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Donna Cross headshot

Emeritus Professor Donna Cross OAM

School of Population and Global Health

"Push harder at boundaries for female academics who want to have families and continue to work at the highest level, while also maintaining a reasonable work/home balance."

Donna Cross is a leader in the field of children’s and youth mental health and wellbeing, awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, and inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame (2022) for her contribution to the children and young people of WA. She received the 2022 Leadership in Health Promotion award for her work building the capacity of child health researchers.

Previously she was awarded the 2012 WA Australian of the Year and the 2012 Future Justice Prize for Australian leadership and initiative in the advancement of future justice. She also received an NHMRC fellowship and Churchill Fellowship in 2017 for her applied research enhancing children’s social and emotional development and reducing bullying and cyberbullying and in 2015 she was invited to be a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Since 1994 she has secured over $84m in competitive research funding to conduct intervention research targeting children, published over 300 journal articles, books/chapters and reports and supervised 43 PhD and Masters students.

Most important experiences at UWA

  • Integrity, commitment, talent and passion of UWA colleagues
  • Warm collegiality and trans-disciplinary research innovation with staff
  • Working with and learning from researchers, especially those early and mid-career
  • The keen focus on research excellence and research translation to community impact and outcomes
  • Building strong and sustainable community, practitioner and policy maker partnerships

Where did you think you would end up, when you began your career?

Working with young people and children to improve over their life course their education, health and wellbeing outcomes.

Did your field and goals change?

Yes, I moved from the field of education to public health and health promotion intervention research targeting children and young people.

My goal was always to work to improve the health, development and education outcomes for disadvantaged children and adolescents and their families.

What are some of your most significant achievements?

  • Influencing significant state, national and international government and UN education and health policy and school system practice related to children’s and adolescents’ mental health and wellbeing, intentional and unintentional injury control and bullying and cyberbullying prevention in schools.
  • Empirically testing and scaling 93 school-based interventions throughout Australia and internationally co-designed with practitioners and young people to improve school-age students’ mental health and wellbeing and reduce injuries.
  • Supervising 43 higher degree students to completion and mentoring over 200 early and mid-career researchers to be curious and innovative, and thrive in research environments.

What has been the most interesting aspect of your career?

  • Ensuring children, young people and their families have agency and actively contribute as consumers to health and education policies and practices that affect them.
  • Conducting community-based research that identified effective population-level and targeted innovative interventions that helped reduce the impact of disadvantage on young children and their families.
  • Working with international colleagues and UN agencies to determine the population impact of public health and health promotion interventions.
  • Innovative use of technology to address health issues among children and their families.

Where to from here?

  • Volunteering with organisations that focus on improving outcomes for children and young people, especially those who are experiencing disadvantage.
  • Helping to secure research funding for several child-focused NGOs.
  • Continuing to contribute to research and research supervision of my current PhD students.
  • Continue to mentor mid and early career researchers.

Are there any new interests you are looking to get involved in?

  • Use of technology to address ‘wicked’ public health problems.
  • Learn more as an amateur astronomer.
  • And learn to Tango…
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