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3rd Australian Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Conference

written by Amanda Horne 4 April 2012

Amanda Horne is an executive coach and facilitator whose business theme is "Thriving People and Workplaces." She is an Authentic Happiness Coaching graduate and a founding member of Positive Workplace International. Full bio.

Amanda's articles are here.

The spotlight’s on the future, and it’s looking positive. The Australian Institute of Business Wellbeing (Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong) hosted and ran the 3rd Australian Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Conference on 22-25 March 2012. The conference is run every two years, and each time moves to another city and is hosted by a local university. The theme this year was Positive 2012: Spotlight on the Future.

This is the first time an Australian Positive Psychology and Wellbeing conference has been hosted outside a School of Psychology. The scene was set, appropriately given that the conference was hosted by a university business school, with the first two keynote sessions about virtuous organizations, organizational performance and how to build good organizations that are fit for the 21st Century.

Conference Format

Day 1: Pre-conference workshops in Sydney, emphasizing experiential practitioner-focused learning

Day 2: Emerging Researchers Symposium, a new initiative to feature the work of doctoral students. The Good Mood Safari provided an outdoor experience unique to Wollongong. According to the safari leaders, “We call it psychological tourism.”

Day 3-4: The Conference, complemented by energy-raising drumming sessions, art classes and clown doctors

A view of Wollongong Beach

The final three days were situated by Wollongong beach. With great views and gorgeous warm and sunny weather, it was not only the future that looked positive.

Critical and Reflective Perspectives

The conference and workshop topics provided a refreshing range of topics and speakers from diverse backgrounds, designed to challenge thinking and provoke critical reflection. We were reminded of ambiguity, uncertainty, and contradictions which encouraged us to explore with open minds.

Speakers not normally associated with the world of positive psychology found a comfortable place in the agenda and provided alternative perspectives which lifted our sights beyond the usual positive psychology topics. We also heard from some of the more familiar positive psychology speakers from around the world.

The two-days of the main conference proper were refreshingly simplified with mainly plenary sessions, 45 minutes each, and only one concurrent panel session on each day, with just two panels in each session. Less choice anxiety, more happiness!

Conference topics

Without wanting to simplify the breadth of subjects covered over the four days, here are just some of the key topics:

Individual: meaning-centered approach; curiosity; self-determination; narrative practices; nuanced emotions; psychological flexibility; wholeness; collaborative recovery and mental health; mental fitness; positive social and emotional development; mindfulness; and learning edges.

Organization: positive leadership; motivation; flourishing and wellbeing in educational systems; virtuous organizations; workplaces as developmental ecologies; mentoring and coaching; strengths-based performance development; perspective-taking and leadership; authentic leadership; presenteeism; systemic perspectives; organizational compassion; and social marketing.

Communities and Nations: thinking differently; flourishing populations; social relations; well-being and progress; money and happiness; policy implications; leadership; positive humanities; education; business well-being.

Some words from the speakers

It’s impossible to sum up the key takeaways of a conference in just a few words, so the quotations below are just a few random but interesting snippets from a small selection of the sessions.

Preconference workshop

“It’s a matter of what we pay attention to.” (Kim Cameron)

“Teachers don’t ‘do’ positive psychology. They link concepts to practices.” (Jenny Fox Eades)

“Acceptance serves as a starting point for positive change.” (Paul Wong)

“The job is not to get developed as much as you can as fast as you can.” (Jennifer Garvey Berger)

“We seem to have become scared of sadness.” (Hugh Mackay)

“Is my intuition switched on? Can we listen without intent?” (David Clutterbuck)

It’s not about the individual

The sense we took from the conference is that we can’t ‘do’ Positive Psychology to individuals. It’s not a simple application of a handful of micro-interventions. Rather, we work together in communities and systems to create the intent of positive psychology and related fields. Moving beyond the micro approach, we have the more complex job of integration and aggregation across groups, systems, and communities.

Sunrise over Wollongong Beach

Past and Future

I reported on the 2nd Australian Positive Psychology Conference in February 2010. The focus then was on positive education, and we wondered about the question, “What about the workplaces?” This year’s conference took up the challenge.

We look forward to the next Australian Positive Psychology and Well-being Conference in 2014 with eager anticipation. Whatever the theme, focus, content, and location, it is certain to be a collaborative effort. The conferences are co-sponsored by 11 Australian Universities, and are guided by a national Advisory Board. This ensures that although hosted in a different city, each conference has a sense of national connectedness.

Now that’s positive.

Positive 2012: Spotlight on the Future, conference Brochure with abstracts and speaker bios.

Photos by Amanda Horne except:
View of Wollongong Beach courtesy of MomentaryGlimpse

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Alan! 4 April 2012 - 10:07 am


Beautiful article.

Can you clarify or give some context for this quote:
“The job is not to get developed as much as you can as fast as you can.” (Jennifer Garvey Berger)



Amanda Horne 10 April 2012 - 2:05 am

Hi Alan – thank you for your comment.

I liked this quote from Jennifer Garvey Berger because it had nothing to do with Positive Psychology, yet perhaps everything to do with it. She works in the field of coaching and leadership. Behind her comment is a view that we can only change or to ‘get developed’ as fast as we can or as fast as we’re capable. Developing and growing is a lifeling process. We can see all we can see in any given context, at any point, and we continue to grow and develop as we increase that understanding. It’s not a race to ‘be the most developed’, or to ‘get developed quickly’. I think this message fits nicely in a conference about well-being.



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