Cat Conatus

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Research and evaluation overview

John is currently working with the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education as the Principal Researcher for Education and Training. He continues to work with organisations to support research and evaluation in a variety of fields including education, training, and family, children and youth services.

Recent consultancy projects include

Palmerston State of Children and Youth Report (2016)

Grow Well Live Well is a coalition of organisations working in Palmerston, Northern Territory. The member organisations are working towards a collective impact strategy designed to effect positive change for the community. Cat Conatus was contracted to prepare a report that captured statistics and reflected the views of community members in consultations. The report will be available here.

Service evaluation framework for Aspire-A Pathway to Mental Health Inc. (2011-2012)

Aspire, A Pathway to Mental Health Inc. is a non government community based agency which provides non clinical services in the mental health sector in Southwest Victoria and across Tasmania. The organisation is predominantly funded by the state governments of Tasmania and Victoria. As part of its aim to improve service delivery and outcomes for service users the organisation has commissioned Cat Conatus to provide consultancy services in order to develop an evaluation framework; pilot the implementation of the framework; and conduct a 12 month evaluation. Cat Conatus partnered with Wearne Advisors for this evaluation.

Review of Teacher Accommodation in north west Tasmania (2010-2011)

The Department of Education contracted Cat Conatus to conduct a review of teacher accommodation in north west Tasmania. The review covered 75 residences in the region that are attached to 12 schools, mainly in rural and remote areas of Circular Head, King Island and west coast towns. The review considered tenancy, quality, cost and maintenance issues. Cat Conatus worked with Cradle Coast Valuers on the review finalised a report back to the Department in February 2011. The report was available for download from the Department of Education website. Please ask for more details if needed.

Evaluation of the Cognitive Coaching Program for the Tasmanian Principals Association north-west Tasmania (2010)

For the past four years the Tasmanian Principals Association has sponsored training for Principals and senior staff in north-west Tasmanian schools in Cognitive Coaching. Cognitive Coaching is a supervisory/peer coaching model that capitalises on and enhances cognitive processes. The evaluation is designed around qualitative methods, which are find out more about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ of the program. A series of 25 semi-structured interviews with public primary and high school principals will identify the qualitative outcomes of the program and factors that contribute to its impact. The evaluation was completed in December 2010.

Evaluation of the Northern Territory Families and Children Targeted Family Support Service (2010-2012)

Following on from the evaluation of the NT Differential Response Framework (see below), NTFC has rolled out the model across the Northern Territory with services offered through Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs, Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service, in Katherine and Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation based in Darwin. Charles Darwin University’s Social Partnerships in Learning (SPiL) consortium has been contracted to conduct and evaluation of the TFSS across the Northern Territory. The evaluation will run from mid-2010 to mid-2012. Cat Conatus is supporting the evaluation with project management, data collection, analysis and reporting services.

Evaluation of the Burnie Communities for Children Program (2010-2012)

Burnie's Communities for Children program, auspiced by Centacare Tasmania and funded by the Australian Government's Department of Families, Communities, Housing and Indigenous Affairs, has engaged Cat Conatus to provide local evaluation services for the program until 2012. The program includes a range of activities designed to support vulnerable families (with children up to 12 years of age) in the Burnie area. Cat Conatus is supporting community partners with the development of evaluation tools, data collection and ongoing evaluation support throughout this funding cycle. Download a paper on the social circus activity evaluation.

Evaluation of Centacare's (NW Tasmania) Weathering Family Separation Program (2010-2012)

The Weathering Family Separation Program, conducted by Centacare (North-west Tasmania) is designed to support separated parents with unresolved conflict to focus intentionally on the needs of their children and work towards more constructive ways of dealing with conflict. The evaluation of the program is designed to assess how well the program works to achieve its objectives. It includes a longitudinal component to determine what the long term impact of the program is on families that have been involved. Cat Conatus was contracted to design evaluation tools and conduct the evaluation.

Evaluation of TrainingPlus (2009-2010)

TrainingPlus is an initiative of the Desert People's Centre, based in Alice Springs. It is a program that provides unemployed Indigenous people with support, training, work experience and employment in the building and construction and renewable energy industries. Participants have a tailored training and employment pathway plan developed and participate in a range of training courses suited to their needs and personal development goals. Cat Conatus is conducting an evaluation of the program, which is designed to provide insights into the strategies and approaches that are effective in supporting Indigenous people achieve their personal and employment goals. The project was completed in March 2010. A paper presented at the 2010 AVETRA conference is available for download.

