Higher Degree Research

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Understanding resilience and experiences of separation in same-sex parented families

A cool school? Young people and their families' engagement with an alternative model of education

Applicability of F.T. as an approach in the treatment of substance misuse in Aboriginal Communities

Working together to develop best practice with families who have experienced sibling sexual abuse

Understanding resilience and experiences of separation in same-sex parented families

There is a paucity of research on the separation experiences of same-sex couples, especially those who have children together. As increasing numbers of same-sex couples enter into parenthood, there is a need to understand more about how these parents and their children cope in cases of parental separation, including the influence of current laws relating to same-sex parents and ways in which these parents negotiate mainstream institutions such as the family court. This study will conduct face-to-face interviews with separated parents who have had children whilst within a same-sex relationship.

Researcher: Luke Benjamin Gahan

Date commenced PhD research: June 2011

Progress: As of December 2012, 19 people had participated in interviews - 18 females and 1 male – in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, as well as in regional and rural Victoria. In February the study travels to Adelaide, South Australia to interview 6 more people. We are very keen to increase the number of males in the study and would like to hear from any separated same-sex parented males.

Output: Conference paper

Gahan, L. (2012). “Understanding resilience and experiences of separation in same-sex parented families: Preliminary Findings”. Presented at the Australian Sociological Association (TASA) annual conference, University of Queensland, Australia.

Related website links:

  • What happens when our modern family breaks up?
  • Gay News Network: ‘Study to hear from separated same-sex parents’
  • La Trobe University Media Release
  • Project Facebook Page

Contact: Luke Gahan at

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A cool school? Young people and their families' engagement with an alternative model of education

This research aims to explore the circumstances which lead young people to disengage from education and the extent to which an alternative model of education supports them to re-engage. The study also seeks to understand the impact that family culture and attitudes towards education have on the school experiences of the students at this school and whether or not the students’ enrolment has an impact on family culture and attitudes. Ethnography underpins the methodological approach for this project. The project uses methods including participant observation at the school, semi-structured interviews with students, parents and staff, and an online questionnaire completed by students.

Researcher: Carmel Hobbs

Date PhD commenced: February 2011

Progress: At this stage (January 2012) I am in the midst of data collection. Sixty-four students completed the online questionnaire in Term 3 of 2012, and I am now conducting interviews with students. Recruitment of parents and staff is underway and I expect that these interviews will run over term 1 and 2 of the 2013 school year. Preliminary findings from the online questionnaire indicate that the factors which support these students to stay engaged with education include supportive teachers, a supportive environment, flexible class structure, the freedom to be yourself, and an individualized approach to learning.

August 2012
Winner – People’s Choice Award, Faculty of Health Sciences 3MT competition

October 2012
Conference Presentation: “Exploring the experiences of young people and their families engagement with an alternative model of education” – Access and Achievement Forum, La Trobe University

November 2012
Higher Degree Research Festival: “A cool school? Preliminary findings from an online questionnaire completed by alternative high school students” - Higher Degree Research Festival, La Trobe University

Related website links: N/A

Contact: Carmel Hobbs at

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Applicability of F.T. as an approach in the treatment of substance misuse in Aboriginal Communities

The research methodology for this study, 'Alcohol and other drug service provider perspectives on the usefulness of family therapy training and qualifications in their work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people', includes a decolonising framework incorporating naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) and constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2008).

Data was collected over an 18 month period and was centred around the Postgraduate Certificate in Family Therapy, La Trobe University Bouverie Centre. Data includes:

  • Interviews with 6 Aboriginal alcohol and other drug workers (AOD) from Aboriginal controlled organisations and non-Aboriginal organisations (4 Aboriginal and 2 non-Aboriginal workers).
  • Interviews with managers of Aboriginal controlled organisations and non-Aboriginal organisations
  • Interviews with trainers and Indigenous program team members
  • Student ‘spoken essays
  • Researcher Journal

This research aims to understand from Aboriginal AOD works perspectives if family therapy can provide useful tools for addressing substance misuse in Aboriginal communities.

Research: Jacqui Sundbery

Date PhD research commenced: October 2009

Progress: Aboriginal AOD workers and graduates of The Bouverie Centre's Postgraduate Certificate in Family Therapy are finding that including family therapy approaches as part their work practice offers many benefits to substance users and their families.

By working more inclusively with families, alcohol and other drugs become less of an issue as clients and their families work together. (Indigenous AOD worker, 2010)

Incorporating the family  into service delivery for AOD issues makes sense as Indigenous Australians prefer approaches to healthcare that include social, emotional, cultural and spiritual well-being and that recognise that gains in any area affect the whole person, their family and community (Garvey, 2008; O’Donohue, 1999). Family therapy with its strong grounding in these principles, provides useful tools to address a range of issues associated with substance misuse such as trauma, mental health, parenting and attachment issues.

The research will be completed in 2014.


Newsletter article
How Family Therapy is Making a Difference for Indigenous AOD Workers. Co-authored with Francie Boundy, Di Griffin. Drug Info, May 2012. Australian Drug Foundation.

Family Therapy Training and Support for Aboriginal Mental Health and AOD Workers Working with At Risk Families in Aboriginal Community Settings - ‘The Metro Cohort’. Co-authored with Fiona McIllwaine, Jana Kelly - The Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University.

Journal paper
Empowering Indigenous Family Workers by Degree. Co-authored with Dr Kerry Proctor and Robyne Latham - The Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University. Australian Philanthropy, Dec 2011, Issue 80.

Contact: Jacqui Sundbery at

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Working together to develop best practice with families who have experienced sibling sexual abuse

'Finding hope in our back pocket: Therapists working together in an action research co-operative inquiry to develop best practice with families who have experienced sibling sexual abuse'  aims to explore the experience of a group of therapists in the Victorian sexual assault sector working with sibling sexual abuse and to use our reflections as a basis for action in our workplaces and potentially for change in our practice. The broad aim of the action research project was to offer our reflections to the field and to develop guidelines that would support therapists undertaking this work. Six therapists from a combination of rural and metropolitan sexual assault services, including Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) and non-government funded services formed the co-operative inquiry group and participated in ten meetings, an individual in-depth interview and completed a short feedback questionnaire as to their experience of the process of the research and their experience of any change in their work through this process. The managers of each of the represented services were also interviewed. A discourse analysis of online news reports, a documentary on sexual relationships between siblings and an Oprah episode that reported the story of twin sisters who were sexually abused by their brothers was also part of the data and analysis.

Researcher: Helen Kambouridis

Date PhD research commenced: 2007

Progress: I am currently writing up the research. I have organised the chapters around the main themes in the data: Challenges in the work (including such things as parallel processes that impact on the therapist, vicarious trauma, maintaining a non-judgemental stance in the face of often highly confronting information and circumstances and balancing the needs of the parents, the "victim" child, the sibling who perpetrated the abuse and the family), social and professional discourses, language, and guidelines for practice.

Output: Aspects of the work have been presented in a range of professional contexts. An interview by Cindy Tarczon, Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, was also conducted in 2012.

Related website links: Interview with Cindy Tarczon

Contact: Helen Kambouridis at

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The 2017 Bouverie Alumni and Friends Celebration

Join us as we commemorate the importance of learning and education with guest speaker, John Marsden, writer, teacher and principal of Candlebark School and alumna speaker, Leonie Farrugia.

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Aboriginal Family Therapy Training Program: Evaluation & Impact

The Bouverie Centre's Indigenous Team recently developed an Evidence Brief and Impact Analysis Report on The Bouverie Centre's Aboriginal Family Therapy Training Program.

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