ACU (Australian Catholic University)

ACU Alum

Issue 3, Summer 2012


Supporting homeless fathers 

A report released by the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, has identified an urgent need to better support fathers who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.

The joint research study by the Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS) at ACU explored the experiences of homeless fathers, identifying the consequences of their homeless experience and their relationship with their children. 

“For homeless fathers, the relationship they have with their children, and their role as a parent, is very important,” said Dr Justin Barker, Research Fellow at ICPS. “Not being able to be with their children, or deliberately protecting them from their own circumstances of homelessness, can add to the anguish and difficulty of their lives. We found that homelessness affects the ability to be a father, and that fatherhood changed the experience of homelessness.”

“There are very few services in Australia that specifically support fathers who are homeless. The role and identity of homeless men as fathers has been a largely ignored aspect of homelessness. However those who do receive quality supports are more motivated to address issues and improve the conditions of their lives.”

Chief Executive of Hanover Welfare Services, Tony Keenan, said that changes are needed to ensure that fathers with children aren’t disadvantaged. 

“There is a real lack of housing for single dads with children,” he said. “Many fathers interviewed in the research said they were not able to see their kids because they did not have suitable housing. The research shows a clear need for more responsive services for families with fathers as the primary caregiver.”

The full report, More than just me: Supporting fathers who are homeless, is available at:

Howard launches book on Sir John Carrick

Former Prime Minister John Howard launched a biography on his mentor Sir John Carrick recently, written by ACU Visiting Fellow Dr Graeme Starr.

One of the most influential leaders in Australian politics and public policy, Sir John Carrick is the only person to figure prominently in the governments of three of the country’s longer serving prime ministers – as strategist for Sir Robert Menzies, Senate Leader in the Fraser Government, and mentor of John Howard.

The biography - CARRICK – Principles, Politics and Policy - spans Carrick’s early life, his wartime experience in Timor, imprisonment by the Japanese, lengthy career in Liberal politics, and major contributions to Australian public policy.

Dr Starr, former NSW Liberal State Director, said Carrick reinvented Australian politics for his time, and his commitment to principle won the respect of people on all sides of politics.  

“Carrick’s continuing role as a leading figure in education reform has earned him the highest national honours and recognition from universities and other educators,” Dr Starr said. “He helped give the young Liberal Party a sense of direction and purpose, and his enduring policy values and organisational principles help explain the great successes of the Liberal Party.”

Dr Starr is a Visiting Fellow at ACU’s Public Policy Institute (PPI).

Teachers hounded by bullies

Sadly for some children, being bullied at school is a part of growing up, but what is surprising is that schoolyard bullying doesn’t always end with adulthood. A new book co-authored by ACU’s Dr Deirdre Duncan has revealed more than 95 per cent of staff in schools have experienced some form of workplace bullying.

Bullying of Staff in Schools, written by Dr Duncan, Adjunct Professor in Educational Leadership at ACU, statistical analyst John Edwards, and Dr Dan Riley from the University of New England, draws together responses from more than 2,500 Australian government, Catholic and independent school employees and outlines 42 separate kinds of bullying behaviour.

Over 95 per cent of respondents had experienced at least one of those behaviours and more than 75 per cent had experienced a third or more.

Dr Duncan said that bullying behaviour is largely invisible in the school workplace - except to the target - because it is so typical of the behaviour encountered there.

“In many cases the bullies are quite unaware of the fact their behaviour is seen as bullying,” she said. “The research found the major offenders are parents of students and work colleagues when the whole group was aggregate across the ratings, but drilling down deeper, the principal was found to be the most persistent bully.

According to the research, the types of bullying behaviour most likely to be experienced by staff in schools are the questioning of one’s professional judgement and being set impossible targets, deadlines or workload. More than 80 per cent of respondents had experienced these behaviours.

What’s in a name?

Mac has an apple, Nike has a swoosh and McDonalds has their yellow arches. Companies with strong corporate brands are instantly recognisable. Their prestige convinces us to pay more for their products and they command unwavering loyalty.

So what happens when charities are pulled into this competitive environment?

With governments around the world cutting back on support, charities have started to change. No longer able to rely on government resources, and with direct donations on the decline, not-for-profit organisations are looking to their corporate business compatriots for inspiration.

“The very notion of branding goes against the original ethos of how charities were set up. Now they’re forced to become business entities, or at least a hybrid of a business entity and social enterprise, in order to survive,” said Dr Helen Stuart, senior lecturer in marketing at ACU.

Focusing on the corporate rebranding of religious not-for-profit organisations, Dr Stuart is researching the issues that modern charities face when trying to communicate a definitive position in their new charity marketplace. 

“Creating a meaningful corporate brand isn’t easy, and many not-for-profits are reluctant to engage with branding, seeing it as a dirty word which might ultimately undermine the integrity of their mission,” she said.

“Branding also requires long-term managerial expertise and financial resourcing that many not-for-profits can’t afford. Expensive branding activities can alienate stakeholders who believe money should be used on core philanthropic activities.

“The concern is that in moving to a new business model, not-for-profits may lose the values that underpinned their success as organisations serving the community. Addressing this complexity to produce a meaningful corporate brand will be a significant issue for charities into the future.”

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