Dear Friend of the ACCP,

Sunday 4 September 2022 marked the start of National Child Protection Week. As we all know and appreciate, working in the area of child protection is challenging. It is a world where we do the best that we can every day to make life better for those in our society who need it the most. While we strive toward positive outcomes in an imperfect system, we don’t always achieve them. It is always heart breaking when tragedy occurs.

But in this field, we also know about finding and holding onto hope. We can – and must – continue to move forward, to highlight what needs to change for us to do better as a society, not just a system. What has become increasingly clear through our research at the ACCP is that our policies and systems continue to respond to outdated assumptions for child protection systems reform. New approaches are urgently needed to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect, as our systems become increasingly overwhelmed.

The majority of families reported to child protection have multiple and complex needs with active domestic violence, unmanaged mental illness, current substance addiction and housing instability as key underlying factors driving children’s experience of abuse and neglect. Complex family structures with large numbers of children are common and each individual family member is likely to present with multiple treatment needs which change based on the developmental age/stage of the family member. Chronic repeat involvement with child protection and with other agencies and services are the norm with many families experiencing the ongoing impacts of intergenerational trauma.

We need to grapple with what child protection as everyone’s responsibility means for this cohort of families. Our way forward must adapt to better support our frontline workforce across the health and human services sectors to effectively respond to the multifaceted and often entrenched problems facing families with multiple and complex needs.

All of us who work in the sector know that there are no easy fixes. Partnering and working together to develop and implement new fit for purpose solutions needs to be our focus, resolve and commitment to our most vulnerable children.


The ACCP acknowledges National Child Protection Week 2022, with the theme of 'Every child, in every community, needs a fair go'. We acknowledge the work undertaken by so many in making lives better for children across our communities each and every day throughout the year. The Centre is also proud to be a sponsor of the 2022 SA Child Protection Awards being held this week.

Also as part of National Child Protection week, the Centre’s Deputy Director, Research, Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell will be presenting at the Healthy Development Adelaide (HDA) forum on Growing up safe and supported. Associate Professor Melissa O'Donnell will be discussing pregnant mothers and infants involved in child processes. The free forum will be held on Wednesday 7 September, 5.30-8.00pm. For the full program and to register click below.

ACCP work in focus
Short Courses: Understanding, Assessing and Responding to Childhood Trauma

The Pursuit of Excellence in Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect project (funded by a $3m Lotterywest grant) has developed a nested suite of three Professional Certificates in childhood trauma to ensure practitioners who work directly with children and young people impacted by abuse are well equipped to support them. 554 students in WA have successfully completed the first course, 136 have completed the first two courses, and 24 students have completed all three courses.

To continue to support workforce development nationally, the ACCP is developing further new online courses informed by a leading evidence base and clinical excellence.

Optimising the Child Protection system for Aboriginal Children

A research project led by Prof Sandra Eades with the ACCP’s Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell as a Chief Investigator is harnessing the views and perspectives from the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal primary care providers to understand ways to better support kinship carers and families at risk of having their children removed. The project is co-creating research knowledge through partnerships with Aboriginal Communities.

National Office of Child Safety Appointments

ACCP Director, Professor Leah Bromfield has been appointed as a member of the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021 – 2030. ACCP Deputy Director, Practice, Ms Amanda Paton has been appointed as Co-Chair of the National Clinical Reference Group for the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse and Dr Lesley-Anne Ey, an affiliate member of the ACCP is also a member of this group.

The Advisory Group is part of the formal governance and oversight arrangement for the National Strategy, a 10-year, whole-of-nation and cross-portfolio framework for establishing a coordinated and consistent approach to preventing and better responding to child sexual abuse in all settings, including in families, in institutions and online.

Enhancing Practice DCP PhD Scholarship Opportunity: Monitoring the wellbeing of children in out of home care

The ACCP in collaboration with the Department of Child Protection (DCP) South Australia, have a new scholarship opportunity for dedicated and passionate students interested in completing a PhD with the University of South Australia in the field of child protection.

The DCP Enhancing Practice Scholarship project aims to explore the optimal tool and method to measure and monitor wellbeing for children and young people in out of home care. The project highlights the importance of obtaining regular information about the wellbeing of children living in out of home care to assess the current needs of children, identify emerging issues, monitor children's wellbeing over time, and inform interventions.

Using research evidence to inform practice

ACCP’s Deputy Director, Practice, Ms Amanda Paton was a guest speaker at the ‘Evidence-informed decision making: Using research evidence to inform practice’ held on 23 March. This webinar explored how research evidence can be used to support decision making in programs and practice in the child, family, and community welfare sector.

Supporting the health and development of infants entering out of home care

ACCP’s Deputy Director, Research, Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell recently presented at the Family and Community Services Insights, Analysis and Research (FACSIAR) webinar on 'Infants entering out-of-home care: health, developmental trajectories and services.' The webinar focused on current research and practice to improve the health and development trajectories of infants entering out-of-home care and the best ways to support them and their carers.

UniSA Justice and Society Awards

A big congratulations to ACCP Centre Manager Lisa McDonald and ACCP Deputy Director, Research, Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell on their achievements for the 2021 UniSA Justice and Society Awards. Thank you for all your relentless hard work.

Left: 2021 Justice Champion Award – Professional Staff Member HEO6+ Awarded to Lisa McDonald.

Right: 2021 Justice Champion Award – Mid-Career Academic Awarded to Melissa O’Donnell.

ACCP in the media
Child Protection systems in Australia are ‘in crisis’ but some programs are making a positive difference

ACCP’s Director, Professor Leah Bromfield, recently spoke to ABC News about her insights into child protection, highlighting the need to move on from outdated assumptions in child protection and the need for new approaches to give children and families the best chance for success.

