Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Children and Childhood

  • Children’s participation in decision making and children’s citizenship
  • Rights-based social policy for children
  • Children in the care and protection system (out-of-home or foster care)
  • Child labour in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, particularly in Indonesia
  • Children’s participation in community and community development
  • The physical and emotional punishment of children in Southeast Asia and the Pacific
  • Child protection and rights-based policy
  • Children-centred education
  • Research with children: Ethics, methodologies, methods


  • Gender and poverty
  • Gender analysis
  • Gender and political representation (focusing on Indonesia)

Country/Regional focus

  • Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and the Philippines
  • Pacific, especially Fiji
  • Australia

Researcher's projects

Current Projects

Assessing development: designing better indices of poverty and gender equity
Contributing to development worldwide, this research raises Australia's global standing and helps fulfil the values and responsibilities of the Australian people. It strengthens the basis for gender-related and poverty-related policy development and service delivery within Australia and helps correct the current over-emphasis, in measuring domestic gender inequity, on the more privileged women. Because severe poverty and radically unequal gender relations burden many of our South East Asian and Pacific neighbours, development aid remains an important plank of our foreign policy. By providing better tools for measuring poverty and gender inequity, this project can improve our understanding of our region and augment the impact of our aid.

Funded by an ARC Linkage Grant of $1,098,000 over three years, commencing in late 2009.
Collaborating researchers: Professor TW Pogge; Dr S Bessell; Ms JE Hunt; Dr CH Barry; Dr Y Liu; Professor AM Jagger; Ms J Sloane; Ms A Banze; Professor FA Castillo
Collaborating/Partner Organisations: International Women's Development Agency, Oxfam Southern Africa Regional Office, Philippines Health Social Science Association, University of Colorado at Boulder
Administering Institution: The Australian National University

Children, Community and Social Capital in Australia
This research will explore children’s views and experiences of community and will increase understanding of community and community strengthening initiatives from a child-centred perspective.  It will contribute to policies and programs being responsive and child-inclusive.  Based on children’s lived experiences and perspectives, we will develop a framework that will be used to analyse community strengthening and social inclusion policies from a child-centred perspective.  Our methodology is based on collaboration with communities and values children’s knowledge and contribution. 

Funded by an ARC Linkage Grant of $91,722 over three years, commencing in Feburuary 2010.
Collaborating researchers: Dr S Bessell, Professor J Mason, Ms A Michaux, Dr A Nevile
Partner Organisations: The Benevolent Society, NAPCAN
Administering Institution: The Australian National University

Developing Child-Inclusive Policy in Fiji
This research explore the views and priorities of children and young people in Fiji on policy issues that are relevant to them.  The first phase of this research focuses on children and young people’s views on education.  As part of this research the Children and Young People’s Forum on Education in Fiji was held in June 2009, in collaboration with Save the Children Fiji. 

Read the report from the Children and Young People’s Forum [PDF, 2346KB] on Education in Fiji.

What does children’s and youth participation mean for children and adults?

Focusing on the Australian context, which particular emphasis on children and  young people who have experienced the care and protection system, this project explores the attitudes and experiences of both adults and children in relation to children’s and youth participation in decision-making processes.

What is valued about childcare

A detailed study of one childcare centre, this research explores what children (aged four and five years), parents and staff consider to be good quality child care.


Recently completed research projects

Children's agency in communities: A review of the literature and the policy and practice context (2008)
Dr Sharon Bessell, Professor Jan Mason (University of Western Sydney), Jarrah Hoffman-Ekstein and Annette Michaux (The Benevolent Society), Marie Fox (NAPCAN)
Funding Source: ARACY/ARC NHMRC Research Network Seed Funded Collaboration

This project explored the children’s roles and engagement with their communities, examining the way in which children have been represented in the literature, policy and practice relating to community strengthening.

View Report authored by Jarrah Hoff-man-Ekstein
View Presentation by Sharon Bessell and Jarrah-Hoffman-Ekstein

Children’s experiences and views of physical and emotional punishment (2005-06)
Dr Sharon Bessell, Dr Harriot Beazley (University of Queensland), Dr Judith Ennew (Knowing Children, University of Malaya), Associate Professor Roxana Waterson (National University of Singapore)
Funding Source: Save the Children Sweden

This research records what 3,322 children from eight countries in the Southeast Asia and the Pacific region told researchers about everyday, common violence - both physical and emotional - used as punishment against them. It used a systematic, scientific approach, which sought information about children’s knowledge, experiences and views, using appropriate methods through which they could express themselves easily and without being harmed.

View the monograph
View the research protocol [PDF, 1044KB] (including details of our methodology, methods used and ethical considerations

Child Labour Work Book: Rights-Based Situational Analysis Data Collection and Report Writing (2006)
Funding Source: Save the Children Sweden
Dr Sharon Bessell and Dr Judith Ennew (Knowing Children, University of Wales Swansea)

This research resulted in a Work Book, designed to be used in any country in the world, provides tools and step-by-step instructions on what data to collect and where to find it. Clear directions are provided on writing a situation analysis on working children and child labour, within overall national contexts. Such contextual situation analysis will develop better understanding of the circumstances of working children, and result in focused programme responses for better protection of working children and the fulfilment of their rights.
View Child Labour Workbook



BA (Hons 1st class, Tasmania), PhD (Monash)

Expertise Areas

  • Economic Development Policy
  • Public Policy
  • Social Policy
  • Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific
  • Sociological Methodology and Research Methods
  • Gender Specific Studies
  • Studies of Asian Society
  • Human Rights Law
  • Human Rights and Justice Issues
  • Legal Ethics
  • Professional Ethics (incl. police and research ethics)


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Network (past 5 years)

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