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Christine Stirling

Christine Stirling

Research Fellow, Wicking Dementia Research and Education



PhD, Masters of Public Administration, BA Nursing


Christine is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Rural Health, Tasmania and is responsible for providing research and evaluation expertise to support the CRH. She has been responsible for supervising, undertaking, and designing research along with grant writing since 2000. Christine moved from a clinical nursing background into community program research and evaluation in 1998. Christine's rural health interests encompass health systems, and the impacts of policy and structural factors on service delivery and service providers.

Research background

Christine's research interests include evaluation, volunteering within the health system, rural health delivery systems research, and rural health workforce support. Mixed method research. Research areas: Volunteering, Falls Prevention, Midwifery Continuing Education

Completed Study

Volunteering in the Health Services
This thesis explores the concept of power and volunteers. In particular it explores the idea that volunteers in service delivery can be powerless within their organisations. The study focuses on a research process involving Australian and New Zealand volunteer ambulance officers and governance. It utilises a foucauldian governmentality conceptual framework in hand with discourse theory to look at the subjectification of volunteers, that is, how volunteers are made into and make themselves into governable subjects. As well, the thesis involves a strong focus on critical praxis where I reflect on the role of surveys in negotiations of power, and I acknowledge the potential of research as a tool of governance and the responsibility this placed on me as a researcher.'

The thesis evolved as a result of my research work with volunteer ambulance officers and my belief that here existed a conundrum: why, when volunteerism was so valorised as an exemplary display of participative democracy, were volunteer ambulance officers relatively powerless within their own organisations?. Volunteerism as powerlessness is under-explored in the volunteer discourses. Quantitative and Qualitative data were gathered from volunteer ambulance officers in Australia and New Zealand. Discourse analysis is used to assess the processes that either contribute to or detract from volunteer's power within their organisations.

Recent political discourses have reframed the idea of volunteerism and community participation into a more central place, an important linkage between markets and governments. Public debate about how this will affect volunteerism has emerged, and about how volunteerism can fit within a model that is 'more like government'. This thesis may shed some light on these issues as it studies a group that do deliver essential services, but that have been shifting from non-government organisations toward a government organisational umbrella.


  • Fahey, CM, 2003, 'Working with communities' to 'build social capital' - Reflecting on old and new thinking about volunteers', The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 18 (4) pgs. 12-17
  • Fahey, CM, Walker, JH, Lennox, G, 2003, 'Flexible, Focused Training: Keeps Volunteer Ambulance Officers', Journal of Emergency Primary Health Care, 1 (1-2) pgs. EJ
  • Fahey, C. and Walker J, 2002, ' Training can be a recruitment and retention tool for emergency service volunteers', The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol 17, Number 3 pgs. 4-7
  • Fahey, C. and Walker J, 2002, 'Asking Volunteers - Volunteer Ambulance Officers have their say Volunteer Ambulance Officers. ', University of Tasmania,
  • Fahey, C. and Walker J, 2002, 'Emergency Services in Australia and New Zealand: Problems and Prospects for Volunteer Ambulance Officers. ', University of Tasmania., University of Tasmania .
  • Fahey, C., and Walker, J, 2001, 'It's More Than Numbers! The advantages of mixed method inquiry in volunteer organisations', Australian Journal of Volunteering, 6 (2) pgs. 49-53


  • Abstract/Presentation
    Fahey, C. (2004). 'Is Volunteering a Useful Tool for Government?'. Paper presented at the 10th National Conference on Volunteering - Evolution, Devolution or Revolution, 2-4th June Melbourne 2004.