Community engagement projects

Community Engagement Grant Scheme Projects

2018 Grant Recipients

Improving Emergency Communications for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in the Illawarra

Project Lead | Mr Robert Ogie
UOW Partners | Associate Professor Rodney Clarke
Community Partners | State Emergency Services, Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra


ce-2018-cegs-sesEmergency communication in a predominant language (English in Australia) can be problematic in highly multicultural societies where cultural and linguistic differences often pose significant distortions to the way messages are interpreted. Working in collaboration and partnership with the NSW State Emergency Services (SES) and the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI), this project aims to facilitate tailored messaging and emergency warnings in languages that are best understood by culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in the Illawarra region. The project will use the functional language theory to explore the diversity of ways in which translated messages can be organised, including the literal and contextualised forms of translations as well as the implications they have for soliciting appropriate actions from community members. The project team will identify several multilingual representatives from the top 7 CALD groups in the Illawarra (i.e., Macedonian, Italian, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, Serbian, and Greek) who can be empowered to act as intermediaries or gatekeepers to facilitate message translation and engender culturally appropriate communication between their communities and emergency agencies. These gatekeepers will help activate their community networks, enlisting members that should receive CALD-specific messages during emergencies.

Importantly, CALD communities will identify through surveys and interviews, the most suitable communication channel(s) (e.g., social media, dedicated mobile App, bulk SMS, local radio, etc.) for receiving these translated emergency messages. The project scope is such that the message translation will initially focus on the static messages, which do not change from one event to another (e.g., “Never drive on flooded roads”). In preparation for impending emergency events, these translated messages can be used by SES to drive behavioural change and risk awareness amongst CALD groups, thereby helping to deliver safer and more resilient communities. UOW is proud to have initiated this community engagement project, which will deliver tangible benefits to vulnerable groups in the Illawarra region, further establishing the University as a leading institution in enabling disaster resilience within communities.



Facilitating the voice and self-determination of young adults on the autism spectrum

Project Lead | Dr Amanda Webster
Community Partners | Australian Autism Asperger’s Network, Disability Trust

ce-2018-cegs-autismThis project will facilitate a collaboration between UOW, Disability Trust and the Australian Autism Asperger’s Network to identify current challenges and strategies that will help adults on the autism spectrum to express their voice and self-advocate as they move into adulthood. The project will ascertain the perspectives of adults on the autism spectrum, as well as staff working with them, in a post-school transition program about the ways individuals on the autism spectrum are empowered to have a voice in their own decision-making, the challenges they face, and the support they need for success in adult life.

The information gathered will be utilised to create strategies and visual models that staff can use to support the voice and decision-making of individuals on the autism spectrum as they transition into post-school education and employment settings. This project is innovative as it will involve the input of autistic adults. Through this project an autism advisory group will be engaged to provide insight and models to disability staff and adults on the autism spectrum about the barriers they face as well as key strategies that have enabled them to better communicate their needs and to self-advocate for the supports they need to be successful. This project will lead to a set of strategies that can be employed in a variety of settings to support individuals on the spectrum with a variety of skills and abilities to express their voice and take control of their own decisions. It is hoped that the findings of this project will empower individuals on the autism spectrum to exercise greater agency in adult life as they move into employment and negotiate options under the NDIS.


Migration and Belonging: An Exploration through Collaborative Short Films

Project Lead | Dr Sukhmani Khorana
UOW Partners | Dr Roger Patulny
Community Partners | CuriousWorks, Settlement Services International

ce-2018-cegs-belongingThis project will create high quality short films that raise awareness of newly arrived people's experiences of belonging and inclusion in South West Sydney. The films will share stories created through participatory storytelling and collaborative filmmaking workshops attended by Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts students from the University of Wollongong (UOW) South Western Sydney Campus working with newly arrived migrants/refugees sourced through a community partner. The teams will explore concepts of belonging, social inclusion and community building.

The project will be the first of its kind in South West Sydney to entail a collaboration between a university based in the area, UOW, a community arts and media organization, CuriousWorks, as well as a multicultural community organization and social business, Settlement Services International (SSI).

The involvement of SSI ensures that the new refugee/migrant participant’s benefit directly from production and conceptual skills, and from partnering with UOW students. This partnership means that UOW students can be role models, should SSI participants wish to pursue tertiary education in the future. The students will in turn benefit from exposure to a community arts organization, which can lead to internships and job opportunities. They will also gain skills in inter-cultural understanding and resilience from their interactions with the participants. CuriousWorks benefits from the project as it assists them to identify and recruit their next generation of ‘Curious Creators’. This is a skills development program that is growing the next-generation of talented storytellers from Western Sydney. Finally, the project is also innovative because it will be evaluated for its impact on all the participants through a short qualitative survey at the end. This will lead to knowledge-creation for the community as a whole, and can be used to implement future collaborations.


SKAMP: Cultural mentoring with Indigenous male students (years 5-8) in Dapto and Shellharbour areas

Project Lead | Professor Kathleen Clapham
UOW Partners | Mr Layne Brown
Community Partners | Illawarra Koori Men’s Support Group

ce-2018-cegs-skampOur Interdisciplinary team will be working with the Illawarra Koori Men’s Support Group (IKMSG) to develop & deliver a culturally safe program for Aboriginal students Years 5-8 in the transition from primary to secondary school. School Kids Aboriginal Mentoring Program is uniquely designed for Aboriginal boys and young men that builds upon the considerable expertise of the IKSMG. The team is strongly committed to working with community-led approaches and initiatives that can contributes towards a greater evidence base for Aboriginal organisations.

In our previous work the IKMSG have the demonstrated their innovative capacity to deliver effective culturally safe programs with Aboriginal communities and underserved population, particularly vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal youth. This will provide innovative solutions led by local Indigenous people. By working with the IKMSG we anticipate a number of outcomes; culturally appropriate service delivery, organisational capacity building for project planning, report writing and evaluation and contributing to the research body of work on Aboriginal men’s groups. 

Current Projects

Autism Friendly Communities – investigating the ingredients

  • Project lead | Dr Sim Lau
  • UOW partners | Dr Pippa Burns
  • Community partners | Corrimal Chamber of Commerce, ASPECT South Coast School, Autism Spectrum Australia

Autism is a life-long condition that impacts the social, communication and sensory abilities of 1:63 Australian school children. This project worked with business owners and individuals with autism to develop and audit tool in order to enable business owners to create more accessible environments for members of the Wollongong Community.


Refinement of the Life Happens Resource for high risk target groups

  • Project lead | Associate Professor Kate Senior
  • UOW partners | Laura Grozdanovski
  • Community partners | Illawarra Women’s Health Centre

Life Happens is a game used to explore young people’s understanding of sexual health, sexual risk and decisions regarding their relationships. This project modified the game to address issues of relationships and domestic violence in two high risk groups: young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women with an intellectual disability.


Supporting refugee farming initiatives: from Mildura to Mingoola and Meroo Meadow

  • Project lead | Dr Natascha Klocker
  • UOW partners | Dr Olivia Dun
  • Community partners | Great Lakes Agency for Peace and Development International, Sunraysia Local Food Future/Food Next Door, University of Newcastle, Gary and Diana Schiller, private land owners

This project aimed to broaden opportunities for refugees outside of major cities through capitalising on a successful pilot refugee farming initiative in Mildura. By extending the project to Meroo Meadow and Mingoola, this project demonstrated the farming knowledge and skills of former refugees. The project improved former refugees’ well-being, sense of belonging and broader community connections.


Project ADVOCATE (Awareness of Domestic Violence On Campus At Tertiary Education)

  • Project lead | Dr Michelle Eady
  • UOW partners | Ms Kelly Lewer, Dr Rebekkah Middleton, Mr Kenton Bell, Dr Alison Rutherford, Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa
  • Community partners | Domestic Violence New South Wales, Women’s Health New South Wales

Project ADVOCATE will create an online professional development opportunity for university academic staff to enable better understandings of and support for university students who have experienced domestic violence. Upon completion of the professional development, university staff are provided with a certificate, digital badge, and an ‘ADVOCATE’ sticker for their office door to indicate their participation.


Recent Projects

Creating a mentoring network to support parent advocacy for children with additional needs

  • Project lead | Dr Amanda Webster, School of Education
  • UOW partners | Dr Amy Conley Wright, Dr Jane Warren
  • Community partners | Noah’s Shoalhaven, Autism Education Services

Parents of children with additional needs often have to advocate for their children to ensure that they receive the best and most appropriate care and education. In order to support parents, this project will develop and implement a program to establish a community network of parent advocacy mentors.

Breaking bread, breaking barriers

  • Project lead | A/Prof Karen Charlton, School of Medicine
  • UOW partner | A/Prof Karen Walton
  • Community partners | ALL Sustainable Futures Inc., Albion Park Rail Public School, Nowra East Public School, Nowra East Public School, Jerrinja Local Aboriginal Land Council

It is estimated that 1 in 7 children in New South Wales go to school without breakfast, making concentration and academic success difficult. This project aims to rescue food destined for landfill from supermarkets, and use to it redress disadvantage in schools and support student education.

Retrieving lost community stories: linking regional archival photo collections using advanced visual technologies

  • Project lead | A/Prof Lei Wang, School of Computing and Information Technology
  • UOW partners | Dr Lupin Zhou, Ms Clare McKenzie, Mrs Kerry Ross, Dr Glenn Mitchell
  • Community partners | Illawarra Historical Society, Wollongong City Council

This project aims to support the way that the community connects with local history by innovating community access to digital archival photo material. This project will link local photo collections through new technology in order to preserve local history.

Volunteer legal support for refugees in the Illawarra

  • Project lead | Dr Niamh Kinchin, School of Law
  • UOW partner | Prof Nan Seuffert
  • Community partners | Wollongong City Council, Illawarra Multicultural Services

This project aims to address the legal support needs of refugees within the Illawarra region through a structured volunteer program. This will include training for volunteers, local lawyers and UOW law students to assist refugee families with legal and administrative support.

Developing online resources and videos to support community based multi-sensory room

  • Project lead | Dr Sim Lau, School of Computing and Information Technology
  • UOW partners | Dr Rose Dixon, Dr Pippa Burns, Dr Andrea Garner, Ms Allison Cameron
  • Community partner | CareWays Community Inc.

Multi-sensory rooms offer controlled environments to promote intellectual activity or encourage relaxation and can be modified to benefit those with disabilities or dementia. Online resources are accessible to community organisations and families who are considering developing a multi-sensory room.

History of Wollongong in 101 Objects

  • Project lead | Dr Glenn Mitchell
  • UOW partners | Dr Henry Lee and Josie Stuart
  • Community partners | Illawarra Historical Society

This project has created new historical interpretations of Wollongong, improved access to existing materials and created new resources. History of Wollongong in 101 Objects provides an online public history of the city that enhance community engagement in Wollongong’s history.

Ask Illawarra Shoalhaven: Collects community knowledge

  • Project lead | A/Prof Louella McCarthy, School of Medicine
  • UOW partners | Dr Michael Jones, Dr Mark Freeman
  • Community partners | North Kiama Neighbourhood Centre, Local Community Services Association, Australian Social Investment Trust/Department of Family and Community, Participation and Inclusion/Department of Family and Community, CareWays Community

“Ask” trains and supports volunteers from across the region to engage with the community in conversations about their aspirations for their communities. This knowledge is collected and used by local communities to support further in-depth conversations and local action on issues of concern to the communities. Read the full story at Illawarra Mercury: Residents asked to share their view.

