Relationshipsand Recognition

The Project

This site holds the project material from the ARC Linkage project Relationships and Recognition: young people with cognitive disability, relationships and paid support


This project ran between 2016 and 2020. By clicking on the tabs above, you can find information about the aims of the project, how it was conducted, and the results of the research.

The Relationships and Recognition project aimed to find out what helps young people and support workers in their work together.

We wanted to know when do they feel cared about, respected and valued in their work together? What happens when they don’t feel these things?

Research team

This collaborative research brought together a multi-disciplinary international research team from the SCU Centre for Children and Young People (Sally Robinson, Anne Graham, Kate Neale, Jaimsie Speeding), UNSW Social Policy Research Centre (Karen Fisher, Kelley Johnson) and University of Dundee, UK (Ed Hall) with three industry partners from NSW Department of Family and Community Services, National Disability Services (Gordon Duff, James Bannister) and Northcott (Terri Mears, Deanne Mooney, Suzanna Poredos).

Led by Professor Sally Robinson (now at Flinders University), the project has heavily emphasised inclusive methodologies and knowledge exchange from the outset. This means that methods, processes and outputs created knowledge accessible to people with disability as well as practitioners, policy makers and academic users of the research.

Photo caption: Members of the research team: Jaimsie Speeding, Susanne Poredos, Sally Robinson, Karen Fisher, Deanna Mooney, Kate Neale, James Bannister, Kelley Johnson, Sandra Gendera. Absent from photo: Anne Graham, Gordon Duff, Ed Hall.

Our research project

In our project, we wanted to know how young people and workers feel cared about, respected and valued in their work together. We are also looking for when they may not feel this way.

Ideas about feeling cared about, respected and valued are described in Recognition Theory. We used this theory to understand the relationships between young people and their paid support workers.

Why this is important

Feeling valued, respected and cared about are different but connected aspects of recognition. They are important for support relationships because experiences of interpersonal recognition and misrecognition potentially impact on young people’s identity – their self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem – and, to some extent, they also impact similarly on their support workers.


These experiences, in turn, are critical to achieving large scale goals about promoting choice and control, building quality in support, and workforce development.


Many people with disability in Australia and internationally now receive individualised support. Their support worker may be the only person they see from the organisation they are involved with. So, we need to know more about how these relationships are understood and experienced by people who receive support and the workers who provide it, so that we can improve the quality of the support provided and received.

The project stages

The project was completed in four stages.





We read a lot of policies to find out what disability policy says about working relationships between people with disability and support workers. We wanted to see if there is policy that makes rules that help set up good relationships between people with disability and their support workers.

We worked with 42 pairs of young people and their support workers and talked with them about how they spend time together. The pairs made maps of the places they went, things they did, and people they knew. Then they did photo research to show us the different ways that they understood their work together. You can see some of their photos in a book here.

To extend the research, we sent out an accessible survey to other young people and support workers.


We spent quite a while thinking about how all the things people had told us might help improve rights, support and wellbeing for people with disability. We did talks about what we found out, wrote papers, and made a resource book for young people and support workers.


Events were held regularly throughout the project to share the results from each phase.

Interactive workshop

Strengthening quality in working relationships between people with disability and paid support workers.

The Relationships and Recognition project is collaborative research funded by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Program. Led by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People, it is exploring what helps young people with cognitive disability and their paid support workers work together well.

As the three-year project concludes, this  workshop shares key outcomes from the research about

  • Building quality in working relationships between people with disability and support workers
  • The role of organisations in facilitating quality in working relationships
  • The importance of community spaces in contributing to positive working relationships

Applying the results of the research is particularly timely in the current climate, where changes to services and practices are front of mind with NDIS implementation.

This interactive event is a focused opportunity for managers, practitioners, policy makers and people with disability to apply the results of the research to their own support work contexts.


Personalisation and the new landscape of learning disability care and support: possibilities for social inclusion and belonging

Dr Ed Hall, University of Dundee, UK

In this seminar, leading Scottish academic Dr Ed Hall will discuss the effects of  large-scale personalisation, the risks posed by austerity, and the ways people have developed creative responses that build community belonging for people with disability.

Download slides from the seminar here.


Across the project, we have worked to make sure there is information for everyone.

In the results section of the website, you will find academic papers about the project, and also accessible versions of the results in short videos, a photo book, a workbook and easy read summaries.

If you are looking for an over-arching short read about the whole project and its findings, try  the project summary.


Professor Sally Robinson was the project lead for this research. If you would like to know more about the project, please contact her in her position at Flinders University. You can reach her on 08 7421 9845 or

Making sure the project is safe and fair

We need to make sure our research is safe and fair for people to be involved. We have an Ethics Committee that helps us make sure this happens. If you are worried about this project, you can write to them. They will check to make sure the project is still safe and fair for everyone.

You can contact them by writing them a letter and sending it to:

Ethics Complaints Officer

Human Research Ethics Committee

Southern Cross University

PO Box 157 Lismore

NSW 2480

Or you can email them at: