2017 Institute of Group Leaders' Conference

Compassion - Communication - Connection - Capturing learning: Challenges in a Changing World

Thursday and Friday, 12-13 October 2017

Wesley Conference Centre - 220 Pitt St, Sydney

IGL expresses appreciation to its Gold Sponsor…



The 2017 Institute of Group Leaders Conference... Compassion - Communication - Connection - Capturing learning: Challenges in a Changing World successfully occurred again as a pinnacle event for group leadership in Australia.

Relationships Australia NSW was a gold sponsor for this year’s conference. Group work enables people to name and normalise their lived experience. It breaks open the stagnant hardened shells of their present perspective, revealing ambiguity and opening up fresh ideas and options for exploration. Asking a question leads to a strategy for action that is a powerful contribution to resolving any problem. Asking questions and listening for the strategies and ideas embedded in people's own answers can be the greatest service a social change worker can provide.

A very big thank you to RA as the sponsor, all the organisers, IGL Board, keynote facilitators and those people who presented papers or workshops.

The first keynote presenter was Peter Slattery. What is bravery? Courage is you need to work with and is required. Bravery often looks like courage but is often silly or stupid. Hugh Crago provided another session that explored From story-telling to authentic dialogue in group work. He said that the here-and-now dialogue between participants is in the long term more growthful than simply responding to storytelling. Such dialogue is not for everyone, and many participants may not be ready for the level of vulnerability that here-and-now work requires. However, once participants have achieved a sufficient level of safety and trust in one another and the process, authentic dialogue is deeply rewarding, and in my experience results in real and lasting changes that are evident both in the group itself, and in outside-group relationships.

The next day, Dr Neil Hall facilitated a session that explored Embracing the discomfort and messiness of group facilitation. This session explored concepts of discomfort and messiness in terms of what they mean for participants, facilitators and auspicing agencies. Based on experiential learning, it generated strategies for maximising the benefits of group work in the context of unpredictable group processes as well as participants’ and facilitators’ potentially chaotic lives. The final keynote facilitation was by Toni Hubble who presented a reflective paper on Compassion and Connection with the Traumatized Child who Presents in the Guise of a 60 year old adult. It looked at the challenge and insight into working with clients experiencing complex trauma. Complex trauma is ‘cumulative, repetitive and interpersonally generated’. The core foundations of groupwork keep both the group and the facilitator safe throughout their common journey.

A rich range of paper sessions occurred that explored the evidence for gorup work regarding:

P1. Growing older in a different culture - Susan Cunningham and Nancy Ramirez, STARTTS

P2. Therapeutic group work provides a safe context for building social connectedness and safety in families where adolescents are violent - Jeannette Stott and Walking on Eggshells Project colleagues, Relationships Australia SA

P3. Entrenched conflict among separated parents: On the role of group programs in facilitating change - Dr Tim Broady and Dr Rebecca Gray, Relationships Australia NSW

P4. Crime Prevention begins in Childhood - Gerda Foster, Criminologist

P5. Helping boys explore their journeys toward adulthood: 'Dynamic Group-Mentoring' - A model for success? - Ben Joseph, Western Sydney University

P6. Current trends in Relationship Education and Family Safety Programs - Andrew King, Relationships Australia


The richness of facilitators learning from other leaders continued in the small yet powerful range of workshops provided:

W1. From Psychoeducation to Multi Family Therapy - Matt Garrett and Christine Hardwick, Relationships Australia NSW

W2. Queering the content: Tailoring groups to meet the needs of LGBTIQ communities - Kai Noonan, ACON

W3. Working with Group Purpose: How to Enhance Relevance, Commitment and Outcomes - Pam Cohen, St Vincent’s Clinic

W4. ‘I want what she is having’ - Replenishment for groupworkers and their supervisors - Susan Elvery, Relationships Australia NSW

W5. The Wisdom Of Not Knowing - an experiential, playful and interactive workshop - Donald Marmara, Core Development

W6. ‘Frames’ - Fabulous ways of talking with people - Peter Slattery, Working with Young People

W7. Parenting Side by Side in Australia - Angharad Candlin and Gina Musumeci, CatholicCare Sydney

W8. The only woman in the room - Susan Elvery, Relationships Australia

W9. Engaging men’s responses to family violence using multi-sensory tools - Andrew King, Relationships Australia


Course feedback Percentage
Attended 56 Thursday/Friday 17 80%
Feedback sheets received 21 Thursday 4 19%
  Total 21 81%
Experience of the conference Excellent 6  28%
  Very good 12 57%
  Average 0 0%
  Poor 0 0%
Usefulness – Not useful 1 0 0%
  2 0 0%
Okay 3 1 5%
  4 9 42%
Very useful 5 13 61%
Location - Poor 1 0 0%
  2 0 0%
Okay 3 8 30%
  4 0 0%
Great 5 15 70%
Quality of admin - Poor 1 0 0%
  2 0 0%
Okay 3 0 0%
  4 6 20%
Great 5 17 80%


Key outcomes

  • 99% of evaluations thought their experience conference was very good to excellent.
  • 85% of evaluations reported the conference was useful to very useful to their work.
  • 100% of evaluations reported the location of the conference was good to great.
  • 100% of evaluations reported the quality of the conference administration was good to great.