Mogo and Mudji (Dhurga for friends)

  • Project lead | Ms Jaimey Facchin, Campus Manager Batemans Bay
  • UOW partners | Ms Anne Snowball, Mrs Michelle Rush
  • Community partners | Mogo Primary School

Mogo and Mudji (Dhurga for friends) provides a better understanding of local Indigenous culture by engaging in educational activities with local primary schools. Pride in culture plays a vital role in shaping people’s ambitions and choices. This project utilises educational field trips and resources to highlight the importance of valuing the cultural skills and knowledge of Indigenous people.

Budbili Mudjingaal (Possum rug friends)

  • Project lead | Mrs Michelle Rush, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre
  • UOW partner | A/Prof Bronwyn Carlson
  • Community partners | Warradjah Aboriginal Programs, Ross Consultancy, Killalea State Park

Budbili Mudjingaal project encourages staff and students to bond as they create a possum skin rug based on research of cloaks made by Dharawal people. Creating this rug not only creates a bond between community, students and staff but it also fosters a supportive and healthy work environment which will enhance work standards.

Walbanja possum cloak educational resource package

  • Project lead | Ms Jaimey Facchin, Campus Manager Bateman’s Bay
  • UOW partners | Ms Kerryn Hopkins, Ms Lesli Kirwan, Prof Amanda Lawson, Ms Anne Snowball
  • Community partners | Walbanja Guungara Baraan Group, Doolagarl Dreaming Consultancy

The Walbanja Possum Cloak represented a significant step in the revitalisation of local Aboriginal cultural heritage, and the UOW Batemans Bay campus was honoured to host the cloak by the Walbanja Custodians. Educational resources that accompanied the cloak supported the knowledge sharing and educational awareness of local Aboriginal cultural heritage throughout the wider community. This project has paved the way for future community interactions which will benefit all partners. View the full story of the Walbanja possum cloak at the UOW newsroom: Ancient traditions find pride.

Bringing languages back to the community

  • Project lead | Dr Anu Bissoonauth-Bedford, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry
  • Community partners | Keira High School, Kiama High School, The Illawarra Grammar School, Smiths Hill High School

The Bringing languages back to the community project has returned languages to the community by sending University students as language ambassadors to mentor local high school students. The program promoted language sharing and helped further strengthen community links between secondary and tertiary educational institutions.

Please Read To Me-literacy support project for Indigenous children

  • Project lead | Dr Martina Sanderson-Smith, School of Biological Sciences
  • UOW partners | Dr Pippa Burns, Mrs Michelle Rush, Dr Joanne Buckskin, Ms Kate Roggeveen
  • Community partner | Illawarra South Coast Children's Book Council of Australia

The Please Read to Me-literacy support for Indigenous children project, targeting Indigenous children in the early childhood and primary age bracket, raised awareness of the importance of encouraging and promoting the joys of reading with children. The project was undertaken in consultation with aboriginal services and organisations and key contacts within aboriginal communities. The project complemented literacy programs in pre-schools, schools and child care centres and community centres.

Research-led framework and on-line toolkit for developing inclusive community music

  • Project lead | Dr Lotte Latukefu, School of Arts, English and Media
  • Community partners | Wollongong Conservatorium, Wollongong City Council, Illawarra Folk Club

This project documented best practice in community music making and developed a user friendly online tool kit to help individuals or councils plan to develop a comprehensive community music program. This tool kit gave an overview of the methods involved and offered guidance on how to undertake each stage.

InCuisine - an inclusive dining experience

  • Project lead | Mr Shawn Burns, School of the Arts, English and Media
  • UOW partners |Ms Jo Stirling, A/Prof Karen Walton, Dr Lyn Phillipson
  • Community partners | Shoalhaven Business Chamber, IRT, FOCAS Shoalhaven, Centre for Health and Community Engagement

InCuisine has created the foundation to create an inclusive dining culture in the Shoalhaven. It has given profile to the voices of those with disabilities, created a report on their (perceived) barriers to eat in local restaurants and communicated with restaurants in the area in order to create more inclusive dining experiences. Read the full story at South Coast Register: Eating out another challenge for disabled.

Last reviewed: 3 October, 2018