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The 2013 Institute of Group Leaders Conference -

Creating cultures of caring: Achieving diversity and inclusiveness in the practice of group work





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  Was held: Friday, Saturday 13th & 14th September 2013

  Location: Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt St, Sydney  


The focus for this conference was: Creating cultures of caring: Achieving diversity and inclusiveness in the practice of group work. The theme explored new developments in group work programs and the essential role they play in building healthy communities. While the global financial crisis had an impact on governments, countries and businesses, an unspoken impact is being felt in many vulnerable communities. 

A vicious cycle of disadvantage is deepening with 1in6 Australian children now living in poverty compared to the 1980’s where it was 1in8. The current focus of governments in mainstreaming representative bodies does not increase efficiency but reduces the value and attention given to minority experience and leadership. This intensifies the experiences of many people who often feel more marginalised, confused, compounded previous traumas and the feeling that they only ‘half belong’ to the community in which they live.  This results in an underlying and growing anger about many of their life experiences. It is through formal and informal group experiences that many people experience connections to the broader society that become lifelines of opportunity. Group work can be a healing process when done effectively.

It is now being recognised in research, that best practice programs combine new research from neuro-biological approaches (mindfulness) while building relational connections between group members and responding to the broader social issues that impact on group members’ lives. Often family based programs work best when they work simultaneously with the children and parents (either in the same or separate group programs). This conference explores how the above connections are applied to dynamic group work in various target groups and contexts. 

This conference explored:

o Inclusive group work and diversity

o Incorporating difference into our group work

o Group work with people living in vulnerable communities

o Using group work to heal ourselves, our communities and the world

o Creative group work in Corrective Services, other Government Departments and Corporate Organisations

o Environments that improve health, belonging and connection in communities.


* Group facilitators who lead group programs in community organisations, Community Health Services, Corrective Services Programs, Youth Services, Mental Health and Child Protection Programs

* Workplace trainers who use and wish to further develop group work processes and techniques


Dr Ed Jacobs

Ed Jacobs, Ph.D. is a professor in the Counselling, Counselling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Department at West Virginia University, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He currently is serving as the coordinator of the Masters program in Counselling at West Virginia University. Dr. Jacobs has written four books: Impact Therapy, Creative Counselling: An Illustrated Guide,  Group Counselling: Strategies and Skills and Group Counselling in Correctional Settings. He completed his undergraduate and Masters work in Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin and his Doctoral work in Counsellor Education at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Mohamed Dukuly

Mohamed Dukuly is a trainer and facilitator with several years of group work experience with families and individuals from CALD background. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Education and post graduate qualifications in Social Science and Family Mediation. Mohamed is presently pursuing his Master Degree in Social Work.

Pam Cohen

Pam Cohen is a social worker specialising in group work and supervision at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.  She has had many years of experience teaching group work at the University of NSW and across Australia in a variety of tertiary settings. She has presented papers on the application of mutual aid at international conferences and is known for her commitment to and passion for this approach.  She is interested in exploring how this approach enhances our understanding of politics and society.

Workshop or Paper Session Topics

  • Nandila Spry & Dr Cecile de Roux - Evaluating a women’s group program using a Human Resource Development model
  • Rosemary Arias - Early Breast Cancer Information and Support Group
  • Serah Greenberg-Kraft - Integrating Resilience Training and Mindfulness into Group Work Programs
  • Lil Beamish - The Big Picture - Jigsaw Children's Program
  • Janine Robertson - Providing Choice is the Key to meeting diverse needs
  • Toni Hubble, Claudia Stephenson  & Robyn Stowe - Emerging findings from evolving practice:"My changing family and me".
  • Andrew King and Phil York - Facilitating Dads in Distress Peer Support Groups
  • Julie Holt - Groupwork in a Camp/Retreat setting-Opportunity or Chaos?
  • Judith Pemell - Creating a Culture of Care in a System of Fear
  • Susan Elvery and Trevor Armitage - Exploring the Co in Co-leadership'
  • Peter Slattery - Crash bam boom – Groupwork with young people
  • Dr Ed Jacobs - Group work with correctional service clients
  • Heather McAlpine - Do You Wanna Make Up?
  • Andrew King - Developing IGL endorsed group work programs
  • Pam Cohen - Making Mutual Aid happen: How to bring out the potential for helping relationships in your groups
  • Deb McEvoy-Herbert - Parents as Case Coordinators (PaCC)
  • Mohamed Dukuly - Families in Cultural Transition (FICT) program & Group work
  • Matt Garrett, Christina Battle & Janine Bendit - The challenges and opportunities for group practitioners' working with parents of Kids in Care:
  • Dr Ed Jacobs - Tools for change in group work
  • Angharad Candlin & Monique Dickerson - Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, Kind: Keeping Your Hands on the Circle in Group Facilitation
  • Annette Bex  & Tracie Mitchell - The Power of Informal Groups
  • Andrew King - Transformative group work – The what, how and why?