Evaluation of Akeyulerre Healing Centre (2009-2010)

Akeyulerre, based in Alice Springs, is a traditional healing place for Arrernte people. It recognises the importance of traditional healers and medicines and supports cultural maintenance of local Arrernte families. An evaluation of the 'service' was funded by the NT Department of Health and Families (DHF) and will provide a range of learnings for both the Akeyulerre Committee and DHF. Cat Conatus is joining with CDU's Social Partnerships in Learning Consortium and members of the Tangentyere Research Group to conduct the evaluation. The project was completed in March 2010. A paper based on the work of TRG and CDU was presented to the AUCEA conference in Launceston, July 2010. A literature review on traditional healing is also available. The evaluation report is available from the Akeyulerre website.

Development of an evaluation framework for NTCS rehabilitation services that address sexual offending (2009)

The development of a new model to address sexual offenders within Northern Territory Correctional Services (NTCS) requires preliminary work to ensure that outcomes and processes can be evaluated, reported upon and responded to in a timely manner.   An evaluation framework including a data base and data collection tools will support the service to attain quality assurance standards and meet accountability expectations. Cat Conatus has been contracted to develop the database, tools and the evaluation framework as well as conduct program logic workshops with relevant staff.

Evaluation of Department of Education Flexible Provision Program, North West Tasmania (2009)

The Flexible Provision Program (NW) was established in 2005 and identified the target group as young people who had become disengaged from the school system and who were at high risk due to social factors as well as high needs for literacy and numeracy support. Cat Conatus is conducting an evaluation of the program to review the activities and assess the outcomes and processes of the program with a view to making recommendations relating to the formative development of flexible provision within the region.

Evaluation of Nungalinya College Bilingual Family and Community Studies Project (2009)

Nungalinya College (based in Darwin) has for a number of years run a training program for Yolngu people to support their understanding of mainstream culture through a process of interpreting and teaching in Yolngu language and world view. The funding body, Caritas Australia, has asked for an evaluation to assess how the program has worked, to consider aspects of the program delivery, and to determine from a Yolngu perspective, how the learnings from the courses offered, are applied in communities. A paper was presented on this project at the 13th Annual AVETRA Conference, in April 2010.

Development and trial of evaluation tools for FAST remote Northern Territory sites (2008-2011)

FAST (Families And Schools Together) is an eight-week, early intervention/prevention program, designed to strengthen family functioning and so build protective factors in children. The model has a built-in evaluation component based on a set of pre- and post- surveys designed to assess participant, school and coordinator perceptions. However in most remote NT communities, Indigenous people speak English as a second, third or fourth language and the cultural norms and worldview is quite different to mainstream sites where the program is often run. The program staff have recognised the weakness of the usual tools and have contracted Cat Conatus to develop an alternative set of tools for use in remote sites. The tools are being trialled and tested ready for use in 2009. 'Measuring the unmeasurable' seminar presentation, NARU, 8 October 2009. See also a paper presented to the APCCAN conference in Perth, 2009. Further development of tools is underway.

Evaluation of 'Parents and Learning' (PaL) (2008)

The PaL Program is an initiative of the Napranum Preschool PaL Group Ltd (NPPG) which employs a Program Manager and other staff and is overseen by a Board. The major stakeholders in the PaL project, Rio Tinto and NPPG, have contracted Desert Knowledge CRC to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the PaL program using the Napranum community as a case study. Cat Conatus is working with Regional & Remote Consulting (WA) to conduct the evaluation and write an evaluation report.

Evaluation of 'Safe from the Start' (2008)

Safe from the Start is a project run by The Salvation Army (Tasmania) which has obtained funding from the Commonwealth Government’s Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Initiative. There are two parts to the project. Part one looks at resources designed to assist parents, children’s workers and play group leaders to work with young children aged 0-6 exposed to domestic violence. Part two involves creating a training course for children’s workers on the effects of domestic violence on young children, and on the use of the resources found to be effective from part one. The evaluation was conducted by The University Department of Rural Health, University of Tasmania. Cat Conatus is working in partnership with the UDRH.

