The Sixth Post: E-Spaces in Rural Communities

I want to use this professional development opportunity at Charles Sturt University to support my community work in the Riverina area of southern New South Wales.

“Outside of the Academy” I am engaged deeply with rural issues and much of it is already done online and in e-spaces.  Let me share what I currently do and why I need to transfer this professional PD into my community off campus service – this will help me articulate why I need to expand my engagement with digital spaces and social media.

I have just been appointed for a two year term to the Advisory Committee of the National Rural Health Alliance, and they will provide me with spaces and places in which to engage with advising on rural health issues. I am one of two rural representatives for New South Wales.  To use this wonderful opportunity effectively, I want to access (or develop if needed) interactive spaces for rural people and communities to discuss and collaborate about their perspectives, experiences and engagement with rural health issues.

I am active in a number of health peak bodies and health consumer groups, and am a member of Health Consumers NSW (HCNSW).  HCNSW and Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI) sponsored me to represent rural health consumers at a national symposium in April this year, and I was on a panel advising health researchers on rural health issues, e-connectivity and enablers and barriers to expressing the voice of rural health.  Macquarie Uni’s AIHI and HCNSW got it right – putting rural representatives on a panel gave us the EARS of the researchers and we were enabled to speak and be heard by health researchers.  We were discussing and advising them on how to create a relationship with us as health consumers as co-designers and co-creators of health research design and implementation.  There is a report – and a photo of us all – on the AIHI site at Macquarie Uni!

The National Rural Women’s Health Alliance, of which I am a member, has recently announced that at a national colloquium supported by the Office for Women, a new Alliance joined the national consortia – Australian Migrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance.  How exciting!  I am not involved with this Alliance but my heart sings that they join the choir of health alliances working towards positive social change.

I am also a member of the Australian Women’s Health Network (and I am so dedicated that I even attend their AGMs!) and engage with their work in e-spaces; I am a also involved with the Australian Rural Women’s Coalition. I regularly participate in health webinars and web broadcast on women’s health with them and with the Jean Hailes team (of which I am also a member) and with the Consumers Health Foundation (CHF).  I have become, I confess, a webinar junkie.  On health webinars I have met and interacted with women in Western Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory and Tasmania.  We have bemoaned the connectivity issues in valleys, black zones and regional towns.  I also follow the Australian Indigenous InfoNet, and am awed by their capacity to spread the word (and the action!) that attending to Indigenous health is everyone’s business, and that Indigenous people are leading non-Indigenous people in health alliances of social transformation.

Locally I contributed to the Wagga Wagga City Councils development of their Disability Inclusion Plan 2017 and made a submission jointly with other residents with mobility disabilities.  How?  Digital of course – email and websites!  Likewise, I was invited as a guest speaker to researchers at Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital earlier this year, and that may have been one of the lowest tech work I have done this year – only a few emails to set it up and review it afterwards.

I had two abstracts accepted for posters at the International Mental Health Conference 2017 but unable to afford the conference fees, I withdrew them.  I received an alert from a website and as a result have made a pitch to the Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health conference to present two papers in Albury later this year (2017).

I have been very fortunate in winning a $1000 scholarship with Praxis-Bellberry and am engaged with their online modules and course.  This provides me with education in health research management – a really exciting congruence of interests and passions there!  I am also involved with a MOOC at the Uni of Sydney – another digital adventure into health issues.

In addition to my work as a health advocate, I am also active as co-founder of the Riverina Sociology Circle, a collective of nerds interested in rural sociology.  We launched early in 2017,and meet monthly for a face to face meeting and almost daily in e-spaces!  We have formed three or more writing arcs and co-authoring abstracts, journal articles and conference papers.  We mentor and support each other.  Our ages range from mid twenties to the sixties; some of us are retired, some are academic, some are general staff, some are doctoral students.  Recently we had a theory club meeting (we looked at Bourdieu) and our next meeting will address “Methodology from Sociology”.  I will present my doctoral research as an example of such and cite a research manuscript submitted to Nexus.  We have already found that email is an art and craft form – the subject line assists sane management of the avalanche  of excited email – and I have suggested we need digital collaborative tools to assist us as we co-author and publish together and run theory club, methodology chats, journal club and active researcher arcs.