More struggling families are being reported to South Australia's child protection authorities

ACCP’s Deputy Director, Research, Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell, recently spoke to ABC radio about the pressure on child protection systems which are already stretched as more families struggle to get the support they need.

One In Ten Podcast - Dr. James Herbert

Research has established multidisciplinary teams create better outcomes in child abuse cases, but what’s that secret sauce that makes it work? Dr. James Herbert of ACCP, joined the One In Ten Podcast to unpack what makes it all work.


New ACCP team members

The ACCP has welcomed three new Research Assistants to the team. Each brings a wealth of expertise to the team and work of the Centre across the nation.

Dr Nada Ibrahim

Dr Nada Ibrahim has a cross-disciplinary background including criminology, psychology, Islamic studies, and education with expertise in domestic and family violence including culturally and linguistically diverse communities. She was awarded the 2020 Women’s Empowerment category of the Women Acknowledging Women Awards for her work in the empowerment of women, particularly in family and domestic violence.

Renee Usher

Renee Usher recently completed a Masters of Social Work at Curtin University and has also recently been involved in the Navigating through Life project, investigating the experiences of young people transitioning from out-of-home care. Renee has an interest in areas of social justice, social equity, family and domestic violence.

Gina Horch

Gina Horch has over 20 years' law enforcement experience as a Detective Supervisor /Investigator Manager and Sergeant in Germany and Australia. She has led across multidisciplinary approaches to empower survivors of child abuse, ensuring these are trauma informed and child centred. Her expertise includes preventing and responding to harmful sexual behaviours.

Student Spotlight

Dr Rosa Flaherty

We’d like to introduce you to Dr Rosa Flaherty, a PhD scholar at the ACCP. Her thesis titled, ‘Pre-birth statutory child protection concerns: the characteristics of women and experiences of women and service providers’ was conferred on the 1 March 2022 by the University Council. Rosa is also the Integrated Prevention and Response to Violence Abuse and Neglect Manager with the Northern NSW Local Health District. 


Dr Rosa Flaherty has also been featured on 'Women on Boards' as she is a recent board member of two boards combining her interests in child protection and tertiary education - Act for Kids and UniSA Justice and Society Academic Unit Board. 

Aboriginal Artwork reflecting the ACCP’s work and mission

The ACCP recently commissioned Stephanie Singh, an Aboriginal artist, to develop two paintings for the ACCP Adelaide Office.
Strength and Support, pictured with ACCP Director Leah Bromfield (left) and Stephanie (right), represents the ACCP and the many communities and families the Centre is supporting through its work. Journey represents the ACCP over the eight states and territories surrounding children and their journey. The ACCP team is thrilled to be in a working environment with such beautiful Aboriginal artwork by the very talented Stephanie.


Understanding the dynamics of support seeking in women with lived experience of non‐physical intimate partner violence (IPV) and the service responses—A qualitative study. June 2022. A paper by Karishma Doolabh, Colleen Fisher, and Melissa O'Donnell to understand the process of support seeking amongst women who experience non‐physical IPV.

Tailoring service and system design for families known to child protection: A rapid exploratory analysis of the characteristics of families. May 2022. A paper by Olivia Octoman, Fiona Arney, Alwin Chong, Melissa O'Donnell, Jenna Meiksans, Martine Hawkes, Fiona Ward, and Cathy Taylor presents the findings of a rapid analysis commissioned by the South Australian Government to better understand the characteristics of families reported to child protection at a population level.

Is early childhood development impeded by the birth timing of the younger sibling?.  May 2022. A paper by Gursimran Dhamrait, Melissa O’Donnell, Hayley Christian, and Gavin Pereira investigating whether the timing of birth of the younger siblings was associated with the risk of the older siblings’ developmental vulnerability in early childhood.

Child protection involvement of children of mothers with intellectual disability. April 2022. A paper by Fernando Lima, Melissa O’Donnell, Jenny Burke, Brittany Wolf, Alison Gibberd, Gywnnyth Llewellyn and Helen Leonard investigating child protection involvement for children born to mothers with intellectual disability in Western Australia using linked administrative data.

Young people with prior health service contacts have increased risk of repeated alcohol‐related harm hospitalisations. April 2022. A paper by Scott A Sims, Gavin Pereira, David Preen, Daniel Fatovich, and Melissa O'Donnell review data relating to first alcohol-related hospitalisation in youth, and how subsequent hospitalisations may demonstrate an increased risk of further alcohol-related hospitalisation.

Exposure to family and domestic violence is associated with lower attendance and higher suspension in school children. April 2022. A paper by Carol Orr, Colleen Fisher, Megan Bell, Melissa O'Donnell, Karen Martin, Rebecca Glauert, and David Preen investigating the impact of FDV exposure on school attendance and suspension in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.


Featured Publication

Investigating the mental health of children exposed to domestic and family violence through the use of linked police and health records. July 2022. Report by Carol Orr, Scott Sims, Colleen Fisher, Melissa O’Donnell, David Preen, Rebecca Glauert, Helen Milroy, Shae Garwood.

As part of a research project for Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell has contributed to a new evidence brief; Children and young people’s mental health and domestic and family violence: what’s the link? The research report produced with researchers from The University of Western Australia highlighted import findings including children being five times more likely to receive a mental health service by the time they turn 18 after experiencing domestic and family violence. The report also highlights the need for early trauma-informed intervention to support healing and buffer the risk of mental health issues appearing or escalating as a child grows.

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