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2015 Institute of Group Leaders' Conference -

Nature and Nurture: The new era for group work

Friday and Saturday, 9-10 October 2015

Wesley Conference Centre - 220 Pitt St, Sydney

Click here for a PDF copy of the Final Conference Outline - 2015 IGL Conference Final Program

Click here for a copy of the workshop and paper sessions - Workshops & Paper Abstracts (Overview)

Click here for an overview of the Keynote Facilitator Sessions

Sponsored by:

The IGL Conference explores the following themes:

  • Building resilience using group work
  • Neurobiological approaches and how they can be applied in group work
  • Trauma informed group work
  • Interpersonal neurobiology and use of group connections
  • Motor-sensory and multi-sensory approaches
  • Mindfulness in group work
  • Empowering people for change.

An emerging field in the study of resilience is the neurobiological basis of trauma.  We are all born with our own unique genetic make-up (nature).  Our early life experiences (nurture) significantly influences how our genetic potential is expressed or not.  We have also come to understand that our brain and mind can learn, unlearn and relearn well past our childhood years.

 The new era for group work requires group leaders who work with vulnerable communities, to utilise the expanding knowledge of neurobiology.  Understanding  and applying knowledge about how the brain develops emotional intelligence and the interplay of the brain’s amygdala, limbic system, epigenetics, pre-frontal cortex  helps us become more proficient in developing a group work environment (nurture) that enhances connection, formation of relationships and learning.

Mindfulness, motor-sensory and multi-sensory approaches as well as the talking therapies can all play a part in developing group work practice that incorporates this knowledge. Group work requires group leaders to respond to the challenges experienced in vulnerable communities. Often this involves focusing on emotional regulation, where brain integration is enhanced (involving our awareness, thoughts and actions) instead of participants reacting in more chaotic ways (flooding of emotion or being over whelmed) or responding with rigidity (shutting down, isolation). This process involves noticing, recognising, modulating and expressing. When people experience trauma there is a change in the brain’s fibres and interconnections. If the brain is not given a task, it adopts a default mode. This leads to differentiated responses when people respond out of habit. When differentiated areas are linked it creates health. If they are not linked they create disorders (Siegel, 2010). Group work promotes the interconnection between people and the linking of these experiences. This allows us to exchange, share information and learn new responses rather than reinforce old habits.  

Day 1 Friday 9th October 2015




Welcome and Acknowledge of Country

9.15am – 10.15am

Keynote Facilitator: Howard Bath - How understanding adversity and trauma transforms the work of group leaders - Click here for an overview of the session


Morning Tea


Keynote Facilitator: Cathy Kezelman AM - Exploring how prior trauma can impact group interactions and dynamics - Click here for an overview of the session



Panel  & Launch of the Groupwork In Australia Book

12.30pm - 1.30pm

Lunch & displays

1.30pm - 3.00pm

Paper Session & Workshops 1,2,3,4


Afternoon tea

3.30pm - 5.00pm

Workshops 5,6,7,8

5.00pm – 6.30pm

Nibbles and networking at the ArtHouse Hotel, 275 Pitt St, Sydney NSW, 2000 (self-purchased drinks)

Day 2 Saturday 10th October 2015

9.00am - 9.15am

Welcome and Acknowledge of Country

9.15am - 10.15am

Keynote Facilitator: Susan Elvery - Working with the many traumas of domestic and family violence - Click here for an overview of the session


Launch of the IGL Endorsed Programs

10.30am -11.00am

Morning Tea

11.00am -12.30pm

Workshops 9,10,11,12

12.30pm –1.30pm

Lunch & displays

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Session – Trevor Armitage


Keynote Facilitator - Jane Caro - Engaging communities - Click here for an overview of the session




IGL consists of group leaders who have met certain standards of competence in group leadership and who wish to sustain and extend their knowledge and skills through membership.

The Institute began in 1982 as a collection of group leaders from mental health and welfare agencies in Sydney with a vested interest in developing quality group leadership. A steering committee of members from the NSW Association for Mental Health, Relationships Australia NSW, Interrelate, Unifam and the NSW Health Department were instrumental in the initial development. Private practitioners and UnitingCare Burnside, and the Community Educator's Network in Taree have also played a significant role in the later years. Registration as a Community Advancement Society was achieved in September 1985.