As a member of the Australian Sociology Association I have visited websites, read e-bulletins and co-authored abstracts to conference and Health Day symposia this year.

Revisiting my doctoral thesis, I applied for and was successful in getting a travel scholarship to present my thesis at an international symposia for ECR’s in Sydney later this year.  How did I hear of it?  Via a e-discussion group.  How did I apply?  By email.

I am a Thesis Companion to a number of higher degree by research (HDR) students at Deakin, University of South Australia and Charles Sturt Uni.  I need collaborative and engaging e-spaces!  A Thesis Companion is an innovative experiment in mentoring the success of HDR students by linking them to a co-generative editor and mentor (me) who has NO institutional authority over them.  The Thesis Companion model is being developed by a small team of researchers and apprentice researchers who live in rural communities in Victoria and New South Wales, and we anticipate publishing on the model as more of us get doctored. I am currently working with one undergraduate student who aspires to lift grades from credits and distinctions to distinctions and high distinctions. I must remember to tell her my aim is to inspire her to go on to Honours and postgraduate study!  We have success stories already – one has graduated with a PhD and another with first class Honours.  Three are likely to submit PhD theses within the next six months.  Of course, I have linked them to the Riverina Sociology Circle!!

And I have a business account on Pinterest which gets thousands of hits: as an “International” Thesis Companion.   Most of my hits come from Canada and USA.  A business account in Pinterest, rather than a personal Pinterest account, allows one to view and analyse user analytics.

I support creative writing too, and am supporting a former student to write her autobiography; and I review the short stores written by a colleague at CSU.  In what media?  Email!

Another area in which I use e-spaces and the digital world is in my peer-reviewing.  I am Associate Editor of two international journals (JCEPS and AJAL) and I am an invited peer-reviewer for the 2017 Higher Education Research and Development Conference.  I also peer-review for JUTLP and SAGE Open.  All of this is done in the digital world.

As a sociologist I am active in social media through the following:  ResearchGate,, Humanities Online, Sax Institute, SAGE Methodspace (where I also do testing for them), the Oceania Ethnography and Education Network (where I have a bio) and of course Twitter (as Anntics).

As a sociologist I have presented and published this year.   For example, I presented a paper to the Inaugural Australasian Mental Health and Higher Education Conference a few weeks ago (June 30- July 1 2017) – the room was packed and I was deeply honoured to receive applause and deep engagement with the audience.  My paper will be considered for publication in the International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change special issue.  From  pre-publication query to abstract to manuscript to acceptance notification, the internet carried this project forward.

I am currently working on a journal article for a special issue of the Australian Universities Review. More on that soon!  I have also used the internet to make a pitch and pre-publication query to Emerald, and then followed it up with  an abstract for a chapter in a edited book, and acknowledged acceptance of the chapter proposal – to European editors by email.

I have presented to the GAPS Conference in Sydney earlier this year; and was a union delegate to the NTEU’s National Womens Biennial Conference 2017.  My photo is in Advocate p 40 -issue just out! (July 2017)!!!!  Major means of communication? E-spaces.

I am the NTEU at CSU facilitator for BlueStockings Week 2017 and am about to release the plan ONLINE!!  It has ten elements – mostly virtual – in order to accommodate a cross-campus program of activities in August from Dubbo to Albury in inland New South Wales.

I also convene two of three teams of the NTEU at CSU that are engaged with the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.  Again how do we do this work across campuses spread over inland NSW?  Email, websites, e-spaces.

It can make ones head spin.  What I have described above is just 2017 efforts.  My first was in 2005, which now seems a long time ago – I was an Invited Reviewer to the Australian Government’s “Diversity Works! The Higher Education Sector” website resources.

To keep my head straight in 2017  I use ZOHO Smartsheet (live online software) and may be about to take up the AHA software suite to organize my many engagements with rural life.  I back it up with an Excel spreadsheet and word documents in the Microsoft suite.  I use Medeley, ReadCube and Publons also.  I access electronic libraries such as TROVE, use their databases and investigate electronic datasets and data-cubes at ABS, AIHR and electronic repositories.

In conclusion……..I need and want and am excited to expand my repertoire of e-stuff to support my pro bono work, my publications and research on rural issues.