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International child expert is 2014 Thinker in Residence

WA parents and professionals have the opportunity to hear from International child resilience expert Michael Ungar when he returns to Perth from 19 to 30 May as the 2014 Thinker in Residence for the Commissioner for Children and Young People.

During his two-week residency Dr Ungar will work with management and staff from government and non-government organisations offering new perspectives on establishing a community-wide approach to building resilience in children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable and have complex needs.

Dr Ungar will hold four public forums, including one specially designed to help parents build a greater understanding of resilience and outline resilience-building strategies that have been shown to be effective in a home and family environment.

The parents’ forum will be held on the evening of Monday 26 May at John Curtin College of Performing Arts – further information and booking links are available from       

Dr Ungar will also travel to Kalgoorlie with Acting Commissioner Jenni Perkins and meet Aboriginal Elders, community members, young people and parents.

Ms Perkins said the residency will generate discussion about the latest research concerning resilience and how this information can be used to inform policies and practices of a broad range of community and government services, such as child protection, education, mental health, health and local government.

“Dr Ungar will provide a strong focus on what we can do across the community to better support vulnerable children and young people, while also speaking about how the ‘overprotection’ of children can be detrimental to their wellbeing.

“The residency is an opportunity to hear about best practice programs and services in both of these areas from around the world.”

Dr Ungar is a Killam Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada. He is currently the Network Director of the Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts Network and Co-Chair of the Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee. He is also the founder and Co-Director of the Resilience Research Centre (RRC).

Widely published on the topic of resilience in young people, Dr Ungar also conducts a family therapy practice in association with Phoenix Youth Programs, a prevention program for street youth and their families.

During a two-day visit to Perth in October 2013, his presentations to parents and professionals generated great enthusiasm for more in-depth information about ways to expose children to age-appropriate risk to help them develop the confidence to cope with challenges.

Dr Ungar takes a strengths-focused approach to healing and building resilience in children and young people from disadvantaged and challenging backgrounds, drawing on support from friends, family and the wider community to help foster self-identity, control and responsibility.

To build the skills to navigate their way through challenges and adversity and overcome risky and troubling behaviours all young people need structure, consequences, good relationships with parents, and to feel they belong and are treated fairly, Dr Ungar maintains.

This will be the third Thinker in Residence undertaken by the Commissioner and a number of government and non-government agencies are supporting the project, including Rio Tinto, Edith Cowan University, the Departments for Local Government and Communities, Child Protection and Family Support, Education, and Health, the Mental Health Commission, WACOSS, the Telethon Kids Institute and Child Australia.

For more information: