We are delighted to welcome our next curator, Josh Fergeus (@JoshFergeus), Councillor and PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne. Josh is a social scientist and one of our first on @realscientists. Here’s Josh’s story.
I’m a social scientist. I’ve always been interested in people – how we work, why we do what we do. Most importantly I’ve been interested in how we can improve our quality of life and ensure we’re all happy and well. I was exposed to the impact of disadvantage and disenfranchisement very early in life, and it’s never really left me. I’ve pursued research because I’m convinced that we could be doing better as a society.
My mother became a foster carer when I was 12 years old. I met children who were born addicted to heroin, whose parents died in front of them, who were completely abandoned. I met children whose parents loved them more than anything but just did not have the capacity to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Over the years I became more and more aware of the gap between what needed to happen and what was happening every day, and that’s why I became a social worker.
I’m completing my PhD part time at the University of Melbourne. I’m looking at the relationship between foster and kinship carers and the mental health of the children and young people in their care. When most people think about it they’d say ‘of course parenting impacts on mental health!’, but these relationships are among the most layered and complex we see in society. There are issues of identity, shame, guilt, power, permanence – there’s a lot at play.
Children and young people in care are the most disadvantaged people in society. They often have no voice, no agency, and they’re at the mercy of the system that the rest of us have created to provide for them in times of need. When the state is the parent, we all have a degree of responsibility, and when we fail in our shared parental responsibility we’re not only failing these children but we’re failing ourselves. Failure in child protection and out-of-home care means higher rates of homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse, mental health issues, and the continuation of intergenerational trauma.
I wear a lot of hats. I’m the Chief Executive Officer at Kevin Heinze GROW, a charity which utilises horticulture-based therapy as a medium for working with people with a disability, older people, refugees, and marginalised groups. I’m also an elected local government Councillor at the City of Monash in Melbourne’s South-East. Both these roles allow me to have an impact and put research into practice across a range of social services.
I’m a political junkie and avid traveller with a love for culture from Batman to Les Miserables.
Ideal Day off? I’d need some nature. Sometimes there’s nothing as pleasurable as staring at a tree for awhile. I’d tackle a good book, read the paper, and pour myself a glass of red.
Please welcome Josh to @realscientists!