In touch with … Selina Tually

Juggling research and home duties keeps Associate Professor Selina Tually constantly busy – but we’ve also learned that the new Deputy Director with the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Flinders can literally juggle quite a few balls in the air. 

What is your role and what does your work focus on?

I’m Deputy Director of the newly launched Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Flinders, in the College of Business, Government and Law. I am also a researcher with CSI Flinders, leading and contributing to several projects in my areas of interest and expertise: community development, housing, homelessness and social impact. A substantial part of my research role with CSI Flinders is a partnership with the SA Housing Authority, where I’m embedded to provide strategic support and advice around statewide homelessness sector reforms, including co-designing the statewide homelessness and domestic and family violence service providers outcomes framework.

What journey brought you to this point in your career?

My journey looks like that of many research-only staff. I’ve been employed on numerous contracts, generally tied to specific projects and research funding. I completed a PhD at Flinders in 2006 (geography), having started as an 18-year-old undergrad student in the mid-1990s. I worked as a research assistant, event organiser and tutor during and immediately after my PhD. I stayed at Flinders for a few years, then worked as a housing and homelessness researcher at the University of Adelaide for almost 10 years and, most recently, in the same fields at UniSA (nearly three years), and there were a few short periods of maternity leave.

Over time, I’ve built strong connections with industry partners, and have been an embedded researcher with industry partners and collectives, such as the Adelaide Zero Project, which is the collective driving the effort to end rough sleeping homelessness in Adelaide’s inner city. These partnerships have centred around deep links between research, policy and practice.

What do you love most about your work?

I love engaging with people from all walks of life, from the most vulnerable people in our community, to people in positions of power and influence. I feel privileged to be able to listen to people’s stories, their experiences, challenges and needs, and support the elevation of their voices to make programs, agencies and social support systems work better. The COVID-19 period really highlighted to me how much I appreciate people and face-to-face interactions!

What might people not know about you?

I can juggle – but it’s not something I ever learnt. One day in primary school, a clown came to present a show and a friend and I got hauled up in front of the school and set the task of juggling – and, weirdly, we both could. My family are nowhere near as impressed about this as I think they should be.

What is something you are most proud of?

Personally, I’m most proud of my kids. It always brings happiness to my heart, and simultaneously reduces me to tears when I hear people say how kind they are, and when my kids themselves say things that have a social justice flavour. My daughter, who just turned 8, wants a world where no-one is homeless. I believe her generation will get us there. Kids are always listening.

Professionally, I’m most proud of my work with colleagues and industry partners to shape outcomes for vulnerable people, changing policies and evolving practice to make programs, services and systems more flexible and responsive.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I’m the mum of two young children (6 and 8 years), so there is a lot of organising to do. I often feel like I’ve done a day’s work just getting them out the door to school! Outside of family stuff, I find myself mostly in meetings, some with CSI colleagues advancing existing projects or formulating new ones, or with project partners supporting their needs in practical ways. I’m often providing strategic advice, and between meetings I squeeze in project work, researching, writing, reflecting.

My favourite type of day is when I can do an hour or so reading with the kids at our local school before starting work. I love seeing and supporting the learning process in young kids, especially those who find reading a challenge. Having flexibility in my role to do this is something I hold dear.

How do you like to relax or spend your spare time?

Relaxation for me is either Netflix and a bath, a massage, coffee and cake with friends, or watching the waves at the beach – which was my my favourite activity growing up on the south coast. Actually, I’m not very good at relaxing. Kids’ netball, soccer, swimming and scouts keep everyone busy in our house, so ‘me’ time is pretty limited. We do prioritise family time on weekends though, making memories with the kids by taking frequent staycations, supporting our chosen AFL and state netball teams, eating (too many) churros, walking our ageing golden retriever (Honey), visiting museums, galleries and events (we love the Fringe), as well as playing a lot with Lego. Lego is life for us right now!

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