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Research & Publications

Welcome to our research page!

Meet our research team

  • Peggy (Margaret) Kern, University of Melbourne
  • Anoo Bhopti, Monash University
  • Tim Moore, Murdoch Children's Research Institute
  • Janine Morrah, Massey University
  • Katharine Lancaster, La Trobe University
  • Sylvana Mahmic, UNSW Sydney
  • Rachel Taylor, Swinburne University
  • Annick Janson University of Victoria in Wellington
  • Yanchen Zhang, Iowa University, USA
  • Uri Sternberg, Open University, IL
  • Nelly Todorova, Canterbury University, New Zealand

Click to browse our Publication list

Since our launch in 2015, we have collected data before, during and after interventions to measure the impact of our peer-led programs for parents of children raising children with disability.
Our evaluation process is well established and has been reviewed in-depth by 3 different teams:
1. The 2018 Murdoch Children Research Institute external evaluation of our program reported that our processes, outcomes and measures consistently demonstrate increases in goal achievement, engagement, empowerment, hope and wellbeing for participants (https://tinyurl.com/MCRI-eval).

2. In 2019 a research grant from the Melbourne Disability Institute funded a collaboration with researchers from 5 Australian, a New Zealand (University of Victoria in Wellington) and a USA (Iowa University) academic institutions.

The group is led by Dr. Peggy Kern, Assoc. Prof. Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education a recognised expert working in schools across Australia, and Dr. Annick Janson.This included reviewing and updating our manualised research protocol document, ethics approvals and data analysis methodologies. Their evaluation was consistent with the 2018 evaluation. They also provided recommendations, such as updating our ethics approvals and shortening the number of survey items so as to optimise participants’ response time and concentration, which have been implemented. 

The research and evaluation teams were impressed with the consistency observed across our cohorts - observing the ongoing trend displayed by all groups - small and large - in the high number of goals achieved, and of improvement in empowerment, wellbeing and hope.

3. The Centre for Disability Studies, University of Sydney trained our parent-facilitators to collect data as participant-observers. Parent facilitators are also trained all year long via a peer-worker coordinator through ongoing performance evaluations. Remaining data is collected via automated protocols (sending a survey following a specific session), or via coordinators (investigating red flags, such as low wellbeing scores). Data are collated in real-time through a bespoke online platform which collects documents, photos and materials so:
  • Facilitators receive ongoing feedback on participants engagement
  • Program Coordinators monitor participants’ progress for quality control
  • Researchers receive data as it is collected

Recent conference presentation

Presentation to HiNZ Digital Week Nov 2023

Digitising peer support for disabled youth and families raising disabled children 

Dr. Annick Janson, Research Associate

Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington & EGL ltd.


Existing research and practice about supporting disabled youth and families raising disabled children is often deficit-oriented and focuses on expert-provided service-provision models. 

Such resource-intensive approaches place formidable stress on both professionals, who report rising levels of burnout, on parents, who must provide care/support for their children without adequate experience to manage the wellbeing of their families (Kandel & Merrick, 2003) and on youth themselves. 

Peer support offers value-added solutions to reduce distress, improve wellbeing, and sense of belonging (Moore et al, 2018 & 2021), however barriers to attending face to face programmes limit participants’ exposure to this core informal support system. The use of virtual communities to promote end user involvement, peer-to-peer support and co-creation in the service innovation process is well documented, however only little is known about how they could be integrated into the health care innovation process (Amann & Rubinelli, 2017). 

Built upon positive psychology principles, the Now and Next program (nowandnext.org) is a group-based peer-support program that aims to empower and address the needs of youth and parents of disabled children (Heyworth et al., 2017). The program includes the innovative Pictability strengths-based vision setting tool (pictability.org) and peer-led sessions. Programme Level 1 and 2 form the basis of the peer emerging youth leadership and family leadership programmes. The last stage involves coaching tailored to the strengths and interests of each leader.

Key Messages - What will the audience learn?

