BSocStud (Sydney) MSW (Latrobe) PhD (Monash)

Social work

Professor Rosemary Sheehan combines an international research profile with national recognition for her pre-eminent research into legal decision-making about child welfare issues. She has developed a research reputation characterised by developing alternative practices for legal decision-making about child protection concerns and her seminal research in Magistrates’ decision-making in child protection cases showed that the adversarial legal system struggles to resolve child welfare concerns. She is the first in her discipline to investigate judicial decision-making in children’s courts. She combined her clinical social work practice in psychiatry and family therapy in Australia and in the UK and Ireland to recommend problem-solving and mediation for legal decisions about children. Her knowledge, standing and skill in collaboration, led to her Governor in Council appointment to the Children’s Court of Victoria (1995-2014), in their inaugural appointments to conduct mediation hearings in child abuse matters. Her significant service and research to child welfare and the law was recognized by her 2014 award as Member of the Order of Australia, General Division (AM).

Professor Sheehan has established an agenda for social work to create new solutions for vulnerable children which has seen the exploration of the intersection of child welfare, maternal incarceration and juvenile offending. This research has yielded many publications and helped shape policy developments in relation to imprisoned women.

With colleagues, Rosemary Sheehan undertook both the first national assessment of Australia’s Children’s Courts and helped establish specialist child abuse hearings within the Family Court of Australia, an internationally recognized innovation giving children independent legal representation and a voice in decision-making. Her research underpinned the introduction of a specialist juridical list for child sexual abuse cases (see Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law (UK)) in the Children’s Court of Victoria. Her European (Icarus Project) collaborations developed practice protocols now used in both Europe and Australia to identify child risk in cases of parental mental illness (see Social Work in Health Care (US), 39, 3/4 (2004): 309-324). Her funded studies (2016: -) of ‘cross-over kids’ directly contributed to Australia’s review of raising the age of criminal responsibility for children.

Rosemary Sheehan’s record of research and publication and the policy and practice impact of this resulted in her secondment by the Victorian Government to help shape new child welfare legislation (enacted 2005), and in her appointments to such bodies as the Victorian Government’s Child Death Review Committee and the Women’s Correctional Services Advisory Committee, among others. This scholarly standing and research prominence was recognised by the appointment to the ARC College of Experts (2016-18).

Professor Sheehan’s skill in fostering knowledge transfer and research collaborations is evidenced in her major research collaborations and professional invitations, and in her research grants across Government, Non-Government and philanthropic sectors. She contributes to international scholarly journal editorial leadership and board membership (e.g. member, the International Advisory Board for European Journal of Social Work; Howard Journal for Penal Reform; Australian Social Work; Brain Sciences), exemplifying a capacity to continue to generate wide interest from scholars, policy makers and service providers.

Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Monash University

Adjunct Professor, Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University.

AM (Order of Australia)

ARC, College of Experts 2016018, Member.

Monash University Vice-Chancellor’s Social Inclusion Award. Awarded to Rosemary Sheehan for her significant contribution to the University’s commitment to social justice and inclusion.

EU-Oceania Social Science Inter-regional Consortium Fellowship Award. University of Limerick (Ireland). Development of collaborative research project on child protection in the Pacific. 2014.

Monash University. School of Primary Health Care Teaching Excellence Award (Innovation). Awarded to Rosemary Sheehan. 2014

Australian Association of Social Workers Research Award: The Norm Smith Publication Award 2010.

Member, Australian Association of Social Worker

Member, Board of Australian Social Work

Member, Truth, Justice and Healing Council 2015-2018

  1. Sheehan, R. and Baidawi, S. (2019). Cross-over kids’: children and young people in the youth justice and child protection systems. Routledge, UK
  2. Sheehan, R. (2020) ‘Child protection: the role of the Children's Court’. In E. Fernandez and P. Delfabbro (eds.) (2020) Child Protection and the Care Continuum London:Routedge, pp.123-133
  3. Sheehan, R. (2019) ‘Cumulative Harm in Child Protection: The Hidden Concern’, Australian Social Work, Vol. 72, No. 4, pp. 434-446. .
  4. Sheehan, R. (2021)‘Evidence-based Community Supervision Models that Work: The Australian Approach’. In S. Brown & L. Gelsthorpe The Wiley Handbook on What Works with Female Offenders: A Critical Review of Theory, Practice and Policy. Oxford: Wiley.
  5. Sheehan, R. and Petrakis. M. ‘Social Work Practice in Mental Health Settings’. In M. Alston, S. McCurdy and J. McKinnon (eds.) (2018) Social Work: Fields of Practice (3rd ed.) Oxford University Press.