Including the voices of children and young people in support services [closed]

Supplementary scholarship funded by Relationships Australia

This supplementary ‘top up’ scholarship is a terrific opportunity for a PhD candidate who wants to conduct research that will inform improvements in community services for Australian children, young people, and their families and/or carers.

I’m not doing health research. Can I still apply?

This opportunity will suit students from a range of backgrounds as long as you have an interest in improving service delivery for children and young people. Students from a broad range of disciplines are invited to apply e.g psychology, anthropology, sociology, population health, medicine, social work, law, education and early childhood studies.

When is the closing date?

Applications close at 10pm on October 31, 2022.

The Scholarship

This supplementary scholarship is funded by the Relationships Australia Federation and led by Relationships Australia Canberra & Region in association with the Relationships Australia National Research Network. It is offered in collaboration with the Australian National University, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH) through the Population Health Exchange (the PHXchange), which facilitates interdisciplinary research collaborations.
The supplementary scholarship aims to fund and support an HDR candidate to conduct research that develops evidence-informed approach/es for including the voices of children and young people in the design, delivery, and evaluation of counselling and other support services, such as those delivered by Relationships Australia State and Territory organisations. This research will enable providers of counselling and other services to understand better the benefits of including the voices of young people and children in service design, delivery and evaluation and to determine when and how it is appropriate. In addition, the candidate will consider knowledge translation implications, from research to practice. This research will be embedded in a real-world setting, with the PhD candidate working directly with the Relationships Australia Canberra & Region organisation and collaborating with several other Relationships Australia State and Territory organisations.
There is strong evidence that including children’s voices in services can have positive effects such as mediating parental and family conflict, improving co-parenting outcomes, reducing child stress, improving psychological well-being, and more effective service delivery. In recognition of these benefits, there is a strong appetite across the Relationships Australia Federation to better understand how the voices of children and young people can be amplified in services.
The Award is being offered through the PHXchange. The Supervisory Panel will be Chaired by an academic from the PHXchange and will include an appropriately qualified Research Officer from Relationships Australia Canberra & Region. The successful candidate will be supported in exploring options for additional supervisors that may be internal or external to NCEPH, appropriate for the PhD project.
The prospective candidate will access a physical workspace in Relationships Australia Canberra & Regions office. In this space, they will be able to work directly with the Senior Research Officer, be supported by the Manager of the Research, Evaluation and Policy team and have access to practitioner staff and potentially clients in both Canberra and across the Federation. The successful HDR candidate will also be able to become a working member of the Relationships Australia National Research Network, which consists of a Relationships Australia CEO as chair, and research staff from each of the Relationships Australia State and Territory organisations. They will also have the opportunity to travel to, and work alongside research and practice staff and clients at various Relationships Australia Federation members.


Supplementary ‘top up’ scholarship: $21,640.50 per annum for three years.
Research support: The recipient will also have access to dedicated research funding of up to $37,000 (total) to provide for research costs incurred as part of the project, such as data access, transcription, travel, conference registration, research translation, relocation, thesis and publication costs.


The scholarship is available to a domestic student who:
  • is enrolled or enrolling full-time in a program of study for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, based in the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH)*; and
  • is in receipt of an approved ANU HDR Base stipend scholarship; and
  • is not in full-time employment; and
  • has arrived at a research topic that meets the intent of the Award, in consultation with the donor and PHXchange; and
  • is located, or able to relocate to Canberra or surrounds; and
  • must complete a National Crime Check, and hold and maintain legislative certification for working with children and vulnerable people.
*While the student will be based at NCEPH, the supervisory panel may include researchers from other disciplines.

How to apply

It is expected that applicants will also be applying for ANU enrolment and other scholarships. Therefore, this supplementary scholarship may be awarded provisionally while awaiting the results of these other processes.
Please get in touch with Dr Ginny Sargent to discuss your application and seek advice on prospective supervision, 02 6125 5546,
To apply for this scholarship, you will need to provide the following:
  1. Project research proposal (up to 4 pages), which has been discussed with one nominated prospective supervisor.
  2. CV, academic record and details of 2 referees
  3. Expression of Interest (EOI). These 2 pages, should express your motivation and suitability to receive this Award, and for admission the ANU PhD program; and detail any other scholarships awarded or applied for.
Additional information may be requested.
Applications will be accepted up until 10 pm Monday 31st October 2022.
Applications should be emailed to:
Student Office, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU cc


Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview with the selection panel. Selection will be made on the basis of:
  • Performance at interview
  • Significance and relevance of the proposed research proposal to address the aims of the Award
  • Applicant’s research potential (based on CV, academic record and EOI)
  • Applicant’s relevant experience
  • Research feasibility, support from prospective supervisors; and
  • Comparison with other applications received in the same scholarship round
Following interview, further consideration will be given to:
  • Referee reports
  • English language competency
  • ANU enrolment
  • Other scholarships


Children’s voices are ‘views of children that are actively heard and valued as substantive contributions to decisions affecting the children’s lives’ (Brooks and Murray, 2018). Within Australia the establishment of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (2009 - 2021), and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2012) have led to an increased focus on working to improve life outcomes for children and young people. A key outcome of these processes are the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles) which specifically require that “Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously” (AHRC, 2018).

Many programs across the Relationships Australia Federation receive funding under the Family and Children Activity, (Department of Social Services) which requires them to comply with the National Principles. In addition to the requirements of the National Principles there are broader reasons for children and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect them, as elegantly stated by (Murray, 2019) “those who listen actively to children’s voices come to know and understand the children’s needs and interests and that this provides information that enables adults to respond positively to children’s needs and interests” and “If we do not listen actively and attend to each child’s voice, we convey to the child and others that we do not value the child’s perspective, and ultimately, that we do not value the child.” Aside from these agential benefits, research shows that including children’s voices in services can have positive effects such as mediating parental and family conflict (Yasenik, Graham and Fieldstone, 2020), improving co-parenting outcomes (Yasenik and Graham, 2016), reducing child stress and improving psychological well-being (McIntosh et al., 2008), and more effective service delivery (Hutchfield and Coren, 2011).

Across the Relationships Australia Federation, we have recognised the benefits that can be gained from including the voice of children and young people. While specific initiatives engage with children and young people, there are no systematic methods, informed by empirical studies available to understand when it is appropriate or how to include the voice of children and young people in community services. This gap represents an opportunity to improve our service design, delivery, and evaluation and produce positive wellbeing outcomes for children and young people who intersect with our services. As such, this is an exciting time to develop and test a best-practice and evidence-based model for how to embed these important voices in our services.

This project is funded by Relationships Australia, a federation of eight state and territory organisations. We provide services and supports across each Australian state and territory, via our state and territory organisations. We are a community-based, not-for-profit Australian organisation with no religious affiliations. Our services are for all members of the community, regardless of religious belief, age, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle choice, cultural background, or economic circumstances.

The Relationships Australia Federation is committed to research and the use of data and practice evidence to inform our services and Australia’s social policy landscape. Through a combination of unique research projects and partnerships with universities, we are proud to contribute our skills and experience to enhance the understanding of issues impacting our clients and fellow Australians more broadly.

Relationships Australia Canberra & Region is the lead organisation of this project for the Federation. We offer community services to clients throughout the ACT, in the NSW Riverina, and an extensive area of the far south coast of NSW. We believe that positive and healthy relationships in our home, work, and social lives are essential for our wellbeing. Our journey through life is not always straightforward, and there are times when our relationships become tough and erode our mental and physical health. Our services support people at times of vulnerability and across their lifespan. Our services are available to all who need our support, regardless of income, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, cultural background. 

The Relationships Australia National Research Network consists of a Relationships Australia CEO as chair, and research staff from each of the Relationships Australia State and Territory organisations. We work together as a team of experienced researchers to identify key issues common across Relationships Australia Federation, that may be addressed using empirical research tools. As a group we support each other to identify, develop, and undertake research projects in a collaborative manner. The outputs of our activities play an important role in providing an evidence base for community services, for both the Relationships Australia Federation and the broader community services sector.

This PhD Supplementary Scholarship is being offered in collaboration with the Population Health Exchange (PHXchange). The PHXchange is part of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, College of Health and Medicine, ANU, and provides resources for fostering collaborations between researchers and diverse stakeholders. These collaborations aim to increase the impact of research in society, such as achieving better health outcomes through evidence-informed policy and practice change. The PHXchange engages in multidisciplinary research that utilises the strengths of members across the ANU.

For more information about the scholarship please contact:
Dr Ginny Sargent | 02 6125 5546 |