The pivot to telehealth delivery enabled disabled participants and their families from remote sites to access support, minimise disruption to goal planning, and support youth and families learning to coach their children to thrive and learn supported decision-making. 

Digital solutions enabled the delivery of scalable, evidence based wellbeing interventions. People with lived experience from diverse backgrounds and minority groups are completing their training to lead changes in the disability sector for their families and communities. Virtual platforms and activities constituted one of the factors that attracted more young men and fathers than traditional face to face interventions.

Contents and Main points

Findings on the first 990 programme graduates showed significant increases in participant empowerment, knowledge, attitudes, participation, hope, agency, strategies, and wellbeing, with an average of 87 to 91% families reporting having achieved their goals through participation in the program.  

Further evaluation with a diverse international sample of 561 participants nested in 58 groups (female =74.59%; non-English speaker = 40.17%), tested with a priori three-level multilevel models for each outcome supported the effectiveness of an online program on participants' wellbeing, hopes in life, and sense of empowerment, with treatment effects varying based on group characteristics. 

With the recent online adaptations of the programme, including self-paced delivery, it is being distributed to remote local and global destinations: Australia, Canada, Singapore, Finland and Aoteroa, with plans to expand to Europe in 2024.

Potential active mechanisms include the development of wellbeing literacy, grounding in systems informed positive psychology, peer-to-peer contact, the sequenced structure of learning, innovative tools, and the focus on short-term achievable goals. The findings describe a highly promising model that could serve as an adjunct or supplement to existing pathways and models of disability care, with potential applications to people across the ability spectrum. 

Moreover, this process shows the potential to support a leadership pipeline as a sustainable model to develop emerging leaders and champions amongst peer users (Mahmic & Janson, 2018) and to test the multiple opportunities that  technology provides us to deliver transformative solutions (McLeavy, 2022).


Amann, J., & Rubinelli, S. (2017). Views of community managers on knowledge co-creation in online communities for people with disabilities: qualitative study. Journal of medical Internet research, 19(10), e320.

Heyworth, M.,  Mahmic, S. & Janson, A. (2017) Now and Next: A radically new way to build peer leadership in families raising young children with disability or developmental delay. International Journal of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation 

Kandel, I., & Merrick, J. (2003). The birth of a child with disability. Coping by parents and siblings. The Scientific World Journal, 3, 741-750.

Liam McLeavey, L. (2022). Optimising our digital mental health, addiction and wellbeing ecosystem - DWIG Report. Downloaded from: https://www.dha.org.nz/resources/dha-resources/60/optimising-our-digital-mental-health-addiction-and-wellbeing-ecosystem-dwig-report

Mahmic, S. and Janson, A. (2018) Now and Next: An innovative leadership pipeline for families raising children with disability or delay: https://citizen-network.org/library/now-and-next.html

Moore, T., Fong, M., & Rushton, S. (2018). Evaluation: Now and Next program. Plumtree Children’s Services, Inc. & Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Parkville, VIC: Centre for Community Child Health: ​​https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/ccchdev/Plumtree-Now-Next-evaluation_Final-report_Aug-18.pdf

Moore, T. G., Prichard, P., & West, S. (2021). From consumer to partner: rethinking the parent/practitioner relationship. Downloaded from: https://apo.org.au/node/313949

Full reference list: www.tinyurl.com/our-pubs
Key words: Disability; Leadership: Virtual peer support

Screenshot from the conference

At Fast Track Inclusion, we are proud to be associated with the European Art For All project (screenshot below). The project has just started so we will post updates as they flow in!

The article we co-authored with Bernadette Grosyeux is under final review with the UNESCO E-Observer Journal aiming to publish early 2014. We will post the URL of the article here. The article is called: From Autistic to Artistic - A Participative Arts Journey.

Where have our materials been disseminated? 
Below is a list of our publications, presentations and awards.

Under review

Janson, A.  (Under review) Measuring empowerment and engagement of Early Intervention practitioners training to facilitate Pictability a novel vision setting tool. 

Janson, A. (in preparation) Supporting parents of young children with disability or delay to engage in participatory behaviours: Measuring flow during vision and goal setting sessions.

