This website is an outcome of the Creating Better Futures research project. It was funded by the Australian Research Council, Project Number DE150100365, between 2015 and 2017. It was led by Nick Hopwood as Chief Investigator, and Teena Clerke was the Research Associate. Belinda Gottschalk and Anne Nguyen contributed to analysis as doctoral student interns.

If you have any questions about the research please get in touch with us.

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We studied diverse services for parents with young children, aiming to identify:

1.  The most effective practices for bringing about lasting positive change for families

2.  Aspects of parenting support services that enable and constrain impactful practices.

This website is the outcome of the work we did to meet these aims.

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The study involved a combination of observing parenting support liveas it happened, and talking to parents, volunteers and practitioners. In total 101 parents, 61 professionals and 13 volunteers participated. Over three phases, we conducted 130 interviews and 71 observations. More than 100 parents and more than 70 helpers participated in the study.

Data collection was  spread across eleven kinds of parenting support services including parenting groups, day stay services, child and family centres, four different approaches to home visiting, a toddler clinic, peer support groups, supported play groups, and a wellbeing service.

Phase 1 (2015) was based in NSW and involved shadowing professionals as they worked with families. This allowed us to do a deep dive into partnership practice.

Again in NSW, Phase 2 (2016) involved tracking the relationship between professionals and families over several months. This allowed us to trace long-term outcomes for families and how they come about. We did this through a sequence of interviews with professionals and parents.

In Phase 3 (2017) we collected data in NSW, Tasmania and South Australia. We used one-off interviews to elicit stories of positive change. We spread fieldwork over a wide range of services, including those involving volunteers.

The study involved 11 different kinds of parent support services, from New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. Click here for details of our project partners.

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Our Unique Approach

What made this study different was its focus on learning. We wanted to understand impactful partnership in terms of reciprocal learning – what parents and helpers learn together and how this learning happens. We paid close attention to different kinds of knowledge and expertise that are used by helpers and families to find ways forward. This complements other ways of understanding effective practice such as those focusing on communication or therapy.

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By partnership we mean respectful, purposeful relationships between families and those helping them. Our findings reveal important things about how to achieve impactful partnership. Click here for more information about how we think about impactful partnership.

Many of the services we studied were using the Family Partnership Model (FPM) as a basis for their work ( The practice questions presented in this handbook complement the FPM, but are not restricted to practices that explicitly use this model.

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It is important to respect the privacy of parents and helpers who participated with us. We never use their real names, and we have permission from everyone whose picture we use.

Ethics approval was granted by South Western Sydney Local Health District Research and Ethics Office (Reference HREC/15/LPOOL/77) and ratified by the University of Technology Sydney Human Research Ethics Expedited Review Committee (Reference 2015000284). Site Specific Authorisations were granted for all research conducted in sites under the auspices of public health services. Fieldwork in Tasmania was approved by the Deparment of Education's Educational Performance Research Committee (File 2016-35).

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In the media

A full account of the project, month by month is available here.

The project had a good presence in the media.

Nick wrote a piece for The Conversation that summarises how parenting and issues of social justice, disadvantage, inequality and resilience are linked. These important concerns of the project are also discussed in the Australian Association for Research in Education blog, EduResearch Matters.

The project has been featured in the Sydney Morning Herald, and in Brink. The same article also appeared in the Brisbane Times and Medical Express. It was also covered in ‘Education Research Insights’ (the UTS School of Education newsletter).

In November 2017 Nick was interviewed on ABC Hobart radio about the Tasmanian part of the study. You can hear the interview here.

Things we’ve learned from this project have been included in a Podcast series called ‘Where Parents Fear to Tread’ by Rebecca Huntley on Kinderling Radio (which recently won best digital radio station in Australia). In Episode 1 there’s a segment where Nick talks about why resilience is important, and things we’ve seen effective services doing to support parents (from about 11:45 onwards, but the whole episode is well worth a listen!).  In Episode 3, Nick talks about parents’ decisions relating to kids’ screen time and the importance of their own self-care (from 14:30 onwards) and in Episode 4 Nick talks about decisions relating to children starting school (from about 7:10 onwards).

