Dr David Betts

Dr David Betts

Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science

Highlighting the needs of ignored communities

Dr David Betts is a social work scholar whose research sheds light on the often overlooked cohorts of older sexual and gender minorities.

Highlight image of David Betts

Dr David Betts is a social work researcher who is turning up the volume on the voices of a community that is “hidden and invisible”. His research focuses on the lived experiences of older adults who don’t fit the typical ‘older adult’ mold.

“In particular I’m interested in the experiences of older sexual and gender minorities and how they navigate life and contemporary community and what their historical experiences have been in this rapidly changing social and cultural world,” Dr Betts said.

Dr Betts undertook a study in New Zealand where he interviewed 31 older adults aged 60 – 80 years from a range of sexual and gender minorities, asking them about their forms of social connections. A strong aspect to emerge from his findings is the massive shifts in legislation the cohort had seen across their lifespan, including the decriminialisation of homosexuality and the introduction of anti-discrimination laws and marriage equality.

“The group were in a strong position to reflect on the changes they had seen. The study participants recognised that there have been great advancements but social attitudes haven’t come along in the same way. Discrimination and social stigma still exists. Just because laws have been passed doesn’t mean sexual and gender minorities aren’t exposed to stigma,” Dr Betts said.

Another theme from the study centred on the question of ‘what does older age care mean for sexual and gender minorities’? Dr Betts said many of the study participants were fearful of entering aged care facilities because of the assumption that other residents or workers might hold homophobic or transphobic views.

“There was a really strong belief that they might have to re-enter the closet. A lot of those worries came from their experiences with health professionals generally. Whether it was doctors, counsellors, social workers or nurses, the study participants cited exposure to a broad spectrum of health professionals throughout their life who expressed bigoted views,” Dr Betts observed.

The study participants often mentioned the fact that health professionals seemed to lack knowledge and training around the needs of sexual and gender diversity. Dr Betts is now pushing for health workers to be up skilled to support equality and diversity.

“We need to be vocal and vigilant and we need to make sure that education and training is updated and consistent. We should be actively listening to the voices of diverse communities and making sure their concerns are heard otherwise in terms of social work, we risk perpetuating social barriers, because we think everything’s fine when in fact it’s not,” Dr Betts said.

Social support and the impact on wellbeing

Dr Betts first became interested in the needs of older sexual and gender minorities while working as a social worker in gerontology wards in Christchurch. He noticed a lack of general social supports for people coming into health services and the impact on their wellbeing.

“I was often involved with patients from a clinical health perspective and I saw people going back into the community with very little social supports and often bouncing back into hospital. This happens because often older sexual and gender minorities might not have access to what is considered normal family support. They may have experienced rejection from their biological families and may not have children. This potentially puts this cohort at much more risk, so I began to question how does this cohort cope without the support we take for granted?”

Dr Betts did some exploratory research on existing literature on the topic and found very little. He saw a huge gap in research from a local perspective and wanted to bring local knowledge in to local services.

“A lot of the research that had been done was survey based and very quantative which doesn’t give you the opportunity to hear the true narrative and experiences of people who have lived through so much social change. I really wanted to highlight those voices and acknowledge them in social work education, practice and policy,” he said.

The double jeopardy of age and sexuality

In doing a deeper analysis of the study data, Dr Betts also drew the conclusion that older sexual and gender minorities experience a kind of ‘double jeopardy’ in that they are made to feel hidden and invisible because of their sexuality and their age.

“It’s a cohort that is hidden and ignored as a result of many overlapping factors including the dual impact of general homophobia and ageism. Older adults generally are not considered a worthy subject in society to pay attention to. Plus ageism within LGBTIA community often serves to disregard or ignore older people in the community,” Dr Betts said.

Dr Betts said that a lot of LGBTIA scene spaces and social environments are designed to cater for younger adults and a lot of participants in the study felt they weren’t welcome there or included.

Impact of marriage equality survey

Dr Betts next project will look at the impact that the marriage equality postal survey had on individuals and the community in the Hunter Region. He also plans to research groups that are underrepresented in the LGBTIA community.

