Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
05 Feb 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:
All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$29,863 p.a. available to domestic applicants only

About this project

Develop better outcomes for families facing adversity during pregnancy

Are you passionate about a career in child protection and keen to make a positive impact on society? The University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering an important  project-based PhD with real-world influence in our Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) in partnership with Child Protection Service, Flinders Medical Centre.

Families experiencing adversity during pregnancy are recognised as a priority group for early intervention support. Adversity can include poverty, homelessness, substance addiction, mental health issues and family violence. 

Early or preventative interventions are typically targeted between the ages of birth and 3 years. However, given the significant long-term consequences of the foetal environment during pregnancy on children’s health and development, truly preventative programs should begin pre-birth. 

The project aim is to understand the service access and engagement, service pathways and outcomes for families experiencing adversity during pregnancy.

You will join a highly experienced research team within the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP). ACCP is a leading research centre acclaimed for driving innovations in child protection research and its ability to drive policy into practice. The Centre is dedicated to supporting vulnerable children and families.

You will be based in a supportive and experienced research environment that will help you to thrive. The Centre has a collegial cohort of PhD students and has fortnightly group supervision meetings where all PhD students and supervisors associated with the Centre can come together to solve complex problems or learn new skills together.

The expectation is that you will work collaboratively with industry, conduct research that is real-world focused and provide research evidence for families facing adversity during pregnancy. This is an opportunity for you to make a meaningful contribution to practice and policy.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will undertake a literature review, collect and analyse data, and articulate findings in written form. You will be expected to engage with the academic and practice communities via presenting, publishing and translating research where appropriate.

Upon completion, you will have extensive skills in collaborating and working with industry partners, problem solving and negotiating creative solutions. You will gain experience in understanding and explaining the complexity of the child protection system, health system and challenges services face engaging with pregnant women. 

This process will also assist you to develop an understanding of the process and landscape for pregnant women and their families facing adversity to access services, understand barriers and facilitators to service access and the outcomes for pregnant women and their families.

This project gives you the unique opportunity to develop national and international academic connections through supervisors and engage meaningfully with staff from both government and non-government agencies responsible for delivering services and supports to pregnant women.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP), which is Australia’s premier research centre for the prevention of child abuse and neglect, leading a public health approach to child protection research. Our vision and work are led by the desire to develop a system founded on research and clinical excellence which responds to the needs of vulnerable children and families. We specialise in innovative approaches and solutions, including responding to families with complex and multiple needs, child protection system and service reform and redesign, and the development and implementation of best practice child protection programs and services.

The Centre is committed to promoting the needs, views and experiences of children and young people and leading the development of practices and policies that respond to them. We are also dedicated to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and their communities. To achieve success and realise our bold vision, we partner with governments and organisations across states and territories, nationally and internationally. Find out how you can partner with us to help drive a bright future for children and families.

Supervisory Team

Financial Support

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $29,863 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to applications from Australian or New Zealand citizens, and Australian permanent residents or permanent humanitarian visa holders. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Applicants should also submit a brief research proposal outlining their proposed approach for the project.

All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and be based at our City West campus in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer. Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Sunday 5 February 2023.  

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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