We work with respected researchers and academics who have extensive experience conducting research and evaluation projects in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community settings. Their areas of expertise include child development, early years and primary school education, health and wellbeing, family wellbeing and community-led research and development.

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Research and Development

There is an insufficient amount of rigorous research and evaluation being undertaken in Australia in the area of complex inequity and First Nations solutions. This is particularly true in relation to the long-term impact of early childhood learning on First Nations children. Researchers, services and governments in Australia continue to rely on overseas research that is decades old and conducted in vastly different contexts.

Children’s Ground will undertake and engage in research agendas and projects nested within and related to the Children’s Ground Approach and other First Nations-led approaches. We will support community-led research priorities and contribute to national and international evidence bases.

The National Health Medical Research Council states that First Nations people define research benefit as “the establishment or enhancement of capabilities, opportunities or outcomes that advance the interests of First Nations peoples and that are valued by them” (NHMRC 2003).

For Children’s Ground, reforming mainstream research methods and practice in order to feature First Nations approaches and First Nations research priorities is critical to First Nations aspirations of empowerment and self-determination. Children’s Ground works with First Nations leaders and researchers to contribute to the development of new tools and thinking about what research benefit means for First Nations people and the impact of our community and strategic research work.

Research partnerships

Alongside our own research priorities, we partner with key research institutions and organisations to contribute practical evidence about how we redress complex and extreme disadvantage in Australia and globally. Our research principles guide our research agreements to ensure all work aligns with the rights of First Nations people and prioritises empowerment and self-determination.

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Professor Fiona Arney

Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Professor Fiona Arney is the Chair of Child Protection and Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia. Professor Arney is motivated by the desire to see children’s lives transformed through enhancing the responsiveness of families, communities, service providers and systems to the needs of vulnerable children.

Throughout her career, Professor Arney has worked across a wide variety of research topics. More recently, her work has focused on areas such as family decision making in child protection matters for Aboriginal families; the use of child protection teams to support regional and remote child protection offices; examining proxy indicators for neglect, and effectives responses to child neglect; and family violence prevention in remote communities with a particular focus on engaging Aboriginal men.

Associate Professor Sally Brinkman

Co-Director, Fraser Mustard Centre, Senior Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute

Associate Professor Sally Brinkman is a social epidemiologist with the majority of her research focusing on societies’ impact on child development. Associate Professor Brinkman is a Senior Research Fellow and Program Manager Faculty Member at the world-renowned Telethon Kids Institute in Perth. She is also the Co-Director of the Fraser Mustard Centre, an innovative initiative between the Telethon Kids Institute and the South Australia Department of Education and Child Development aimed to improve research translation.

Dr Brinkman is well known for spearheading the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in Australia, being the first to pilot the instrument outside of Canada. She brings locally, nationally and internationally recognised epidemiological skills particularly in relation to population monitoring of child development and education. She has a commitment to practical, pragmatic and translatable research, with over 60 publications on topics such as child physical activity and nutrition levels, how child development varies across communities and the impact of socio economics and service integration on child development.

Mr Matthew James

Senior Executive, Housing and Specialised Services Group and Deputy Director, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Matthew James is the Senior Executive, Housing and Specialised Services Group at the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare and he is the Deputy Director of the Institute. He was the Assistant Secretary, Information and Evaluation Branch in Indigenous Affairs Group in the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet (PM&C) from 2013 to November 2016. From 2008 to 2013, he was Branch Manager, Performance and Evaluation Branch in the former Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). Prior to joining FaHCSIA, Matthew was a Branch Manager in the former Department of Education Employment and Training (DEEWR). At DEEWR, Matthew worked on employment policy and implementation as well as workplace relations policy and analysis. From 2002 to 2004 he was Counsellor, Employment, Education, Science and Training in the Australian Delegation to the OECD in Paris. Matthew was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2016.

Dr Tim Moore

Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Community Child Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne

Dr Tim Moore trained as a teacher and psychologist at the University of Melbourne and has worked as an educational and developmental psychologist for over 30 years. He has played a leading role in the development of early child intervention services for young children with developmental disabilities. In his current position at the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH), Dr. Moore works with colleagues from different disciplines in synthesising research evidence, providing advice to state and federal government and non-government agencies on best practices in early childhood, and conducting research and project work in generalist and specialist early childhood services and in service development. He has been the principal writer on numerous CCCH reviews, reports and policy briefs, and is a frequent keynote and workshop presenter.

Professor Sven Silburn

Director, Centre for Child Development and Education, Menzies School of Health Research

Professor Sven Silburn is a national leader in clinical, epidemiological and evaluative research in child development and education, youth mental health and suicide prevention. Professor Silburn was a chief investigator on the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey of over 5,600 children, young people and their families. This reported the first independently validated data on the extent of the intergenerational effects of forced separation on the health and wellbeing of the current generation of Aboriginal children and their families. He was also responsible for the validation studies for the establishment of the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) and its adaptation for use with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Professor Silburn has served on several national, state and territory advisory boards and been active in policy advocacy in the areas of the developmental health of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children and suicide prevention.

Associate Professor David Thomas

Head, Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Disease, Menzies School of Health Research

Associate Professor David Thomas has worked in Aboriginal health and health research for nearly 30 years. He has worked both as a doctor and a researcher and is particularly interested in the translation of research into policy and practice through advocacy, collaborations with policy makers and practitioners, and his membership on several important national and NT committees.

Associate Professor Thomas established and has led the Tobacco Control Research Program at Menzies since 2007. He has completed research about many aspects of Aboriginal tobacco control, including the national cohort study Talking About The Smokes, a Randomised Control Trial, a Cochrane review, qualitative research, evaluations of local and national policies and projects, and monitoring trends in smoking. This work has been in collaboration with Australian and international researchers, including many Aboriginal researchers, and in close partnership with Aboriginal communities and organisations.

Professor Komla Tsey

Research Professor, Centre for Research and Innovation in Sustainability Education, The Cairns Institute, College of Arts Social Science and Education, James Cook University

Professor Komla Tsey was born in Ghana and studied at the University of Ghana and the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Komla now lives in Australia, researching and learning about Aboriginal development, health and wellbeing. He continues to undertake long-term rural development research in Ghana. Komla has authored over 100 peer-reviewed academic papers and reports. His research interests include: the social determinants of health and wellbeing; community empowerment; transformational leadership development; research priority setting to improve the societal impact and benefit of research. Komla has a passion and commitment for learning as key to building healthy sustainable organisations and communities. He enjoys spending time with his extended family and friends, and loves walking.