Heyworth, M, & Mahmic, S.  (Under review). Families as peer workers: Implementing an innovative workforce in ECI organisations. 

Lancaster, K., Kern, M.L., Bayasgalan, M., Janson, A. & Bhopti, A. (Accepted for publication) Exploring long-term outcomes of a peer support program for parents/caregivers of children with disability in Australia.


Lancaster, K.,  Bhopti, A., Kern, M.L., Taylor, R., Janson, A. & Harding, K. (2022) Effectiveness of peer support programs for improving well-being and quality of life in parents/carers of children with disability or chronic illness: A systematic review. Child: Care, Health and Development. (access here)

Zhang, Y., Bayasgalan, M. Mahmic, S., Janson, A. & Kern, M.L. (2022) IIMHL & MHN COVID-19 innovations case study series: Supporting the wellbeing of parents raising children with disabilities and developmental delays: Peer support goes online through the COVID-19 pandemic. [publication details to follow]

Bhopti, A., Lancaster, K., Zhang, Y., & Janson, A. (2022)  IIMHL & MHN COVID-19 innovations case study series: Accessible supported decision-making online platform for families raising children with disabilities and developmental delays. [publication details to follow]

Lancaster, K. (2022). Exploring Long-Term Outcomes of a Peer Support Program for Parents/Caregivers of Children with Disability in Australia (Doctoral dissertation, La Trobe University).

Lancaster, K. Bhopti, A. Margaret Kern, M., Janson, A., Taylor, R. & Harding, K. (2021) Effectiveness of peer support programs for improving well-being and empowerment in parents/caregivers of children with disability or chronic illness: a systematic review [submitted]

Mahmic S, Kern M.L. & Janson A (2021) Identifying and Shifting Disempowering Paradigms for Families of Children With Disability Through a System Informed Positive Psychology Approach. Frontiers in Psychology. 12:663640. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.663640

Bhopti, A. (2021) Family quality of life when there is a child with disability: A call for strength-based services. .Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. 34(5): 1232.

Janson, A. & Kok, S. (2021) Energising and empowering families to build capacity through participation..Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. 34(5): 1232.

Lancaster, K. (2021) Are peer support programs for parents of children with disability effective? A systematic review. .Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. 34(5): 1232-1232.

Mahmic, S. & Kern, M.L. (2021) Empowering families through a system-informed approach to developing wellbeing literacy. .Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. 34(5): 1231-1232.

Heyworth, M. (2018) Families as Peer Workers in Early Intervention Organisations: Literature Review, Plumtree Children Services: Sydney, Australia. 

Janson, A., Mahmic, S. (2018) Embedding positive psychology and flourish thinking in peer networks for parents raising children with disability: A game-changer.  [Submitted for peer review]

Janson, A., Mahmic, S., Benge, T. & Herbert, C. (2018) How a transformational Collective Benefit Mindset experience prompted parents raising children with disability to launch a peer network. [Submitted for peer review]

Mahmic, S. and Janson, A. (2018) Now and Next: An innovative leadership pipeline for families raising young children with disability or delay: https://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/now-and-next.html

Moore, T., Fong, M., & Rushton, S. (2018). Evaluation: Now and Next program. Plumtree Children’s Services, Inc. & Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Parkville, VIC: Centre for Community Child Health. 

O’Brien, P., Taylor, D., & Riches, T. (2018). The Role of Peer Facilitators in the Now & Next Program. Centre for Disability Studies, University of Sydney.