“Primarily research tends to focus on gay men and lesbian women. There is limited material on bisexual and transgender individuals and even less focus on gender diverse and gender fluid individuals. I would like to explore these ignored narratives and highlight experiences of people who might not be included in LGBTQIA,” he said.

Highlighting the needs of ignored communities

Dr David Betts is a social work scholar whose research sheds light on the often overlooked cohorts of older sexual and gender minorities.

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Career Summary

Biography

Dr David Betts is a Lecturer in the Social Work program in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle. His research interests include gerontology, the social well-being of older sexual and gender minorities, and clinical social work practice. His clinical practice background includes working as a registered social worker in New Zealand in the field of health, and as a community support worker. Dr Betts’ PhD focused on older sexual and gender minorities developing supportive interpersonal and community networks, evaluating concerns facing the research cohort as they age, and critiques the reliance on legislation and social policy as a benchmark for social change. Dr Betts has also been a member of the University of Canterbury’s Human Ethics Committee, a reviewer for the Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Journal, and Editor of the Te Awatea Violence Centre Review.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Canterbury - New Zealand
  • Bachelor of Social Work (Honours), University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Keywords

  • gerontology
  • sexual and gender minorities
  • social work

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
440506 Sexualities 40
440999 Social work not elsewhere classified 60

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia
Casual Academic University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2021 Betts D, 'Relationships in Later Life', Gerontological Nursing: A holistic approach to the care of older people, Elsevier, Australia 339-348 (2021)

Journal article (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2021 Betts D, 'Excluding the queer unwanted: Perspectives from older LGBTQ+ adults in New Zealand', Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, (2021)
DOI 10.1080/10538720.2021.1898513
2021 Wilson J, Heinsch M, Betts D, Booth D, Kay-Lambkin F, 'Barriers and facilitators to the use of e-health by older adults: a scoping review', BMC Public Health, 21 (2021)

Background: Limited attention has been paid to how and why older adults choose to engage with technology-facilitated health care (e-health), and the factors that impact on this. T... [more]

Background: Limited attention has been paid to how and why older adults choose to engage with technology-facilitated health care (e-health), and the factors that impact on this. This scoping review sought to address this gap. Methods: Databases were searched for papers reporting on the use of e-health services by older adults, defined as being aged 60 years or older, with specific reference to barriers and facilitators to e-health use. Result: 14 papers were included and synthesised into five thematic categories and related subthemes. Results are discussed with reference to the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology2. The most prevalent barriers to e-health engagement were a lack of self-efficacy, knowledge, support, functionality, and information provision about the benefits of e-health for older adults. Key facilitators were active engagement of the target end users in the design and delivery of e-health programs, support for overcoming concerns privacy and enhancing self-efficacy in the use of technology, and integration of e-health programs across health services to accommodate the multi-morbidity with which older adults typically present. Conclusion: E-health offers a potential solution to overcome the barriers faced by older adults to access timely, effective, and acceptable health care for physical and mental health. However, unless the barriers and facilitators identified in this review are addressed, this potential will not be realised.

DOI 10.1186/s12889-021-11623-w
Co-authors Frances Kaylambkin, Milena Heinsch
2021 Bennett J, Betts D, 'An Australian Regional Response to Marriage Equality: Newcastle and the Hunter', Journal of Homosexuality, (2021)
DOI 10.1080/00918369.2021.1935619
Co-authors J Bennett
2020 Betts D, Maidment J, Evans N, 'Hidden and ignored: Older sexual and gender minorities in New Zealand', Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 21 94-109 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.1921/swssr.v21i1.1368
Citations Scopus - 1
2020 Betts D, ' Civil rights? Yeah, right! : Reflections on legislative changes from older sexual and gender minorities in Aotearoa New Zealand', Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 32 5-16 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.11157/anzswj-vol32iss1id700
2016 Betts D, Maidment J, Evans N, 'Double jeopardy: The ageing LGBT population in social work education', Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 18 88-102 (2016)
Show 3 more journal articles

