Fostering lifelong connections for children in permanent care

5 June 2020
A postgraduate research scholarship
Undertake an independent research project, related to keeping children in permanent out-of-home care connected to family and culture, supported by the Research Centre for Children and Families, School of Education and Social Work.

This scholarship will fund community-engaged research with the out-of-home-care sector to promote and sustain positive relationships between children and their families when they are in permanent care. Recognition of Indigenous knowledges about family relationships and child rearing practices, and Aboriginal Kinship traditions will underpin the study.

The successful PhD candidate will be based in the Research Centre for Children and Families, within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, as part of an exciting international collaboration. The study is working to embed relationship-building practices within the New South Wales out-of-home-care system. Incorporating the views of children and families, and guided by experts with lived experience of out-of-home-care, the study offers an emerging researcher the opportunity of a dynamic and unique research experience.   

Applicants with a background in the out-of-home care sector are welcome and we strongly encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates to apply.  The Chief Investigators will supervise the student based on their expertise and candidate preference.

  • Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright, Director of the Research Centre for Children and Families and researcher focused on social work practice and policies for children in care
  • Dr Lynette Riley, a Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman from Dubbo and Moree, a recognised leader in Aboriginal education and Aboriginal Kinship
  • Professor Judy Cashmore, a socio-legal and child research expert
  • Dr Susan Collings, experienced in leading participatory action and arts-based research.

Aim of the study

The Fostering Lifelong Connections study aims to improve casework practices used to support children to maintain positive connections to family and community when they are in permanent care. The focus is on how agencies arrange face-to-face visits and other types of contact between children and families, and what kind of support they offer to carers and parents so that visits do not cause distress or harm to children or their family members.

An Action Research methodology underpins the study, providing a structured approach to developing practice innovations through experimentation, reflection and learning. Action research promotes collaboration, enabling authentic involvement of multiple diverse stakeholders through a community of practice that develops among the stakeholders and researchers. The project embraces a decolonised research agenda which relies on genuine participation, collaboration and partnership with Aboriginal communities.   

The research is being undertaken in partnership with agencies from the out-of-home-care sector in four parts of NSW: Dubbo, Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. The project is creating a community of practice based on critical reflection that is grounded in trauma awareness, cultural respect and safety. The goal is to promote trauma-informed approaches to contact for children in out-of-home care with members of their birth families and kinship groups.


The Scholarship will provide a stipend allowance equivalent to the minimum Research Training Program Stipend rate (currently $35,000 per annum) for up to 3 years. The Scholarship has been established to provide financial assistance to a PhD student to undertake research into the Fostering Lifelong Connections Linkage project.

Application criteria

Applicants are invited to submit a proposal for PhD research that aligns to the aims of the Fostering Lifelong Connections project and makes a contribution to building new knowledge that can be used to keep children connected to their families and cultures. Please see our guidelines for preparing a research proposal.

Prospective candidates may qualify for direct entry into the PhD program if their research proposal (see above) is accepted and they satisfy one of the criteria listed below.

  • Bachelor's degree with first- or second-class honours in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis based on primary data not literature review
  • Master's degree by research in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis that draws on primary data
  • Master's degree by coursework, with a research thesis or dissertation of 12,000–15,000 words that draws on primary data not literature review, with a grade-point average of at least 80 per cent in the degree.

How to apply

Submit your application online.

Applications will close 30 July 2020 at 11.59 pm.

Banner image: Dr Lynette Riley, poker work on Kangaroo Skin
Title: Children at Play

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