Heyworth, M., Mahmic, S. and Janson, A. (2017) Now and Next: A radically new way to build peer leadership in families raising young children with disability or development delay. International Journal of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation (http://www.ijdcr.ca/VOL15_01/index.shtml)

Heyworth, M. (2017) Parent-Professional Relationship Statement: Working in partnership with professionals. Available at: 

Conference presentations 

Kern, P.L, Mahmic, S. , Zhang, Y., Lancaster, K., Taylor, R., Bayasgalan, M., Morrah, J., Bhopti, A., Moore, T. & Janson, A. (2023) Now & Next: An innovative SIPP-informed, parent-led program for building capacity in families of children with disability. Presented at: ​​International Positive Psychology Association 8th IPPA World Congress 2023, Vancouver, BC (20-23 July)

Bhopti, A. Moore, T.,  Zhang, Y.,  Lancaster, Y., Taylor, R., Mahmic, S., Janson, A., & Kern, M.L. (2023) Now and Next, an innovative parent-led program for building capacity in families of children with disability grounded within a system informed positive psychology perspective. International Congress on Evidence-based Parenting Support (ICEPS), (6-8 June). Virtual

Zhang, Y., Bayasgalan, M., Mahmic, S., Janson, A., Taylor, R & Kern, M.L. (2022) IIMHL & MHN COVID-19 innovations case study series: Supporting the wellbeing of parents raising children with disabilities and developmental delays: Peer support goes online through the COVID-19 pandemic. NHS/IIMHL link

Bhopti, A., Lancaster, K., Zhang, Y., & Janson, A. (2022) IIMHL & MHN COVID-19 innovations case study series: Accessible supported decision-making online platform for families raising children with disabilities and developmental delays. NHS/IIMHL link

Zhang, Y. Janson, A., Kern, M.L & Bayasgalan, M. (2021) “We Are in This Together”: Multilevel Examination of an International Positive Psychology Empowerment Program for Parents of Children with Disabilities. Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (JCCAP) Future Directions Forum (17-19 June)

Bayasgalan, M., Bhopti, A. Janson, A., Kern, M.L., Lancaster, K., Mahmic, S., Moore, T., Morrah, J. & Taylor, J. (2021) In what ways could positive psychology interventions impact parents raising children with disabilities? Implications for parents, professionals and systems: A panel discussion. New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology (NZAPP) Conference (July 27).

Williams, G., Goldstien, R. & Janson, A. (2020) Testing a novel Parents Participatory Pathway. Early Years Conference, Vancouver, Canada (Jan 30-Feb 1).

Bayasgalan, M., Moore, T. Mahmic, S. & Janson, A (2019) Evaluation of an innovative parent-led program for building family capacity, International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI), Sydney, Australia (June 25-28).

Benge, T., Herbert, C. & Janson, A. (2019) Family-lead peer network formation: Translating knowledge across cultures. International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI), Sydney, Australia (June 25-28).

Davies, S. H. & Kok S. (2019) Empowering parents to be more effective in early intervention. International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI), Sydney, Australia (June 25-28).

Mahmic, S. (2019) Individual funding and families of young children with delays or disabilities: An Australian perspective. International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI), Sydney, Australia (June 25-28). 
Williams, G. and Janson, A. (2019) Experiential training in novel 'participatory engagement mechanisms: Early Intervention practitioners share their learning. International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI) Conference. Sydney (June 25-28).

Janson, A., Mahmic, S., Benge, T. and Herbert, C. (2018) Positive parent education for families raising children with disability: Supporting the emergence of a Collective Benefit Mindset. New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology 4th Biennal Conference in Positive Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand (24 Novembre).

Janson, A. (2018) Integrer la vision prospective du parcours de vie et le savoir des familles dans un outil de formalisation du projet de vie [translation: Embedding the prospective lived experience and knowledge of families into a practical planning tool]. 5emes Rencontres Scientifiques de la CNSA, Beffroi de Montrouge, Paris (17-18 Octobre).

Heyworth, M. (2018) Building the size and diversity of the workforce. NDS Conference Outside the Box, Sydney (10-11 September).

Kalemkeridis, M. (2018) Engaging Fathers of Children with Delay or Disabilities: Parenting and Caring Roles in Early Childhood. Carers NSW 2018 Biennial Conference ‘Caring: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.’ (11 October).

Janson, A. and Muir, C. (2018) Family partnership and capacity building: A novel approach. Starship Tele-Paediatrics Update. https://www.starship.org.nz/for-health-professionals/starship-paediatric-update, Starship Hospital, Auckland (March 13).