Nick was also quoted in this Sydney Morning Herald article about support for parents who are struggling. His comments were based on findings from this project.

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If you would like a copy of any of the publications below, please email Nick or fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Note, publications marked * are based on data from a previous study of Karitane's Residential service, but the analysis and conceptual work were completed as part of the Creating Better Futures study.

Hopwood N (2018) Creating better futures: Report on Tasmania’s Child and Family Centres. Sydney: UTS. Available for download; also published through the Tasmanian Government website.

Hopwood N (in press) Transforming trajectories for disadvantaged young children: lessons from Tasmania’s Child and Family Centres. In B Shelly, K te Riele & N Brown (eds) Harnessing the transformative power of education. Leiden: Brill.

Hopwood, N., & Clerke, T. (forthcoming). Common knowledge between mothers and children in problematic transitions: How professionals make children’s motives available as a resource In M. Hedegaard & C. Edwards-Groves (Eds.), Support for children, young people and their carers in difficult transitions: working in the zone of social concern. London: Bloomsbury.

Hopwood, N. (forthcoming). Motives and demands in parenting young children: A cultural-historical account of productive entanglement in early intervention services. In A. Edwards, M. Fleer, & L. Bøttcher (Eds.), Cultural-historical approaches to studying learning and development: Societal, institutional and personal perspectives. Dordrecht: Springer.

Hopwood N & Nerland M (2018) Epistemic practices in professional-client partnership work. Vocations and Learning. doi: 10.1007/s12186-018-9214-2    free online view H&N

Hopwood, N., Clerke, T., & Nguyen, A. (2018). A pedagogical framework for facilitating parents’ learning in nurse-parent partnership. Nursing Inquiry 25(2), e12220doi:10.1111/nin.12220

Clerke, T., Hopwood, N., Chavasse, F., Fowler, C., Lee, S., & Rogers, J. (2017). Using professional expertise in partnership with families: a new model of capacity-building. Journal of Child Health Care, 21(1), 74-84. doi:10.1177/1367493516686202

Hopwood, N., & Edwards, A. (2017). How common knowledge is constructed and why it matters in collaboration between professionals and clients. International Journal of Educational Research, 83, 107-119. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2017.02.007

Hopwood, N. (2017). Practice, the body and pedagogy: attuning as a basis for pedagogies of the unknown. In P. Grootenboer, C. Edwards-Groves, & S. Choy (Eds.), Practice theory perspectives on education and pedagogy: praxis, diversity and contestation (pp. 87-106). Dordrecht: Springer.

Hopwood, N., & Gottschalk, B. (2017). Double stimulation “in the wild”: Services for families with children at risk. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 13, 23-37. doi:10.1016/j.lcsi.2017.01.003

*Hopwood, N. (2017). Agency, learning and knowledge work: epistemic dilemmas in professional practices. In M. Goller & S. Paloniemi (Eds.), Agency at work: an agentic perspective on professional learning and development (pp. 121-140). Dordrecht: Springer.

*Hopwood, N. (2017). Expertise, learning, and agency in partnership practices in services for families with young children. In A. Edwards (Ed.), Working relationally in and across practices: cultural-historical approaches to collaboration (pp. 25-42). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

*Reich, A., Rooney, D., & Hopwood, N. (2017). Sociomaterial perspectives on work and learning: sites of emergent learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 29(7/8), 566-576. doi:10.1108/JWL-05-2016-0034

Hopwood, N., & Clerke, T. (2016). Professional pedagogies of parenting that build resilience through partnership with families at risk: a cultural-historical approach. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 24(4), 599-615. doi:10.1080/14681366.2016.1197299

*Hopwood, N., Day, C., & Edwards, A. (2016). Partnership practice as collaborative knowledge work: overcoming common dilemmas through an augmented view of professional expertise. Journal of Children's Services, 11(2), 111-123. doi:10.1108/JCS-08-2015-0027

*Hopwood, N. (2016). Professional practice and learning: times, spaces, bodies, things. Dordrecht: Springer.

*Hopwood, N. (2015). Understanding partnership practice in primary health as pedagogic work: what can Vygotsky’s theory of learning offer? Australian Journal of Primary Health, 21(1), 9-13. doi:10.1071/PY12141


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