The International Research Centre for Youth Futures (IRCYF) is located at the University of Technology Sydney. It evolved from the Australian Centre for Child and Youth: Culture and Wellbeing, which was established in October 2009 and launched by Thérèse Rein. The Founding Director of both Centres, Professor Rosemary Johnston, leads an interdisciplinary team which is distinctive in the relationships it has not only with educational institutions, but with the business community.
The Centre was founded on five broad principles: education, creativity, research, culture and impact. These principles or pillars are conceptualised as being inter- and trans-disciplinary and cross sectoral, and are underpinned by the foundational ideas of equity, diversity, opportunity and wellbeing.
The Centre promotes and conducts high impact research pertaining to the education, communities and futures of children and young people, some of whom may be in challenging circumstances. It is committed to enhancing opportunities through programs conducted in schools, on the university campus and in community locations. Many of its programs and research initiatives are made possible by generous philanthropic donation.
The Centre works across disciplines and across sectors. Education is not a separate silo of influence but is very much influenced by social context, health and perceptions of wellbeing, families and communities, parenting practices, and the larger sphere of government policies.
The Centre has evolved out of the field work of an ARC-funded Linkage project, New Ways of Doing School: Mixing story and technology to generate innovative learning, cultural and social environments’ (Johnston, with Larissa Behrendt, Ross Gibson, Stephen Harris and Bill Crews, 2007), which worked with Indigenous communities in the Western Desertlands (WA), Yorke Peninsula (SA), Darwin (NT), Galiwin’ku, (Elcho Island) and Lockhart River (Queensland).
This led to other projects, including Literate Australia, and to the Literate Australia Forum, held in October 2010, and attended by Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Deans, as well as prominent community leaders. It was opened by then Governor-General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce, who became the first Centre Patron.
UTS Vice Chancellor, Professor Ross Milbourne, and Chancellor, Professor Vicki Sara, with Professor Rosemary Johnston, Director of the Centre, greeting Thérèse Rein.
Its first project, Literate Australia, developed the idea of a literacy that respects all languages including Indigenous languages, that acknowledges the importance of the mainstream language (English), and that promotes the idea of deep literacy (Johnston 2010, Literate Australia) as that literacy which is activated by personal engagement and growth, and builds the skills, imaginations and minds that generate creative and civil societies.
Group of people attending Literate Australia forum
The New Ways projects, which took place with Indigenous communities in 2008 to 2012, focused attention on ideas surrounding individualised learning goals and pathways for children and young people facing challenging situations. The New Ways projects included New Ways of Doing School: Mixing story and technology to generate innovative learning, social and cultural environments (funded by an ARC Linkage Grant) and New Ways/Old Ways: Converging Roads and Personalising Education (funded by the Martu communities of the Western Desertlands).
These projects gathered teams from local communities, who were subsequently represented in a large community forum held at the University of Technology Sydney. This forum was opened by then Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who subsequently became Centre Patron. It was attended by politicians from both major parties.
Project team: (L-R) Professor Rosemary Johnston (CI), Prof. Ross Gibson (CI), Prof. Larissa Behrendt (CI), Rev. Bill Crews (PI), Mr Stephen Harris (PI), Dr Karen Vaughan, Mr Stephen Collis, Mr. Robert Johnston.