Disadvantaged kids around Australia can be comforted knowing there is someone like Tim Moore going in to bat for them, writes Dimity May.
Tracking down Tim Moore is no easy task. Between his work as a research scholar with ACU’s Institute of Child Protections Studies, the demands of his PhD, and his role as President of Carers Australia - he’s a busy man.
It’s a position he’s more than happy to be in, but one he still finds surprising at times.
Starting a law degree after school, Tim couldn’t shake the thought of the volunteering he’d done with St Vincent de Paul youth camps for kids with disabilities.
“Even while studying law I was thinking back to those camps and realising I wanted to work at the coal face of the youth sector,” he said. “That’s why I drive a Toyota Life rather than a Mercedes – but it’s all been worth it.”
For more than 10 years and across a range of roles, Tim has been driven to try and understand the experiences of children, young people and their families - particularly those experiencing homelessness or affected by alcohol or drug problems, parental disability or mental illness.
“I was pretty busy in my role as a youth worker,” he said. “I supported kids with disabilities, helped my brother Dave set up a school for homeless young people, worked with kids who had or whose parents had an alcohol or drug problem, and established a number of services for young carers.
“I really felt for those kids who were doing it tough, and I’ll always have that empathy in my work.”
In 2002 Tim moved out of direct practice and into the advocacy area. As Deputy Director at the Youth Coalition (ACT’s youth peak body), Vice-President of the ACT Council of Social Services and National Young Carers Coordinator at Carers Australia, he helped develop policy and supported sector growth.
“My work with carers became personal when my sister was diagnosed with a series of mental illnesses,” Tim said. “Seeing her suffer was pretty tough for the family as was fighting with the health system to ensure that she was safe and properly looked after. Luckily she’s an amazing young woman so it wasn’t hard to remember why we were doing it.”
Somewhere in the middle of all this and with a Bachelor of Arts from Australian National University already under his belt, Tim found time to undertake further study.
“Youth work is isn’t particularly evidence based and I was always anxious about whether what I was doing with pretty vulnerable kids was actually having a positive outcome,” he said. “So I enrolled in a Master of Child and Adolescent Welfare at Charles Sturt University and then, in 2005, a Master of Youth Studies at ACU.”
In 2005, Tim joined the newly established Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS) at ACU’s Canberra Campus, where he has specialised in research on vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
“I saw ICPS as a great opportunity to reengage my youth work skills while influencing policy and practice,” he said. “The opportunity to work with such an experienced and skilled team of researchers was also a drawcard.
“Since being at the Institute, I’ve worked on projects looking at homeless children, young people leaving detention, Indigenous kids in and out of home care, and a number of projects on young carers. It’s been a rewarding experience – listening to kids and promoting their ideas to those who might make a difference in their lives.”
In 2009, Tim was awarded the Canberra Southern Cross Club PhD Scholarship, for his work looking at the assumptions that underpin research with children and young people, and how that affects what researchers do.
“Rather than focus on a particular social issue, I thought I’d use the opportunity to take stock and to explore how research is being done with children and young people in Australia. My observation was that many of the critical conversations that had been had in the area of gender, ethnicity and disability studies had not occurred for children – children are often quite powerless in relation to how they’re researched and how research is used more broadly. My PhD therefore asks researchers to reflect on their practice, the philosophies and theories that underpin their research and the environment within which they carry it out.”
Well underway with his doctoral study, Tim is also President of Carers Australia, on the Board of Carers ACT and a member of Minister Macklin’s National People with Disability and Carer Council.
“I’m just trying to keep government aware of the existence and needs of Australia’s 2.6 million carers and to advocate for better services and supports,” he said. “In these roles I’ve had the opportunity to meet carers across the country – those young and old, in rural and remote communities, from Aboriginal, ethnic and refugee backgrounds.”
“I’ve even had to buy a couple of new suits – there’s lots of meetings and dinners at Parliament House and some important people to chat up.”