Our research

We have an established program of collaborative research with rural communities. This research is focused on social issues impacting on communities and uses participatory and collaborative approaches to addressing issues in partnership with communities, service providers, government departments and policy makers.

Selected research projects

Care in the Country: Supporting older parental caregivers for people ageing with intellectual disability in rural Australia

As greater numbers of people with intellectual disabilities outlive their parental caregivers, a transition to post-parental care is becoming an expected milestone in their lifecourse. However, pathways to post-parental care for adults with complex disability and age-related needs are often uncertain or undesirable and mostly uncharted. This is particularly so in rural areas where residential and other disability related services are sparsely distributed and resourced. This project will contribute new understandings of the challenges presented by ageing and service frameworks from the lived experiences of older parental caregivers and their sons and daughters ageing with intellectual disabilities. It will explore the post-parental care planning process with families to understand complex decision making and potential pathways to formal or informal care in rural communities. This knowledge will be used to develop a digital resource and training in transition planning for care providers and recommendations for social care policy and programs.

Industry Partners:
National Project with SA as a case study with Baptcare, Uniting Communities, Carers Australia and Carers SA.

Tailoring rural community-based suicide prevention for men in farming occupations

Currently under review (2018): ARC Linkage Project Application

Rural community based suicide prevention strategies are not tailored to men in farming occupations despite the suicide rate for men in farming occupations being approximately double the general employed male population rate (Andersen et al., 2010). This project builds capacity in rural community based farmer suicide prevention through a community based participatory action approach with rural suicide prevention networks, men in farming occupations and stakeholders in suicide prevention to develop tailored strategies and resources. Investing in developing rural community based suicide prevention aligns with current reforms in National and State suicide prevention policies that promote local interventions tailored to high risk populations (National Mental Health Commission, 2017). For men in farming occupations this means tailoring interventions to population risk factors and cultures of farming and rural communities (Kennedy et al., 2016; Bryant and Garnham, 2015; Kennedy et al., 2014).  The multidisciplinary research team brings extensive expertise in rural community wellbeing and farmer suicide with cross-sectorial Partner Organisations representing agricultural industries, mental health and suicide prevention. Through these partnerships project findings will directly inform State and National Suicide Prevention Action Plans and Departments of Primary Industries rural resilience service programs. For national reach a website will be developed to equip rural communities with resources to develop place-based strategies tailored to men in farming occupations.

Industry Partners:
National Project with Australian Mental Health Commission.
Queensland Mental Health Commission
PHN, SA, SA Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA
Victorian Department of Agriculture
NSW Department of Agriculture
Superfriend, Workplace Mental Health.

Women Dairy Farmers: A community model for building, sustaining and strengthening mental health

This interdisciplinary project is innovative in drawing together researchers in rural sociology, therapeutic art, and occupational therapy to understand distress and support needs to strengthen the mental health of women dairy farmers. Australian research on mental health of farmers has overwhelmingly focused on men due to heightened rates of male farmer suicide (Perceval et al, 2017). In the context of farming crises, the mental health and support needs of farming women is therefore often overlooked. At present, deregulation of the Australian dairy industry has lead to a widespread crisis affecting the economic viability of farms and the mental health of Australian dairy farmers. Strengthening the mental health of women dairy farmers is crucial to sustaining farming families and communities in the third largest agricultural industry in Australia (Nettle et al, 2012; Westmore, 2016). This pilot project will begin to develop a tailored, community approach to engaging and supporting dairy farming women to strengthen mental health through a participatory research design and arts-based methods.

Rural women, Self-care and Caring

Rural women’s caring responsibilities increase as they age and care for older people, people with disabilities and ill members of their families and communities. Rural social and health services remain under resourced or lacking. Further, environmental impacts which threaten farm viability have been shown as a risk factor for men’s mental health have had limited in-depth exploration on the impact on women’s mental health and the potential impacts of caring for distressed or suicidal male farmers – partners/fathers etc. This project examines rural women’s experiences of caring, how they understand or practice or wish to practice self-care and will develop resources by and for rural women for self-care.

Support for distress during farm exit decision-making

This project involves interviews with farm financial counsellors and farming women and men to identify the moments at which decision-making enters lives in relation to exiting farming due to financial stress/illness/retirement/no family member to succeed them. The focus is on early intervention in relation to wellbeing and support as farmers begin thinking about pathways to exit the industry.

Designing for rural community wellbeing

UniSA final year design students and social work and social science students briefed by our industry partners to develop communication and visual tools to increase social connectivity and digital tools for companies to provide services to farmers in need and visual tools to create conversations about wellbeing.

Industry Partners:
Gippsland Jersey
Quality Wool
Department of Primary Industries NSW

Areas of study and research

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