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Children, youth and families

Exploring the legal dimensions of child protection and family law

We aim to bring about meaningful change and development to the laws surrounding children, youth and families.

Our vision

To promote the wellbeing of children and young people and to support healthy family life through socio-legal and criminological research that brings about improvements to the legal system. This includes work on:

  • criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse
  • child protection
  • family law
  • juvenile justice
  • child migrants and refugees.

Our work

Our research has a number of major themes:

  • A four-year Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded research program on prosecutorial discretion in child sexual abuse cases involving Professor Judith Cashmore, Professor Patrick Parkinson and Associate Professor Rita Shackel, Adjunct Professor Nicholas Cowdery and others, following from a report for the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
  • Evaluating the NSW government pilot program to assess the role of witness intermediaries and other measures in facilitating the process for child witnesses (Professor Cashmore and Associate Professor Shackel).
  • ARC-funded research on decision making in the Children’s Court in care and protection matters (Professor Cashmore)
  • Advice and analysis of a large-scale longitudinal study of children aged 0-17 years who entered care in NSW on court orders over an 18-month period (Pathways of Care) (Professor Cashmore)
  • Analysis of adoption judgements for children from out-of-home care (Professor Cashmore)
  • ARC-funded research on the protection of refugee children and youth. 
  • ARC-funded longitudinal project on parental relocation, examining the outcomes for children and their parents following relocation disputes (Professor Cashmore and Professor Parkinson)
  • Family property issues and other aspects of parenting after separation (Professor Parkinson)
  • Gendered aspects of violence and its impact on women and girls and on family life and whole communities
  • ARC-funded project on family law in the Islamic community (Dr Ghena Krayem)
  • Family dispute resolution and cultural diversity (Dr Ghena Krayem).
  • A review (led by Dr Garner Clancey) of the Objective Detainee Classification System for Juvenile Justice NSW was undertaken in 2017. This review involved interviewing in excess of 100 staff and analysing 37,000 client records.
  • Preliminary research (led by Dr Garner Clancey) into the effectiveness of Youth Case Managers (NSW Police Force) in preventing youth-crime was conducted throughout 2017. Recommendations arising from this report suggested new ways of allocating police resources to prevent and reduce youth crime. 
  • A Criminology Research Council funded project exploring young people’s practices and perceptions of sexting (Professor Thomas Crofts and Professor Murray Lee).
  • Criminal responsibility of children (Professor Thomas Crofts).

Our impact

  • Our academics and researchers played a meaningful role in the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, writing three research reports between them. Professor Judy Cashmore and former colleague Professor Patrick Parkinson have given evidence and provided advice to the commission and participated in roundtable talks. Professor Mary Crock reviewed work on migrant children abused while in immigration detention. Professor Cashmore is a member of the Commission’s Criminal Justice Working Group; she was also a professorial fellow in relation to the commission’s research program. 
  • Professor Rita Shackel has been a Senior Research Fellow at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre and is co-convenor of the Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. She is regularly invited to deliver papers and lectures in a range of forums in Australia and overseas.
  • Professor Parkinson and Professor Cashmore's work on parental relocation has attracted worldwide attention, with widely cited papers in North America and the UK and presentations to international conferences of senior judges.
  • Professor Parkinson’s work on family law reform, with others, led to the announcement in the 2017 budget of more than $12 million for a pilot program to resolve the parenting disputes of self-represented litigants.
  • Professor Crock has served as a member of the Expert Advisory Panel of the NSW Children’s Commission.
  • Associate Professor Ghena Krayem is regularly consulted and invited to address policymakers, law reform bodies, judiciary and the legal profession with respect to the ways in which family law and family law processes can meet the needs of people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Associate Professor Garner Clancey has, in recent years, served on the Board of the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre and the Glebe Youth Service (Deputy Chairperson in 2016).
  • Associate Professor Clancey was an invited speaker at the NSW Police Force Youth Command Biennial Conference in 2017.
  • The research of Professor Thomas Crofts and Professor Murray Lee on sexting and young people has been published in reports, a monograph and national and international book chapters and scholarly journals. It has been widely cited and has helped policy makers, layers and academics to understand how young people perceive sexting and what legal and non-legal responses might be appropriate.
  • Professor Crofts has published widely nationally and internationally on the criminal responsibility of children. He is also a member of the Board of the National Children's and Youth Law Centre.

Our experts