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Dr Bernadette Saunders

Senior Lecturer

Master of Social Work (Qualifying) On Campus Co-ordinator

Telephone: +61 3 9903 4784

Facsimile: +61 3 9903 1141



 Dr Saunders, PhD (Monash) MSW (H1Equiv.) (Monash) Dip Ed (Monash) BSW (Melb) BA (Social Science) (LaTrobe) was invited to join the Department of Social Work in 1996 as a sessional tutor/lecturer and as a researcher in the Child Abuse and Family Violence Research Centre, now known as Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia (CAPRA) where she was on secondment as a Senior Research Fellow from 2007 until 2010. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in social work and is the Coordinator of the Master of Social Work (Qualifying) (On-Campus). She also coordinates and teaches SWM5101 Human rights, Law and Ethics at the Masters level, SWK4030 Human Rights, Legal and Ethical Social Work Practice at the undergraduate level, and SWM5160 Masters unit - The Child in Society: Promoting Child Wellbeing and Responding to Child Maltreatment.

Dr Saunders previously worked in the field of Medical Social Work in the area of cancer and terminal illness. As part of her MSW at Monash, she conducted a program evaluation of a specialised home-based care foster agency program, and she published a non-commercial book on risk assessment in child protection$FILE/FV_ACF_1998_risk_assessments_critique.pdf.

The initial Australian Research Council funded research project in which she participated explored risk assessment in child protection practice and the response of community professionals to mandatory reporting legislation. This, and subsequent, research resulted in publications in both national and international refereed journals on child abuse risk assessment; language and children’s rights; child abuse and the media; and the physical punishment of children. As part of a Queensland Crime Commission inquiry: Project Axis, she co-authored, with Chris Goddard, a chapter on child sexual abuse and the media.

In 2005, Dr Saunders completed a PhD, funded by the Australian Research Council and The Australian Childhood Foundation as part of an Australian Post-Graduate Award (Industry). Her research focused on legally sanctioned physical punishment of children, children’s rights, and the intergenerational transmission of family violence. Later research projects include research that focused on child abuse in two major hospitals in two states in Australia, funded by the Hecht Trust and the Fred Archer Trust; and Legal Services Board Grants Program funded research, in conjunction with the Faculty of Law at Monash, which further explored the “lawful correction” of children (see final report at 2010: Legal Services Board (Vic) Major Grant: Lawful correction or child abuse: Clarifying the boundaries, sanctions and decision-making surrounding the physical discipline of children

She recently lead another Legal Services Board Grants Program funded research project on the Victorian Infringements System in conjunction with the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Arts, Criminology (see final report at: 2008: Legal Service Board: An examination of the impact of unpaid fines on disadvantaged groups and the criminal justice system - towards a best practice model.

Dr Saunders frequently presents at national and international conferences, and the media regularly consults her in relation to the ‘smacking’ debate – a children’s rights issue about which she is particularly passionate (see for example: ; ;


Selected publications include:


Saunders, B.J. (2013) ‘Ending the Physical Punishment of Children by Parents in the English-speaking World: The Impact of Language, Tradition and Law’ International Journal of Children’s Rights DOI 10.1163/15718182-02102001


Brown, M., Lansdell, G., Saunders, B and Eriksson, A (2013) ‘I’m sorry but you’re just not that special …’ Reflecting on the ‘Special Circumstances’ Provisions of the

Infringements Act 2006 (Vic), Currrent Issues in Criminal Justice, 24, 3, 375-393.

Lansdell, G., Eriksson, A., Saunders, B., Brown, M. (2012) ‘Infringement Notice Systems in Australia: a precarious blurring and civil and criminal sanctions', 37(1) Alternative Law Journal, 41-45.

Naylor, B., & Saunders, B. (2011). Parental Discipline, Criminal Laws and Responsive Regulation. In M. Freeman (Ed.), Law & Childhood Studies (pp. 506-530). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Saunders, B., & Cashmore, C. (2011), ‘Australia: The Ongoing Debate about Ending Physical Punishment’ in Anne Smith and Joan Durrant (eds), Realizing the Rights of Children: Global Progress towards Ending Physical Punishment. Dr Saunders’ publications include:

Saunders, B.J. & Goddard, C. (2010), ‘Physical punishment in childhood: The rights of the child’, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell.

Naylor, B & Saunders, B.J. (2009), ‘Whose Rights? Children, Parents and Discipline’, Alternative Law Journal 34, 2, 80-85.

Saunders, B.J. & Goddard, C. (2008) ‘Some Australian Children's Perceptions of Physical Punishment in Childhood’, Children & Society, 22, 405-417.

Saunders, B.J. & Goddard, C. (2007) ‘The importance of listening to children: A qualitative study on the use of parental physical punishment in childhood in Australia’, Social Development Issues – Special Issue – Child Protection Challenges Worldwide, 29(3):33-46.

Saunders, B.J. and Goddard. C. (2005) ‘The objectification of the child through language and physical discipline: The debate on children’s rights continues’, in J. Mason and T. Fattore (2005) (eds), Children Taken Seriously: In Policy and Practice, Jessica Kingsley, Birmingham.

Saunders, B.J. and Goddard, C.R. (2001) ‘The textual abuse of childhood in the English-speaking world – The contribution of language to the denial of children’s rights’, Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, 8 (4): 443-462.