Take 10 with... Ian Lambie

Professor Ian Lambie gives us 10 minutes of his time to discuss his work on the Mana Tamariki programme and improving the lives of those who have experienced trauma.

Professor Ian Lambie, School of Psychology
Professor Ian Lambie, School of Psychology

1.  Describe your research topic to us in 10 words or less.

Improving the lives of those who have experienced trauma and/or who are involved in the criminal justice system.

2.  Now explain it in everyday terms!

My research focuses on improving the lives of those people who come into contact with the justice system and in particular the youth justice system. It involves working to change the way that government and ministries respond, as well as working at a community level with programmes that provide services. I have a particular focus on children 6-11 years old who have disengaged from school and are starting to offend.

3.  Describe some of your day-to-day research activities.

At the moment a lot of my time seems to be spent working on a programme called Mana Tamariki which focuses on children 6-11 years old who are under Oranga Tamariki care. I am measuring the outcomes for these tamariki and whānau who have been provided intensive services by social workers. We work alongside Ngāti Whātua in delivering the programme, and for Oranga Tamariki we are piloting the provision of a specialist service. I am also looking at how the Family Court can better address the needs of this group of children.

4.  What do you enjoy most about your research?

It’s community based, and engages with young people with a prevention focus. I really like working with my students and also front-line practitioners, as well as policy people.

5.  Tell us something that has surprised you in the course of your research.

How no ministry nor research group has ever truly focused on child offenders before and yet it’s so obvious that we need to start there, if we are going to truly address our high prison incarceration rates. Those who start getting in trouble as children have often experienced trauma and chaos and can end up with long justice careers – why don’t we help them sooner? Instead, they go on to harm themselves and others for years, until we finally try to change their entrenched behaviour as adults in prison.

6.  How have you approached any challenges you’ve faced in your research?

It’s all about maintaining relationships with the people who have power to make real changes and things that happen up the food chain. It’s also about being tactful and using diplomacy where one needs to. So, I pay for lots of coffees!

7.  What questions have emerged as a result?

Why do we fail to provide evidence-based early intervention services to prevent so many psychosocial issues in our society?

8.  What kind of impact do you hope your research will have?

To change government practice and improve things at a community level. I see that my research is important to ‘nudge’ ministries and government to ‘do better’ than they currently do.

9.  If you collaborate across the faculty or University, who do you work with and how does it benefit your research?

I really value my colleagues across the department, faculty and University of Auckland. I also have networks that are more external to the university. In my role as Chief Science Advisor to the Justice Sector, I’m connected with the other Chief Science Advisors to try to work across ministry silos and build our connections in Wellington, to at least try to get things happening and open doors that often seem impossible to open.

10.  What one piece of advice would you give your younger, less experienced research self?

Never give up... and remember to value the research that you do - each bit of research helps by building on previous research.