Evaluation of a Northern Territory Differential Response Pilot project (2008-2009)

The introduction of a Differential Response Framework (DRF) is one of a number of important reforms to the child protection system in the Northern Territory (NT). The aim of the DRF is to enable a more flexible response to protective and broader child welfare concerns by engaging and facilitating greater inter-agency collaboration and supports for vulnerable children and their families. Cat Conatus is partnering with CDU to conduct a formative evaluation of a trial based in Alice Springs.

Centacare (NW Tas) Survey of clients and organisations (2008)

Centacare Tasmania manages a number of social support and employment services across north-west Tasmania. The organisation works with up to 100 clients and up to 50 different organisations at any given time. Cat Conatus was contracted to develop and conduct a survey to offer a strategy for determining how clients—past and present—and other organisations it works with, view Centacare as an organisation in north-west Tasmania. 40 clients and 15 organisations were interviewed. A final report with findings and recommendations was given to Centacare in June 2008.

ARACY projects: Partnerships and collaboration (2006-2007)

Cat Conatus has partnered with the University of Tasmania's University Department of Rural Health to prepare two research papers based on Communities for Children projects. The first, 'Supporting and Capacity Building for Our Partners' discussed how the CfC Facilitating Partner model supports capacity building. The second, 'Promoting successful collaboration in the CfC context' discusses how collaboration works in the CfC model. Slide shows and audio files of the Webinar presentations are available from the ARACY web site. Download the Promoting Successful Collaboration paper. Download the Supporting and Capacity Building for our Partners paper.

Generalisability from qualitative research (2006-2007)

Over the years much of the work my colleagues and I have been doing has been based around either qualitative research or mixed methods approaches. We are often challenged about the generalisability of findings because--so we are told--this is the domain of quantitative research methods. My own PhD was challenged on this basis. So can you generalise from qualitative research and if so on what basis? Ian Falk and I have prepared two conference papers on this topic. We would welcome any feedback or comment. Download the 2006 NCVER 'No Frills' Conference paper. Download the 2007 AVETRA Conference paper. The latter paper won 'paper of the year' at the conference.

Evaluation of NT 'bilateral' Domestic and Family Violence initiatives (2006-2008)

The Northern Territory Government is trialling several innovative interventions in various locations and contexts of the Territory. Cat Conatus is partnering with CDU to conduct evaluations of a suite of these projects which are jointly funded by the NT Government and the Australian Government. More details on request. Download a conference paper (pages 157-165) presented at the AUCEA 2007 conference. Download a conference paper presented at the AES 2007 conference. These papers deal with methodological issues related to the project. Download a seminar paper on the role of evaluators in remote contexts. Download a seminar paper that focuses on data collection issues that have emerged.

Role of VET in 'Welfare to Work' (2006-2007)

This project managed by CDU, funded by NCVER, is designed to address the question of how vocational learning can meet client (people with disabilities, mature aged people and parents returning to work) needs in their transition from welfare to work. The research involves six 'intervention cases' in different jurisdictions around Australia--three with a focus on clients, three with a focus on providers. Project documents are available on the NCVER web site. Download the AVETRA 2007 paper presented on this topic. Download an additional paper that shows how these findings play out in a Tasmanian context.

Central Coast Council Communication Survey (2006)

Cat Conatus was contracted to find out how effective a strategic part of the Central Coast Council's communication strategy was working. A telephone survey of 200 Central Coast Municipality residents was conducted. The resulting database and report of findings were provided to Council for consideration as part of a review of its communication strategy.

Communities for Children and Invest To Grow evaluations (2005-2008)

Cat Conatus is partnering with Charles Darwin University's Learning Research Group and University of Tasmania's Department of Rural Health to conduct a number of Communities for Children (CfC) and Invest To Grow (ITG) evaluations in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. These programs include an ITG program being developed by the NPY Women's Council (Alice Springs) and CfC projects coordinated by the Salvation Army (Hobart), Centacare (Burnie), Red Cross (Palmerston and Tiwi Islands) and Anglicare (East Arnhem). Further details are available on request. Download a paper about DIDG Childcare, one of the Red Cross Community Partner Programs.

Evaluation of NT Government's Family and Domestic Violence Strategy (2005-2006)

Cat Conatus was a partner with a team from CDU's Learning Research Group (now Social Partnerships in Learning consortium) in an evaluation of the NT Government's whole of government approach to family and domestic violence across the Territory. The evaluation involved capturing the views of a range of stakeholders from government and non-government agencies. Download a paper and a journal article that discusses the processes used in the evaluation.

