Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Griffith University, Griffith Criminology Institute
App. deadline 02/10/2018
  • Please enquire for further details
  • Scholarship available
Eligibility Australian residents only

Indigenous mothers in the criminal justice system

Griffith University hosts one of the largest, most vibrant, and high-performing criminology research communities in the world.  At the Griffith Criminology Institute (GCI) internationally-renowned scholars are collaborating in a broad range of areas to produce cutting edge knowledge that helps create safe, just, well-governed and equitable societies. Our research aims to address the major challenges that confront society and is organised around themes and projects which currently include: violence prevention, life course studies, prevention science, policing, corrections, innovative justice, procedural justice, vulnerable families, prosecutions, justice in the Asia-Pacific, investigative interviewing and countering violent extremism.

Prospective Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students are invited to apply for a PhD Scholarship with the Griffith Criminology Institute. Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend Scholarship, Griffith University Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Griffith University Indigenous Australian Postgraduate Research Scholarship applications are currently open, closing Tuesday 2 October 2018. These Scholarship opportunities each provide a living allowance of approximately $27,082 (2018 rate, indexed annually) per annum. Tuition Scholarships are also available for international HDR candidates.

How to Apply

Prospective students should follow the process for submitting an online Scholarship application outlined on the Griffith University website;

GCI Scholarship Top-up Funding

To complement the Scholarships above, GCI is offering up to 5 Top-up Scholarships each valued at $6,000 per annum, paid in addition to the usual living allowance. Applicants must meet the University’s selection criteria for entry into the PhD programme and be awarded a living allowance Scholarship to qualify for the extra GCI Top-up funding.

All students who apply for a Scholarship with GCI will be considered for top-up funding. A pre-formulated project is outlined below and additional projects are outlined in this document: Students may also undertake any other HDR project within the Institute. All Scholarship applications will be considered via the usual round assessment process and top-ups will be awarded to the highest ranked GCI candidates in the Order of Merit.

Students must contact the supervisor or supervisory team by early-September 2018 to discuss the project and develop a research proposal for inclusion with the Scholarship application. Contact details for the supervisory teams of pre-formulated projects are provided below and students may contact our members directly to discuss projects and supervisory arrangements.

Other GCI PhD Scholarships and Top-ups

Additionally, GCI is proud to support the Tony Fitzgerald Top-up Scholarship, and the Nina Westera Scholarship in Adult Investigative Interviewing. Please see the following links for further information regarding these Scholarships:

Project Title:

Indigenous mothers in the criminal justice system

Supervisory Team:

Professor Susan Dennison (

Prof Dennison has extensive research experience on the impact of parental incarceration on the development and wellbeing of parents in prison, their children, and caregivers. More broadly, her research focuses on the contexts affecting children’s developmental systems and life outcomes as well as using evidence-based research to inform policy and prevention for at-risk children. She is an experienced PhD supervisor and is currently supervising three other PhD candidates on projects relating to parental incarceration. She has conducted research with Indigenous fathers in prison and is currently supervising a PhD project evaluating a program for Indigenous parents in prison. She is the lead Chief Investigator on the current ARC Discovery Project that this PhD project will contribute to; Maternal incarceration: Mechanisms of risk and resilience in children’s developmental contexts.

Professor Lisa Broidy (

Prof Broidy is a Professor in sociology at the University of New Mexico, an Adjunct Professor in the Griffith Criminology Institute and a partner investigator on the current ARC Discovery Project. She is an internationally recognised scholar in developmental criminology, particularly in relation to the intersectionality of race and gender on offending pathways and outcomes.

An ECR associate supervisor may also be recruited to provide an opportunity for supervision mentoring and development.

Project Description:

Aims and Background: The PhD project will be part of the ARC Discovery Project – Maternal incarceration: Mechanisms of risk and resilience in children’s developmental contexts.

Internationally, parental imprisonment has a demonstrated effect on intergenerational offending as well as a worsening of intergenerational disparities, racial inequality and social exclusion. In Australia, First Peoples comprise approximately 2% of the adult population but make up more than a quarter (27%) of our prison population. As a result of this over-representation in prison and in the justice system more broadly, Indigenous children are disproportionately more likely to experience parental incarceration than non-Indigenous children. However, we have very little understanding of the ways that Indigenous children in Australia are affected by the incarceration of their mother. Furthermore, we do not know whether children whose mothers are involved in the criminal justice system but who are not incarcerated (i.e. are on probation) are similarly affected.

The ARC Discovery project has two overarching aims:

  1. To determine whether or not maternal incarceration affects children’s psychological and social development and how this links to children’s antisocial and offending outcomes.
  2. To build from existing criminological theories to develop an evidence-based, theoretical model of the mechanisms by which maternal incarceration exerts its effect on children.

An outstanding Indigenous doctoral candidate is sought to undertake studies on experiences of maternal incarceration for First Peoples children. This project forms part of a larger ARC Discovery Project using mixed-methods to investigate the developmental contexts of children who have a mother in prison or on probation. The successful PhD candidate will have the opportunity to adapt the methodology of the ARC Discovery project to incorporate methodologies suitable for research with First Peoples. They will be involved in primary data collection; conducting interviews with Indigenous mothers and their families in Queensland.

Research Plan: In this PhD project the candidate will consider the specific challenges for justice-affected Indigenous mothers and their children and caregivers. The research will focus on identifying the mechanisms that drive adverse developmental outcomes for children as well as those associated with resilience. Through this project the candidate will identify key programming and policy targets that can address the risks and needs specific to mothers, children, families and communities.


Year 1: Conduct literature review; develop research questions within scope of aims of ARC Project; interview training; data collection.

Year 2: Data collection; analyse data, write 1st paper.

Year 3: Analyse data; write 2nd paper; write thesis; present paper at international conference.

Travel for data collection and transcription of interviews will be supported from the ARC Discovery Project budget in consultation with the project investigators.

Other Important information:

The successful applicant will join an innovative team of researchers at the Griffith Criminology Institute undertaking research on prison and the family. As a doctoral student, you will develop expertise in cutting edge criminology, gain experience in research design and methods, and produce insights that may lead to improved outcomes for Indigenous mothers and their children.

This HDR project is reserved for applicants of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, who identify themselves as such, and are accepted by the community with which they are associated with as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Applicants should be available to start in early 2019 and have the following attributes:

  • An undergraduate degree with Class IIA Honours or above, in an appropriate discipline (such as criminology, psychology, sociology, social work, or some combination of these areas)
  • An ability to work with quantitative and qualitative data, with specific experience or interest in qualitative research
  • Experience or interest in developing their expertise in Indigenous research methodologies
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and willingness to work in a team environment
  • A driver’s licence to enable travel to prisons and communities to conduct interviews
  • Hold a blue card or be blue card eligible in order to interview children and young people
  • be intending to enrol full-time in the doctoral program through the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Please Note: Should this listing mention details of an available scholarship, it is your responsibility to confirm the specifics with the university / institute prior to applyiing. Terms and conditions are in some cases subject to change and are not always reflected immediately within listings.

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Further Information / Application Enquiries

Prof Susan Dennison