Feedback from IGL Conference 2013

Feedback from the end of course evaluation form

 Course feedback
No. of completed evaluations 47 
Days Attended 1 Days 6 13%
 2 Days 41 87%

How was your experience?  Excellent 26 55%
 Very good 20 43%
 Average 1 2%
 Poor 0 0%

How useful was the event to your work? 1 0 0%
 2 1 2%
Okay 3 1 2%
 4 17 36%
Very useful 5 28 60%

The location of the conference was…? 1 0 0%
 2 0 0%
Okay 3 4 9%
 4 14 30%
Great 5 29 62%

The quality of administration was…? 1 0 0%
 2 0 0%
 3 2 4%
 4 10 21%
 5 35 74%
Key outcomes
 98% of participants thought the workshop was a very good to excellent experience. 
 86% of the participants thought the event was useful to very useful to their work.
 92% of participants reported the location of the course was very good to great. 
 95% of participants who reported the quality of the administration was very good to great.
Qualitative feedback
What topic/issue was most interesting and/or useful for you?
• Dr. Ed Jacobs tools for change in groupwork.
• All topics were interesting.
• Group techniques of engagement and tools.
• Ed Jacobs (and everything!)
• Ed, Pam’s and Mohamed’s talk
• Group work with correctional clients – directly relevant to my day to day work.
• Dr. Ed Jacobs and Mohamed’s talk.
• Ed Jacobs.
• Working with young people.
• Experiential nature/learning.
• The three keynote speakers were all of great interest and blended into each other really well. Mutual aid – building relationship in cultural transition and practical skills for keeping the whole group engaged.
• Pam Cohen – mutual aid and Ed Jacobs – practical.
• It is hard to say. 80% was very useful to me.
• Dr. Ed Jacobs – Groupwork with correctional service clients.
• Mutual aid.
• All of Ed Jacobs – So practical.
• Ed Jacobs.
• All sessions were useful – especially Dr. Ed tools and props.
• Impact theory, importance of mutual aid, skills around mutual aid.
• Ed Jacobs was very engaging and practical.
• Jigsaw/Ed Jacobs/ Mutual aid and campfire.
• All had a great balance of theory and hands on practical ideas and interventions.
• Ed Jacobs on engagement.
• Ed Jacobs.
• Ed Jacobs – useful techniques, strategies to use in groups. Also mutual aid/support in groups.
• Both of Ed Jacobs presentations – excellent practical strategies and skills to utilize in own work setting – incredibly valuable.
• The practical skills demonstrated e.g. use of $1 bill, cross cultural aspect in group, Mohamed’s presentation, multi-sensory styles (Ed Jacobs).
• Tools for change.
• Mutual aid.
• The use of energy/ focus and props to stimulate and engage the group, alongside the reinforcement and context given for the benefit of mutual aid.
• Practical exercises/tools/ideas.
• Mutual aid.
• Dr Jacobs – Did not get opportunity to attend workshops.
• Impact counseling and groupwork.
• Creating a culture of care in a system of fear.
• Ed Jacobs.
• Big picture thinking i.e. mutual aid practical experiences and tools.
• All of Ed Jacobs stuff.
• Mutual aid and impact stuff.
• Heather’s workshop followed by Ed’s presentations.
• Ed Jacob’s bag of tricks.
• Dr. Ed’s workshops.
• Group work presentations by Dr. Ed.
• Sorry, can’t pick just one! All excellent!
• Informal groups.

What topic/issue was least interesting and/or useful for you?
• Impact group session.
• Nil.
• Anything to do with kids (don’t work with them).
• Paper sessions 1 – I found it difficult to relate or to find something significant to take away.
• Co-facilitation (least interesting but most important) and parenting group –
• Mindfulness paper.
• Transformative group work - the what, how and why.
• Each presentation and workshop was interesting and useful.
• Co in co-facilitation.
• None, absorbed all I could do during 2 days. It was great.
• Co-leading I found the content good, however I found the facilitation of it somewhat lacking in enthusiasm of facilitators. Could have been significantly more interesting (this was pertinent for first 45 minutes of the workshop).
• Co-leading – not energised enough in presentation of some.
• xxxx talk.
• xxxx presentation on IDT didn’t really answer my questions or teach me a lot about the approach.
• xxxxxx workshop.
• They were all interesting but some practical skills (more of them) in the workshops would be good.
• Nothing.
• None really.
• Exploring the co in co-leadership.
• Ed Jacobs corrective services workshop.
• Support group info.
• Children’s group because I don’t work in children.
• None.
• None really, the program was ‘packed’ and it was difficult to choose which workshop to attend.
• None.
• Everything was interesting.
• DIDSS – not directly relevant to my work.
• Do you want to make-up (still great though!)
• IDT workshop
• N/A

What impact will this Conference have on your life/work?
• I will be able to introduce new ideas.
• Motivating – Ready to implement!
• Keep me motivated to work with groups.
• Inspiring, useful practical ways of engaging. Has refreshed my enthusiasm and motivation.
• It will extend to my work.
• Just good to see-hear- be part of group.
• Reinforced and renewed my passion for group work, to take back my workplace and to continue pushing for quality group work.
• It will improve some group work outcomes and have better impact.
• This conference gave valuable information on group work that I can apply to with work and life.
• Often working in isolation, the IGL conference gives me a sense of belonging and motivation to continue. What a band of extraordinary people!
• Skills I will take to group facilitation and share with colleagues.
• Mohamed’s comment about war and lack of positive relationships between people and society, his birth country has had a significant personal impact. It motivates and validates the effort involved in building and maintaining relationships.
• The diversity of participation and value of input helps me to see application in varying contexts – including my local community, practice and world view.
• I’ll share impact theory with my colleagues, propose our group work to be recognized by IGL, facilitate a workshop for volunteers.
• An introduction to new techniques that I will definitely use.
• It was/is an affirming experience for me.
• Increase confidence in use of tools and techniques.
• Huge.
• I’m going away with more knowledge, enriched personal connections and strategies to use with participants.
• Encouragement and new energy and thoughts, value of group work. +++
• New ideas and concepts which can be introduced.
• Presented ideas, time for reflection.
• Have use for the ideas both now and in the long term.
• Fuelled my passion for group work.
• Utilise more of Ed’s tools and teach them more supervisees.
• Increased reflection of my work. Will seek more knowledge about groups rather than stagnating into a comfortable style and practice new techniques to encourage participation of group members.
• Certainly self-reflection has been a huge part of the 2 days and will be something that I constantly aim to utilize. The practical skills of Ed Jacobs workshop will certainly form part of my own workshops.
• It was great for networking and gaining information about group work. I have met a lot of great and helpful people and opening up job career opportunities.
• Work with clients/families with more tools, greater empathy.
• Lots of practical things that I can apply in the group.
• I shall actively use some of the tools/ideas I have learned.
• I am interested to further my reading on mutual aid.
• New ideas.
• Very practiced and hands-on.
• Was surprised at the depth of feeling that I felt, this sense of ‘value’ will be taken into all areas of work and life.
• Increased motivation – new skills.
• Trying new things, risk taking.
• New professional networks, reinforcement and learning new group work strategies and theories.
• Change the way I view opening groups.
• Definitely increased tool kit. Greater awareness of the value of my leadership. Huge awareness of mutual aid.
• Very significant…understanding of change for myself, for clients, specific tools and guidelines for groups.
• Lots of new ideas to implement in groups and in philosophical approach.
• Will use in work place.
• Really motivational and invigorating.
• I’ve made some excellent connections (and new friendships) and will be seeking grants/funding to bring those to the NT for training/workshops.

How can IGL further assist to support your work as a group leader?
• While a lot of the practicalities don’t actually apply to my work as educator, I can apply theories to my work and will feed back a lot to my organization.
• Further training.
• Continuing provision of resources – especially training days, workshop with content accessible to people new to it, group leadership.
• Continue to bring good quality workshops to all.
• Very practical training.
• N/A
• Will join up.
• Offer workshops throughout the year that offer more than ‘education’. Our souls need to be fed as well.
• Format of the program in terms of instructing to use (.e.g. choice for workshops, paper presentation timing)
• Will consider memberships and will continue to look of the training that is offered by IGL.
• Invite us to the next conference.
• The availability of resources on the website is certainly valuable. Please keep refreshing and offer new resources. Thank-you.
• Keep having conferences and workshops.
• There’s lots training for group facilitators but I’d like something for those of us who train/supervise group leaders.
• Training – glad to see the 3 and 6 day training is being offered.
• Connection with other energetic, forward thinking, committed group workers.
• The source of expertise and connections for organizational growth.
• Keep conferences and IGL workshops going.
• Further up skilling with large practical component.
• Remain doing its work – training, workshops, topical, conference, network of group leaders and support for group leaders/workers.
• Just keep on keeping me informed of best practice.
• I’ll contact you to go to the endorsement process.
• Continue to provide these quality experiences, including workshops on supervision.
• Keep of the group work!
• Updates – bringing in experts like Dr. Ed Jacobs.
• Reflective practice and process group work training.
• More conferences.
• Offering more mesmerizing workshops. I would like to have more workshops about psychodrama in groups.
• Ongoing training and conferences.
















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