Evaluation of Learnline at CDU (2005-2006)

Learnline is Charles Darwin University's online learning management system. Cat Conatus was contracted to conduct an evaluation of staff perceptions and a literature review on issues around quality of web-based learning and what influences staff to use or not use web-based resources. 80 staff from all locations and faculties were involved in surveys and focus groups. The report will be available from the CDU Learnline site some time after November 2005. A second survey of student perceptions is being conducted in October 2006.

VET/ACE connections in northern Australia (2005-2006)

This project conducted by CDU and funded by NCVER considers the connections between the formal 'VET' sector and the less formal 'ACE' (adult and community education) sector to determine the impact of the partnerships formed between the two sectors on community capacity. The three sites include Central Australia, Kakadu and the Bowen Basin. Cat Conatus is managing the Bowen Basin site and providing additional support throughout the project. AVETRA 2006 paper on this project available for download. Download the full report from NCVER.

Professional Learning Communities (2005)

As part of its Building Better Schools policy, NT DEET have allocated funds to the establishment of 'Professional Learning Communities'. In support of this, CDU has funded its Learning Research Group to conduct a pilot study to investigate 'what works' for teachers undertaking professional development. John Guenther of Cat Conatus has been engaged to assist with the pilot, interviewing staff from two schools in the Darwin region and preparing a 'findings' paper, which will be published on completion of the research. AVETRA 2006 paper on this project available for download.

Oakleigh House Redevelopment Project (2005)

Oakleigh House is a crisis accommodation facility managed by the Salvation Army in Tasmania. Cat Conatus was contracted to conduct a consultancy for The Salvation Army to a) develop protocols for Oakleigh House in relation to mental health services, b) develop tenancy policies and procedures, and c) develop a skills-based activity program for Oakleigh and its clients. The project was conducted between April and October 2005. Further details available on request.

Evaluation of the Information Technology Training Project (2005)

The Office of Post-Compulsory Education and Training contracted Cat Conatus to conduct an evaluation of the DEST funded ITT Project involving six IT skills programs in Tasmania. This summative evaluation involved gathering data from reports and stakeholders to consider the outcomes against the stated objectives of each program. The project was conducted during May and June 2005.

Growing the desert (2004-2006)

This project, conducted in conjunction with the Desert Knowledge CRC, Charles Darwin University and the Centre for Appropriate Technology researches: the extent to which Indigenous VET students progress from enabling courses to Certificate and higher level courses and onto work, and how these progressions can be improved; the impact of CDEP on early school leaving of young Indigenous students; and the barriers that hinder or prevent students from accessing education and training options that enable them to progress to higher educational levels and/or employment, including how these barriers may be overcome. Download a flyer. Download the Stage One Report from the Desert Knowledge CRC web site. This is a DK-CRC NCVER funded project. Download the AVETRA 2007 Conference paper on this topic. Download the NCVER publication related to this project. Download an AVETRA 2013 Conference paper on a follow-up analysis of 2011 Census data.

Pathways to employment and training for the employment disadvantaged (2004)

This project, in conjunction with Charles Darwin University was commissioned by NTCOSS (funded by NT DEET) to consider options that might be used in the Northern Territory to improve employment and training opportunities for mature aged, long term unemployed, people from a non-English speaking background and youth. Cat Conatus provided support in the form of interviewing/focus groups and the preparation of nine profiles of employment disadvantaged groups in the Northern Territory. Report is available for download from the NT DEET web site.

Review of trends in religious affiliation in Tasmania: 1986-2001 (2004)

The paper reviews trends in religious affiliation in Tasmania using ABS Census data from 1986 to 2001. It tests propositions that suggest that not only is organised religion in decline but that there is a trend toward a spirituality that does not align with mainstream denominations. It considers factors that contribute to changes as well as regional differences and concludes that the statistics do support a view that with a few exceptions mainstream religion is in decline and, subject to regional variations, that there is a switch to religious affiliation apart from traditional organised religious groups. Download here.


Contact information:

Dr John Guenther

mail: PO Box 2363, Parap, NT 0804

office: 32/3 Brewery Place, Woolner. NT.

mobile: 0412 125 661

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