Cultivating Practice-based Research

Confidence, Capacity and Capabilities in the Non-statutory Child Protection Sector


  • Ines Zuchowski James Cook University
  • Susan Gair James Cook University


Practitioner research, Child protection, Non-government organisations (NGOs), Research placements, Research capacity, Research partnerships


Research-informed practice is important for quality outcomes for service users, service provision and for local communities. If social work and welfare workers incorporate research knowledge into their practice, better outcomes are possible. However, practitioners can be ambivalent about undertaking practice-based research – they may lack confidence and skills or be too time-poor – particularly in grassroots non-government child protection services.

This article reports on a small study undertaken with 22 practitioners in the non-statutory child protection sector in North Queensland. This population was chosen due to the com- plexity of child protection practice, changes proposed after the Queensland Carmody enquiry, and the minimal literature discussing these practitioners’ research interests. The study aims were to explore the workers’ interest, experience and capacity to undertake research and to support social work research placements. Findings reveal that more confident practitioners were able to perceive the range of research resources available. Research confidence was more evident when workers had prior exposure to research. Further, practitioners with confidence in their ability to undertake research were more likely to take a student on a research place- ment. Unsurprisingly, available time was a factor impacting on their capacity to undertake research. Increased opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in research can contribute to graduates’ confidence in doing so. Research placements may offer opportunities for practitioners to engage in research with students, confirming the benefits of practice-based research that, in turn, can contribute to organisations’ research capacity.

Author Biographies

Ines Zuchowski, James Cook University

Social Work and Human Service, James Cook University

Susan Gair, James Cook University

Social Work and Human Service, James Cook University


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