Today IGL is recognised as the membership accrediting body for group leaders in NSW and ACT. It provides training courses in group leadership and on-going education workshops. For more information about IGL membership or training workshops please contact – Deborah Willis on or 02 65 567 21602 65 567 216 or visit

Group facilitators who lead various groups such as psychoeducational and group counselling group programs in government and community organisations e.g.Community Health Services, Corrective Services Programs, Youth Services, Mental Health, Family Support and Child Protection Programs.Workplace trainers and supervisors who use and wish to further develop group work processes and techniques.

1. Applying Trauma Informed Practice in the Organizational and Community Context – Vaughan Bowie
This keynote will give an overview of the key principles of trauma informed care and services and their application in a variety of group related contexts within teams, organizations and community settings. These will include running staff groups, supervision, in service training and dealing with organizational trauma. It will also explore how trauma informed practice in community development programs can help heal and strengthen traumatized communities.

Vaughan will draw on some current theory and practice as outlined in the Sanctuary Model (Bloom), holding environments (Kahn) and Trauma Stewardship (Lipsky & Burk) as well as his experience in traumatised communities in places such as the Bronx, Belfast, Johannesburg and Western Suburbs of Sydney. Vaughan has had a varied personal and professional life so far including working as a community development worker in Belfast with former paramilitaries and in Western Sydney with the Arabic speaking communities. He also has been shot at by the British Army, trained D & A staff in Johannesburg, lived with modern day Amish in the US and begged in the Boston subway as well as spending time in the Bronx. In between all this he found time to work in the psychiatric services and with homeless and unemployed young people as well as within men’s services. He was a university lecturer for 25 years and now trains and mentors health and community services workers.

2. How understanding adversity and trauma transforms the work of group leaders – Howard Bath

This presentation will review the central propositions of the trauma framework with a view to helping us understand the way that trauma exposure insinuates itself into the developmental processes and complicates social interactions. It will explore the role of adversity and trauma in the development of a range of social, psychological and behavioural problems; the impact of trauma exposure on group participation; and the beneficial and problematic outcomes of adversity in the lives of group leaders. It will go on to explore the three central intervention propositions that lead to healing and growth in both individual therapy and group settings and conclude with a review of recent hopeful findings on promoting resilience.

Howard Bath has been the Children’s Commissioner of the Northern Territory since 2008. In this role he promotes and protects the interests of vulnerable children across the Territory through the monitoring of services and undertaking complaint investigations into child protection, youth justice, mental health, disability and family support services.  Trained as a Clinical Psychologist, he has a long-standing interest in research around the impacts of severe adversity and trauma and developed the training program ‘The Three Pillars of Transforming Care’ which is provided across Australia, in New Zealand and the USA. He has written and presented widely on this and related topics.

3. Engaging Any Audience - Jane Caro, freelance copywriter, lecturer, author and media commentator

Jane Caro is an author, novelist, journalist, broadcaster, columnist, advertising writer and media and social commentator. She has published five books and is currently working on “Just a Queen” a sequel to her earlier work “Just a Girl” to be published in 2015. A regular on the Gruen Transfer she also appears in the media including weekly spots on Weekend Sunrise, and Sunrise. She has created, written, presented and co-produced for ABC Radio. She has also appeared on The Drum, Q&A, The Project, Daily Edition, Mornings on 9, Studio 10 and Today. She writes regular monthly columns for Mt (Management Today) Magazine, and the Sun Herald’s Sunday Life. She is in demand as a speaker, workshop facilitator and MC.

Costs (GST is not applicable)

Option A: Early Bird (extended until 5th June 2015) - Conference registration IGL Member: $320.00 & Non-IGL Members:$380.00

Option B: Full conference registration IGL Members: $370.00 & Non-IGL Members: $430.00

Option C: Student rate (full time student) 1 day cost: $200.00 or 2-days - $310.00

Option D: Day rate: $230.00

To register – click on the conference at the bottom of the webpage or click here. Payments can be made when you register on the internet. All registrations will receive a tax invoice.

Local conference accommodation can be found at

Travel by train to Town Hall Station, Sydney, is highly recommended. Car parking is located close by in the Hilton Hotel, 488 George Street, Sydney. Parking rates may be expensive.

Deborah Willis
The Institute of Group Leaders
02 65 567 21602 65 567 216

Andrew King
0437 546 560