Dr Margaret Spencer

Dr Margaret Spencer

A35 - Education Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone 61 2 93511930
Fax 61 2 9351 3783

Biographical details

In 2014, I joined the Social Work program in the School of Education and Social Work as a lecturer. My original professional qualification was in nursing. I then completed a degree in theology and graduated as a social worker from the University of Sydney in 1994.

I have over 30 years professional experience working in community based contexts championing the rights and needs of individuals and families constructed as “hard to reach” or as having “complex care needs.” Prior to taking up my current position, I coordinated the Intellectual Disability Rights Services’ advocacy program for parents with intellectual disabilities involved in child protection investigations and care proceedings. Since 2009, I have been appointed by the NSW Attorney General to the position of judicial officer (community member) in the Guardianship Division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

In 2007, I was awarded my doctorate from the University of Sydney. My doctoral research involved the development and piloting of a collaborative and accessible assessment process to facilitate shared decision-making between family workers and parents with intellectual disabilities about supports required for parenting. The thesis is entitled “Beyond measure: understanding and planning support with parents with intellectual disabilities.”

Over the past 23 years I have forged strong relationships with National and international researchers and practitioners in the area of parenting with intellectual disabilities. I am currently an executive member on the Parenting Special Interest Research Group (SIRG) of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD) and member of the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disabilities.

Since joining the Social Work program, I have coordinated and taught across many units of study in the undergraduate and MSW(Q) programs including Professional Practice, Social Work Practice, Field Education and Ageing. I also lecture on disabilities topics in units of study across both programs as well as in units of study in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work’s Special and Inclusive Educationprogram and the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Graduate Diploma in Developmental Disabilities Studies program.

I am the contact person in the Social Work program for students with disabilities. In 2016, I was the Acting Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies; and I am currently the Director of Social Work Field Education. Since 2016, through DFAT’sNew Colombo Plan Short- Term Mobility Program, I have led student field trips to Indonesia to explore social work in an international context.

Research interests

Disability and Parenting

Disability, sexuality and reproductive rights;

Pathways to parenthood and parenting with intellectual disabilities,

Social support networks of parents with intellectual disabilities

Children whose parents have intellectual disabilities

Parents with intellectual disabilities & the Child Protection & Out of Home Care Systems

Pathways to parenthood and parenting with intellectual disability in Asia/Pacific

Adult Guardianship

Inclusive and participatory practices

Elder Abuse

Social work education

Inclusive pedagogy and assessment practices

International students’ learning experience

International field placements

Current research students

Project title Research student
Understanding the lived experiences of parents with a child with significant disability in Bangladesh Abdul JALIL

Current projects

Motivation and barriers to adoption M. Spencer (CI)A Wright, S. Pope, B. Liu & Collings, S. Funding: Institute of Open Adoption Studies

Inter-country adoption of Taiwanese-born children of Australian families: Perspectives of adoptees, adoptive families, birth families and professionals. Wright, A. (CI), Chen, Y.W (National Taiwan University), Spencer, M. & Van Wichen, S. Funding: University of Sydney and the National Taiwan University Partnership Collaboration Award ($31,700) and FRSS Grant ($7959).

Family connections and contact for children in permanent care Wright, A. (CI), Collings, S. & Spencer, M. Funding: Institute of Open Adoption Studies

Examining Community Collaborations that empower parents and carers to support children and adolescents with disabilities through a multi-disciplinary lens. Evans, D. (CI), Villeneuve, M., Andriana, E., Little, C.,Spencer, M., Millington, M. & Bonati, M. Funding: South East Asia Centre Grant ($7,600)

Associations

Association of Australian Social Workers (AASW)

International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IASIDD)

Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID)

Australian New Zealand Third Sector Research (ANZTSR): Treasurer

In the media

Spencer, M (23 April 2013) What best for the child? https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/tvepisode/whats-best-child

Conference presentations

Spencer, M., Collings, S., Dew, A. & Cooney, E. (2017) Domestic Violence, Mothering with Intellectual Disability and the Child Protection System 4th Asia-Pacific Regional Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD), 13 -16 November Bangkok, Thailand.

Spencer (2017) Beyond the Special Care Nursery: the role of social workers in enabling a good life for children with disabilities Shanghai Medical Social Work International Symposium Shanghai 15 June

Spencer, M. (2016) Mission and the market: Are we at risk of selling our souls? 13th Biennial Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research Conference, 24-25 November. University of Sydney

Spencer, M. & Collings, S. (2016) Having choice and control: Parenting with intellectual
disability under the NDIS International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities World Congress. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 60: 739. doi:10.1111/jir.12305

Spencer, M. & Cootes, J. (2016), Against the law: Volunteers supporting people with intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system - International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities World Congress. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 60: 768–822. doi:10.1111/jir.12306

Spencer, M. & Waugh, F. (2016) Reflecting on a short term International experience: The learning opportunities and challenges. The Australia and New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research (ANZSWWER) symposium 24-26 September 2016.

Spencer, M. (2016) Who decides? Decision-making in older age and the role of emancipatory social work. 2016 Australia-Taiwan Symposium Critical Engagements in Aged Care Symposium National Chengchi University 1-2 December.

Spencer, M. (2012) We are a family IASSID World Congress 2012, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (Vol 56:744). United States: Blackwell Publishers.

Spencer, M. & Sandler, M. (2012) Promoting potential overcoming pessimism IASSID World Congress 2012, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (Vol 56: 745). United States: Blackwell Publishers.

