28 August 2020

Mel O'Donnell ACCP (002).jpgWestern Australia’s nationally and internationally recognised researcher in child maltreatment, Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell, has joined the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) at the University of South Australia (UniSA).

Assoc Prof O’Donnell’s leading work in investigating and monitoring outcomes and risk and protective factors for children and families who experience child abuse and neglect, has informed both national and state policy, including the National Child Protection Framework and the development of the first Youth Health Policy for Western Australia.

Over her 15 years as a lead researcher at the Telethon Kids Institute at the University of Western Australia, she was awarded more than  $4.7 million in competitive grants, produced more than 40 publications, and earned the prestigious WA Premier’s Award Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year in 2018.

On the world stage, Assoc Prof O’Donnell has been an expert to the United Nations and is a member of the International Working Group on Child Maltreatment Data Collections through the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Her innovative data linkage work has contributed new knowledge about the rise in babies born affected by maternal substance use during pregnancy, and the impact of parental mental health issues and family domestic violence on children’s safety and wellbeing.

Her ground-breaking report on outcomes for young people who have experienced out-of-home care has also informed the development of a pilot to extend care in WA.

Assoc Prof O’Donnell’s expertise in working with data makes her an invaluable addition to the ACCP team, which includes the award-winning leadership team of Prof Arney, Prof Leah Bromfield and Assoc Prof Tim Moore.

ACCP Co-director Professor Fiona Arney says the appointment will build on the ground-breaking work and insights being developed at the ACCP, helping the Centre to continue to pioneer new approaches and methodologies for preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect.

“Child abuse and neglect is one of the country’s greatest social and public health challenges, with one in four Australian children reported to child protection services before the age of 10,” Prof Arney says.

“Melissa shares our commitment and passion to improving the outcomes for children impacted by abuse.

“Her expertise will strengthen our ability to provide contextually-driven solutions to what are complex societal problems.”

Assoc Prof O’Donnell will also play a major role in helping to establish a new WA innovation hub focused on the development of nationally leading, evidence-based responses to child abuse, neglect and trauma.

UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington says Assoc Prof O’Donnell’s appointment to the ACCP leadership team will support the Centre’s award-winning research program, which continues to shape the Australian policy and practice landscape.

“We are excited to see Associate Professor O’Donnell become part of the important work of the ACCP, which reflects UniSA’s strong commitment to producing cutting-edge research with real world impacts,” Prof Hughes-Warrington says.

“She will support and strengthen the ACCP’s rigorous efforts to develop evidence-based responses to abuse and neglect and pioneer new discoveries in this critical field.”

For more information about the Australian Centre for Child Protection, visit unisa.edu.au/ACCP

The Australian Centre for Child Protection:

Lisa McDonald office +61 8 830 21385 | email: Lisa.McDonald@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli | office: +618 8302 6611email: michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au



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