Mahmic, S. (2018) Keynote Address Now and Next – Capacity building through family leadership, peer work and education, NZDSN Wellington (April 11-12)

Barton, H and Benge, T. (2018) Now and Next: A novel partnership between families and professionals. NZDSN Wellington (April 11-12)

Janson, A. (2017) Co-production (co-design) and organisational impact: The Australian Now and Next experience. European Association of Service Providers to Disability (EASPD) Flourishing Lives: Supportive Communities and Sustainable Development, Montenegro (October 25-27).

Mahmic, S. (2017) Young children with disabilities and family wellbeing: a family leadership approach, International Carers Conference Keynote Address, Adelaide (October 4-6).

Kalemkeridis, M. and Williamson, J. (2017) Being a peer facilitator, Belonging Matters August Conference, Melbourne (August 16-17).

Janson, R. and Janson, A. (2017) Peer networks for sustainable impact. Arts and Society Round Table, Paris, France (October 18).

Mahmic, S. Janson, A., Kalemkeridis, M. and Williamson, J. (2017) Building family leadership through harnessing peer support. ECI: Beyond Possibilities - Investing in the Future Conference, Sydney (May 25-26).

Mahmic, S., Williamson, J., Touma, S. Buffoni, N., Kalemkeridis, M., Le, I., and Janson, A. (2017) Building family leadership through harnessing peer support. International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) Brag and Steal: Building family capacity to improve outcomes, Sydney (February 27-28).

Mahmic, S. and Janson, A. (2016) Transforming families' early experiences of self-direction. Building Momentum: Turning ideas into action through self-direction, Auckland (November 16-17).

Mahmic, S., Farah, I. Williamson, J and Janson, A. (2016) Families and staff: Shaping new ways of working together. International ECIA Early Childhood Intervention Association, Melbourne (September 7-10). 

Mahmic, S. (2016). Pauline McGregor orator. Keynote paper presented at the Twelfth Biennial Annual Conference, Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA), Melbourne, Australia (September 7).

Mahmic, S. and Janson, A. (2015) Designing a novel multimedia planning and implementation that is both innovative and fun! NDIS New World Conference: Disability in the 21st Century, Brisbane (October 27-29).

Janson, A and Kendrick, M. (2015) Building an interactive coaching tool to facilitate transition to Individualized Funding. Claiming full citizenship: Self-determination, Personalization, Individualized Funding, Vancouver (Oct-15-18). 

Mahmic, S. (2019) DSC Podcasts. Disability done differently - candid conversations, ECEI and the role of families. Episode 16

Mahmic, S. (2018) Families as peer workers in early childhood intervention. IRISS podcast
Goll, E. (2017) Learn to empower yourself! Interview with Dr. Annick Janson. Empowering Ability website: https://www.empoweringability.org/single-post/2017/11/23/038-Learn-To-Empower-Yourself-with-Dr-Annick-Janson

Blog Case Study

Bharti, S. (2017) Inaugural Now and Next Alumni Conference Online Proceedings. Book Creator blog: https://bookcreator.com/2017/11/using-book-creator-to-publish-conference-proceedings 

Mahmic, S., Treloar, R., Farah, I. Taylor, K., Le, I and Janson, A. (2016) Transforming the experience of families raising children with disability. Available at: http://bookcreator.com/blog/2016/01/book-creator-helps-transform-experience-families-affected-disability


2017 ECIA NSW/ACT Excellence Award for Outstanding Family Centred and Culturally Responsive Practice (winner)
2017 NSW Disability Industry Awards (finalist)
2015 The Family Storysharing project launched by Min. Ajaka. Movie trailer.

Social Media

Refugees with disabilities

Are refugees under-represented as clients in the Disability services. How do we remedy that?

This report was showcased in the 2013 New Zealand Race Relations Report submitted to the United Nations by the Human Rights Commission . We are stoked at the recognition!