Spencer, M. & Llewellyn, G (2008) Talking with parents – More than a nice thing to do IASSID World Congress Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (Vol 52:720). United States: Blackwell Publishers

Selected grants

2017

  • Intercountry adoption of Taiwanese-born children by Australian families: Perspectives of adoptees, adoptive families, birth families and professionals; Wright A, Chen Y, Van Wichelen S, Spencer M; Office of Global Engagement/Partnership Collaboration Awards.
  • Disability Awareness and Inclusivity (Open Learning Environment - Undergraduate); Bonati M, Spandagou I, Evans D, Little C, Spencer M, Goggin G, Hickey-Moody A, Stancliffe R, Villeneuve M, Wedgwood N, O'Brien P, Gadow F, MacDonald J; DVC Education/Small Educational Innovation Grant.

2016

  • Reflective practices in education and employment: establishing an ongoing conversation (Open Learning Environment - Undergraduate); Waugh F, Ewing R, Baines D, Spencer M; DVC Education/Small Educational Innovation Grant.

Selected publications & creative works

Download citations: PDF RTF Endnote

Book Chapters

  • Spencer, M., Llewellyn, G. (2007). Working things out together: A collaborative approach to supporting parents with intellectual disabilities. In Christine Bigby, Chris Fyffe, Elizabeth Ozanne (Eds.), Planning and Support for People with Intellectual Disabilities: Issues for Case Managers and Other Professionals, (pp. 171-190). United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Journals

  • Collings, S., Spencer, M., Dew, A., Dowse, L. (2018). 'She was there if I needed to talk or to try and get my point across': Specialist advocacy for parents with intellectual disability in the Australian child protection system. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 24(2), 162-181. [More Information]
  • Collings, S., Dew, A., Gordon, T., Spencer, M., Dowse, L. (2018). Intersectional disadvantage: Exploring differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parents with intellectual disability in the New South Wales child protection system. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 12(2), 170-189. [More Information]
  • Spencer, M., Collings, S. (2016). Having choice and control: Parenting with intellectual disability under the NDIS. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 60(7-8), 739.

Conferences

  • Spencer, M., Llewellyn, G. (2005). From observation to conversation: showcasing the Understanding and Planning Support Guide. NSW Family Services 2005 Conference, Homebush Bay: NSW Family Services Inc.
  • Spencer, M., Llewellyn, G. (2005). Understanding and planning support: A collaborative approach to assessing the support needs of parents with intellectual disability. 1st International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities (IASSID) Asia-Pacific Regional Congress 2005, United States: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Spencer, M., McConnell, D., Llewellyn, G. (2005). What works? - Supporting parents with intellectual disability. 1st International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities (IASSID) Asia-Pacific Regional Congress 2005, United States: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Magazine / Newspaper Articles

  • Spencer, M. (2016). Parenting with intellectual disability: what does it take to make it work? Frontline, Issue 104. [More Information]
  • Spencer, M. (2013). Change attitudes, change practices. CW360, Fall. [More Information]

Other

  • Spencer, M. (2016), Submission 111 to the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No.2 Inquiry into Child Protection. [More Information]
  • Spencer, M. (2013), Being a mother behind a mother with intellectual disability. [More Information]

Research Reports

  • Collings, S., Dew, A., Spencer, M., Cooney, E., Gordon, T., Dowse, L. (2017). Supporting parents with intellectual disability in care and protection proceedings: Review report, Sydney, Australia: UNSW. [More Information]

2018

  • Collings, S., Spencer, M., Dew, A., Dowse, L. (2018). 'She was there if I needed to talk or to try and get my point across': Specialist advocacy for parents with intellectual disability in the Australian child protection system. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 24(2), 162-181. [More Information]
  • Collings, S., Dew, A., Gordon, T., Spencer, M., Dowse, L. (2018). Intersectional disadvantage: Exploring differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parents with intellectual disability in the New South Wales child protection system. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 12(2), 170-189. [More Information]

2017

  • Collings, S., Dew, A., Spencer, M., Cooney, E., Gordon, T., Dowse, L. (2017). Supporting parents with intellectual disability in care and protection proceedings: Review report, Sydney, Australia: UNSW. [More Information]

2016

  • Spencer, M., Collings, S. (2016). Having choice and control: Parenting with intellectual disability under the NDIS. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 60(7-8), 739.
  • Spencer, M. (2016). Parenting with intellectual disability: what does it take to make it work? Frontline, Issue 104. [More Information]
  • Spencer, M. (2016), Submission 111 to the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No.2 Inquiry into Child Protection. [More Information]

2013

  • Spencer, M. (2013), Being a mother behind a mother with intellectual disability. [More Information]
  • Spencer, M. (2013). Change attitudes, change practices. CW360, Fall. [More Information]

2007

  • Spencer, M., Llewellyn, G. (2007). Working things out together: A collaborative approach to supporting parents with intellectual disabilities. In Christine Bigby, Chris Fyffe, Elizabeth Ozanne (Eds.), Planning and Support for People with Intellectual Disabilities: Issues for Case Managers and Other Professionals, (pp. 171-190). United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

2005

  • Spencer, M., Llewellyn, G. (2005). From observation to conversation: showcasing the Understanding and Planning Support Guide. NSW Family Services 2005 Conference, Homebush Bay: NSW Family Services Inc.
  • Spencer, M., Llewellyn, G. (2005). Understanding and planning support: A collaborative approach to assessing the support needs of parents with intellectual disability. 1st International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities (IASSID) Asia-Pacific Regional Congress 2005, United States: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Spencer, M., McConnell, D., Llewellyn, G. (2005). What works? - Supporting parents with intellectual disability. 1st International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities (IASSID) Asia-Pacific Regional Congress 2005, United States: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

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