartolomei and Eileen Pittaway, Jung-Sook did an evaluation study of the Ubuntu Care project that aimed to prevent sexual abuse among children with disabilities in Burundi, Africa. She has served the research community as an editor of two journals (Social Science Research and Child Studies in Diverse Contexts) and a member of the editorial review board of the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, USA.


Jane Mowll has had extensive engagement with social work and bereavement professional associations. She is actively engaged with social workers in health settings to mentor and develop research capacity and engagement. She is an accredited mental health social worker with over 17 years of clinical social work experience in social work practice and bereavement settings. She is currently leading a longitudinal study of the grief experience of family carers after a palliative care or coronial death. She is a member of the Australian College of Social Work, established within the Australian Association of Social Work to recognise and promote advanced social work practice. In 2016 she was an invited guest at the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement (IWG), an international invitational only meeting of leading clinicians, researchers and leaders in the field of thanatology.


Dalia Pisk is a committed member of the Combined Universities Field Education Group NSW/ACT which aims to promote quality social work and welfare field education through regular inter-university discussion and collaboration. In her role Dalia engages actively with local, national and international organisations to plan social work field placements and to ensure a suitable student-supervisor match. Dalia has a strong commitment to enhancing opportunities for all students and is a member of the UNSW Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group with a specific focus on disability. She also brings her expertise in student supervision to foster learning opportunities for students allocated to organisations that do not have qualified social workers available. 


Abner Poon has active engagement with mental health services to develop innovative family interventions. He has collaborated with headspace, Psychosocial Research Centre and Bouverie Centre to evaluate a family inclusive practice project and has received an award for this project in the 8th International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health. To develop new carer programs, he is conducting research with Bondi Junction Mental Health Centre, Transcultural Mental Health Centre and Carers NSW to identify the health and wellbeing of caregivers of people with mental illness. In addition, he has community engagement with mental health services in other countries, such as ClubHEAL Singapore, to evaluate perceived needs, health and wellbeing and socio-culture factors of families affected by mental illness.


Charlotte Smedley engages with a large number of community-based organisations and arranges regular guest speakers for her social research and policy classes. Drawn from a range of different individuals and organisations speakers always include the voices of people who have sought or are seeking asylum or refuge, organisational representatives from the Forced Migration Network and students with an asylum or refuge background studying in secondary and tertiary education. Earlier this year Charlotte was involved in the preparations for a two day conference run by the Forced Migration Network and actively engaging three 3rd year social research and policy students who as part of an internship were a pivotal part of the event planning process and the completion of the final reports. In prior years Charlotte was actively involved with the development of a symposium on public attitudes towards asylum seekers and refugees which was run in conjunction with UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. This symposium included a number of her 3rd year social policy undergraduates who presented their research in the area of media discourse and then went on to have their papers published in two refereed journals.

Charlotte is an active member of the School of Social Sciences Indigenous Strategy Group and the more recent Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Indigenous Strategy Group.

Until June 2017 Charlotte was the academic adviser to the UNSW Community Development Project and was pleased to be involved in a number of community events including an art exhibition by the Waterloo Mob and the short film project 'Voices of Waterloo' which had a successful showing at the Redfern Town Hall in March 2017. Both of these projects involved a number of social research and policy students and one social work student. Sadly funding for the project has now been withdrawn and Charlotte has assisted the residents to incorporate their activities and organisation into a legal entity which is now the Waterloo Residents Markets and Gardens Inc. The organisation is currently in an active transition phase.


Jo Spangaro is leading a National Health and Medical Research Council research project in partnership with NSW Health to understand decisions by women who have experienced intimate partner violence to disclose that abuse during their antenatal care. Co-investigators in the project include Jane Koziol-McLain from Auckland University of Technology, and UNSW’s Anthony Zwi and Alison Rutherford. Recognition of Jo’s expertise in the area includes membership of the Cabinet-appointed NSW Domestic Violence Council and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Working Group on Domestic Violence Screening. In addition, Jo’s role in leading a systematic review on interventions for conflict-related sexual violence resulted in an invitation to contribute to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s input to the ‘Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict’ hosted in June 2014 in London.


Michael Wearing has been engaged with various non-profit and educational organisations as a board member or with research ethics committees. He is currently on the Academic Board of the Australian Institute of Relationships Australia (AIRS) run by Relationships Australia NSW, and since 2010, he has been an international advisor on the highly-regarded UK journal, Social Policy and Society. Michael was the nominated academic representative on the SAAP (Supported Assistance Accommodation Program) and the CAP (Crisis Accommodation Program) State Advisory Committee for the NSW Departments of Housing and Health. In addition, from 1999-2010, he was a member and then Chair (2002-2010) of the Research Advisory Group for the child and family welfare agency, Burnside.