This project started when colleagues alerted our attention to a family with a disabled young adult that had arrived to New Zealand over 3 years ago. I visited the family right away and came across a young women feeling depressed. Born with a severe disability, she quit school prematurely because of bullying. During the 3 years the family was in transit in a UNHCR refugee camp and again after her arrival here, she stayed home with no occupation or purpose – she was a recluse in her own house! 

This changed rapidly however once she was directed to local Disability service providers. As a result, her week is busy with the activities of her choice - sports, arts and learning English. A "Good Life" had been available to her... but her and her family did not know about it.

Research about the inclusion of disabled refugees in New Zealand has uncovered the potential that sharing stories of how families from refugee background have accessed disability services can make a difference for disabled refugees. This project sought to 'translate knowledge' about the reasons for the low rate of service uptake to improve access and change professional practices.

The three recommendations from the project are detailed in the video clip below:

1. Address cultural norms about disability
2. Support self-emerging community leadership amongst former refugees
3. Re-design service delivery around the needs of each family

[clip URL http://youtu.be/osJngoGyGTk]

These stories are recorded in their native language so that social workers or staff in the Health and Disability sector can share these stories from their smartphones with newcomers. This solves the problem of some refugees not having words in their native language for disabilities or being illiterate in their native language. Video interviews are also collected in english as part of a training package for the disability sector.

The research pilot was presented at a number of meetings and disseminated via different channels as described below: 

New Zealand

1. The IHC Foundation awarded the funding to carry out the research. The screenshot below shows how the IHC showcased it. 

2. Ministry of Health NASCAThe research and video summary clip were presented at a Keynote presentation at the Wellington NASCA conference 4 September 2014. The screenshot below shows that the Abstract was downloaded 146 times and the presentation an additional 558 times; this adds up to the 300 NASCA representative who received the presentation handouts in on the day. There is interest in the topic.

3. WEKA: Disseminating Disability Information

4. Te Ngira September newsletter - Human Rights Commission Diversity Action Programme. Below is a screenshot of the Te Ngira media about this presentation.

5. Human Rights Commission: Sept 2013, Te Punanga Refugees Focus ISSN 1178-0940

6. Community Waikato Kumara Vine, Vol 43, October 2013.

7. Victoria University of Wellington, Centre for Applied Crosscultural Research (CACR):

8. Local branches - Annick was invited to present these results at a Hamilton People First meeting in October. The audience agreed that this topic needs urgent attention and implementation.

9. Change Makers Refugee Forum - November 2013 Newsletter section.

New member of the Research Directory

Dr. Annick Janson is an Associate of the Centre for Applied Cross Cultural Research at Victoria University and works with the Ecosynergy Group and the Fast Track Inclusion Trust. Recently her work has focused on building resilience, integration of vulnerable families, and access to Health and Disability services. Her storytelling work with disabled refugees outlined the reasons for the low rate of service uptake. Dr. Janson presented a keynote address at the NZ Needs Assessment Service Co-ordination Association (NASCA Ministry of Health).


With support from the NZ Commission for the UNESCO, Dr. Janson proposed technological innovations that can be embedded in professional training for staff working with refugees. World Information Society Knowledge Community Blog (UNESCO) displays posts on the project start.

A callout to the international community was made at the start of the project to see if we could connect with similar research endeavours abroad: 

Playlist here.

Dr. Annick Janson was the Research Director at Microsoft NZ ‘Partners in Learning’ and Research Director of the NZ Leadership Institute, Auckland University. Annick can be reached via phone at: 027 288 1949 or fast.track.inclusion.trust@gmail.com

This project is a SPARK NZ 'Knowledge Translation' initiative, led by Te Pou and the Ministry of Health. 
Report available from Academia.edu 
Permanent link to this page: tinyurl.com/refugees-stories

Publications and Presentations

Our recent participation in peer-support and peer-mentoring conferences:

It was an inspiring experience to meet so many like-minded colleagues and start new collaborations! In particular, I loved the discussions about identifying common challenges and designing solutions to trial - radical implementation.

It was a pleasure to spend these few days with Drs. Sternberg and Maskit and plan future research projects and publications.