Conference (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2020 Betts D, 'Waiting for Equality: A regional response to the Australian marriage equality debates', Online (2020)
2020 Betts D, 'Equality at Work: Reflections on Australian Marriage Equality and the Impact of Workspaces', University of Melbourne (2020)
2020 Steffner J, Betts D, 'Post-COVID Education: Embracing Creative and Adaptive Alternatives in Social Work Field Education.', Sydney (2020)
2019 Betts D, 'Older sexual and gender minorities: Examining the queer unwanted ', Sydney, Australia (2019)
2018 Betts D, 'Older sexual and gender minorities: Legislation, social policy, and the risk of social work complacency', Dublin, Ireland (2018)
2015 Betts D, 'The Ageing LGBTQ+: A Critical Social Perspective on Wellbeing', Melbourne, Australia (2015)
Show 3 more conferences

Other (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2020 McLoughlin K, Bennett J, Johnson M, Betts D, Shaw G, Pepper B, et al., 'Waiting for Equality Research Team Submission in response to Religious Freedom Bills First Exposure Draft', . https://www.ag.gov.au/Consultations/Pages/religious-freedom-bills.aspx#w (2020)
Co-authors Marguerite Johnson, J Bennett, Kcasey Mcloughlin

Report (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Dickson S, Betts D, 'All Right? An exploration of wellbeing in the Otautahi LGBTQIA+ community', All Right?, 96 (2019)
2017 Carswell S, Frost A, o-Hinerangi M, Betts D, 'Key elements of proactive service intervention with people who use violence: learnings from family violence services in the Canterbury Police District', Canterbury Police, 20 (2017)

Thesis / Dissertation (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2018 Betts D, Social Work with Older Sexual and Gender Minorities in New Zealand, University of Canterbury (2018)
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 7
Total funding $138,437

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20211 grants / $10,000

Seeing the Self: Examining reader experience of queer representations in Young Adult Literature$10,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr David Betts (Lead); A/Prof Keri Glastonbury and Dr Annika Herb (LDTI)

Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Lead
Funding Start 2021
Funding Finish 2021
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20203 grants / $17,462

Institutional Intervention in Queer Lives: Historical to Contemporary Paradigms$12,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr David Betts (Lead), Dr James Bennett and Dr Justin Ellis

Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

Faculty of Education and Arts New Start Grant$4,965

Gender Diverse Older Adults: Assessing Social Work Knowledge, Skills, and Competency.

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme New Start Grants
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

Gender and Sexuality at Work: A Multidisciplinary Research and Engagement Conference, Melbourne, 18 February 2020$497

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme FEDUA Conference Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20193 grants / $110,975

Randomised controlled trial of a targeted intervention program for reducing depression, alcohol use, social isolation and suicide in older Australians$100,000

Funding body: Suicide Prevention Australia Limited

Funding body Suicide Prevention Australia Limited
Project Team Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin, Doctor David Betts, Professor Brian Kelly, Professor Sally Chan, Dr Matt Sunderland
Scheme Innovation Grant Funding
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2020
GNo G1801238
Type Of Funding C1500 - Aust Competitive - Commonwealth Other
Category 1500
UON Y

Waiting for Equality: Telling LGBT+ Stories about Marriage Equality in Newcastle and the Hunter, 2004 - 2019$9,995

Funding body: Janet Copley Bequest

Funding body Janet Copley Bequest
Project Team

Dr James Bennett, Professor Marguerite Johnson and Dr David Betts

Scheme School of Humanities and Social Science - Copley Bequest Pilot Research Fund
Role Lead
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2019
GNo
Type Of Funding External
Category EXTE
UON N

Australian Association of Gerontology 52nd Annual Conference, Sydney, 5-8 November 2019$980

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme FEDUA Conference Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2019
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current1

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2021 Masters Do We Belong? An Exploration of the Lived Experiences of LGBTQIA+ Students in Heteronormative Educational Institutions M Philosophy (Education), College of Human and Social Futures, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
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News

Copley Bequest funds project that tells marriage equality stories of Newcastle and the Hunter

May 17, 2019

A multi-disciplinary team of University of Newcastle researchers has received $10,000 Copley Bequest grant funding for a project that will capture and share locals’ lived experiences of the marriage equality debate and postal survey.

Dr David Betts

Positions

Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
College of Human and Social Futures

Casual Academic
School of Humanities and Social Science
College of Human and Social Futures

Contact Details

Email david.betts@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 492 15782

Office

Room SR-103
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