Fresh horizons

SAM presents the first in a regular round-up of innovative research being carried out at the University.

FACULTY OF LAW

Impact of delayed reporting of child sexual assault

Image of young boy laying on bed looking at phone

Photo: iStock

This six-month project is funded through the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It is commonplace for children who are sexually abused not to disclose the abuse at the time it is taking place, with many not disclosing for some years, if at all. The aim of this research is to examine the prosecution process, including appeals, for cases of child sexual abuse that are reported in adulthood compared with those reported in childhood. The project team of Dr Rita Shackel and Professor Patrick Parkinson is led by Associate Professor Judy Cashmore.

Protection of refugees with disabilities in camps

This AusAID-commissioned research over three years provides valuable insight into the incidence, causes and types of disabilities among refugees. People with disabilities are made especially vulnerable by situations of displacement, but governments and humanitarian assistance providers currently lack the knowledge base to assess and respond to their needs. The project team began in 2012 with fieldwork in Malaysia and Indonesia, followed by a scoping mission to Pakistan, then three weeks in Uganda, where they surveyed more than one thousand refugees.

Professor of Public Law, Mary Crock, is co-ordinating this project with chief investigators including Emeritus Professor and former Dean, Ron McCallum AO, and Professor of International Law, Ben Saul.

‘Sexting’ and young people

This project seeks to understand how young people perceive and practice “sexting” and assesses the appropriateness of existing law and policy in this area. The increasing and innovative use of new technologies and networks to disseminate explicit material presents a growing legal and policy challenge. This is a particular policy concern when young people engage in such behaviour while not fully understanding the potential harms and legal consequences. This project is funded by a two-year Criminology Research Grant from the Australian Institute of Criminology, and supported by the NSW Commission for Children and Young People.

Associate Professor Murray Lee is a principal investigator of the Sydney Institute of Criminology team.

Protected action ballots and protected industrial action

This Australian Research Council Discovery Project will examine the process by which employees and their bargaining representatives choose to take lawful industrial action under the Fair Work Act. The project explores the effect of the statutory processes on bargaining representative decision-making and bargaining behaviour, and the effect on employee access to lawful industrial action. The results of this project will be of national economic and social benefit. It is the first Australian empirical study of strike ballots, analysing an important public policy area.

Associate Professor Shae McCrystal is leading a team that includes Professor Breen Creighton (RMIT) and Professor Richard Johnstone (Griffith University).

Network for Bodies, Organs

The new generation of human tissue technologies has unleashed tidal waves of ethical, political and religious ferment which are challenging traditional understandings and threatening to cause conflicts and dysfunctional societal outcomes. A two-year project sponsored through the University of Sydney Research Networks Scheme (SyReNS), it is examining identity, consent, control and justice issues to develop a comprehensive understanding of tissue disputes and provide a multi-layered response to the problems being identified. The network will have a profound impact by linking academics, regulators and practitioners.

Professor Cameron Stewart, who leads this inter-University and multidisciplinary team of scholars from a diverse range of fields, is Pro Dean at Sydney Law School.

FACULTY OF EDUCATION AND SOCIAL WORK

Kids’ adaptability to change

Image of 5 young girls playing string instruments

Fairfax Media

Researchers have found that adaptability, the ability to adjust to new and changing situations and conditions, is essential for young people’s wellbeing. A team led by Andrew Martin showed that young people can be taught how to think about things differently, how to modify their behaviour, and how to adjust their emotions. “When we help them do these things, we build their adaptability, and their future.” The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

Benefits of involvement in the arts for young people

A joint study by the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the Australia Council for the Arts has found that “engagement in the arts benefits students not just in the classroom, but also in life”. Students who were involved in the arts had higher school motivation, engagement in class, self-esteem, and life satisfaction than those who were not involved. The study, led by Andrew Martin, tracked over 600 students from primary and secondary schools in Australia over two years.

HSC maths and science on the decline

A study recorded over a 10-year period, from 2001-2011, has revealed a decline in students taking up traditional disciplines in Mathematics and the Sciences. “The decline was most pronounced among female students, with the proportion of girls undertaking these subjects falling from
16.8 per cent in 2001 to 13.8 per cent in 2011.

The study, led by Dr Rachel Wilson, calls for universities to reintroduce HSC prerequisites for entry into selected programs.

Bilingual pilot program in schools

Researchers have completed interesting research into the bilingual school program at NSW schools. The pilot program that started in 2010 focuses on delivering mainly Asian languages through immersion “meaning for an hour or so each day regular classes, such as history or geography, would be delivered in the second language”. The study, led by Dr Ruth Fielding and Associate Professor Lesley Harbon, reported that the model is successful and the method of learning “could be a strong model for language learning in other schools”.

BUSINESS SCHOOL

Monetising the health benefits of public transport

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'Mr Positive Living' contestants

This project, by the Business of Health Network, is measuring the real changes in people’s physical activity, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in relation to health outcomes from a change in travel behaviour on the journey to work. Respondents will be changing from public transport to car or vice versa during the study, which aims to identify whether using public transport on the commute can provide the physical exercise needed for a healthy living without adding to already busy lifestyles. The trial will translate the identified physical changes into changes in morbidity then assign dollar values. This helps ensure that new transport projects are evaluated giving proper weight to the health outcomes from different transport modes. This multidisciplinary project involves researchers from Transport NSW.

Flexibility for working parents in the 'hybrid' fair work system

Professor Marian Baird and Associate Professor Rae Cooper from the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies have received an ARC Discovery grant over three years to research the clash between the work and parenting roles of employees. They are undertaking a series of detailed case studies to evaluate whether the new Fair Work Act mechanisms help working parents to combine work with parenting. The research is of critical interest to human resource and employment relations professionals, government, trade unions and women’s advocacy groups. Professor Baird is Director of the Business School’s Women and Work Research Group. Associate Professor Cooper is an expert on industrial relations and gender and work.

The Australia China Business Research Network

The Australia China Business Research Network is launching its first bilingual online survey of Chinese investors in Australia and their perception of the Australian investment environment. This research is sponsored by the Australian Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries and led by Professor Hans Hendrischke from the Discipline of International Business, an expert on emerging local entrepreneurship and business institutions, who is also Director of the School’s Australia China Business Network. For its China-based research on the “Globalisation of Chinese Enterprises”, the Network will cooperate with research partners from across the Business School, the China Studies Centre and Chinese partner universities.

Voices from the Base of the pyramid

Governments and NGOs have historically been at the forefront of poverty alleviation. Recently, international agencies, the business sector and scholars have argued that it is possible to alleviate poverty and make profits simultaneously, when targeting the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP): the three-four billion people who live on less than US$2 a day). However, a critical voice has been missing – the voice of the “poor”. This study is conducting interviews with the “poor” to critically examine what they think about companies trying to achieve seemingly contradictory objectives. The insights will inform the business strategies of companies targeting the “poor”. This multidisciplinary project is led by Dr Ranjit Voola, director of the Business School’s Poverty Alleviation Research Group.

Walk the talk

alk the Talk focuses on efforts by consumers in Botswana to confront the multi-faceted stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that severely limits the wellbeing of both HIV+ consumers and their non-infected counterparts. A significant aspect of the project has been the production of an award-winning documentary, distributed in Botswana schools and universities, that discusses how HIV+ consumers go public with their status and go on to act as accountable role models. The project has also resulted in international written publications. Walk the Talk has partnered with Hero Condoms, an Australian company, to produce and distribute condoms specifically suited to consumers in Botswana.

The project researchers include Marylouise Caldwell (Sydney Business School) Kabo Matlho (School of Public Health), Ingeborg Kleppe (Norwegian School of Economics) and Steve Watson (Thinkbox Media).

Creating Shared Value

Researchers from the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) will examine the application of “creating shared value” (CSV) amongst large Australian corporations. CSV has become a fashionable business concept, based around the idea that firms must not only create value for shareholders but also their communities, the environment and society more generally. Using quantitative and qualitative research methods, BERN researchers will explore the claims made for CSV in improving financial, social and environmental outcomes in a range of business settings. The project is led by Professor Christopher Wright, who is an expert in the areas of organisational change and sustainability.