Sharon Bessell's picture

Sharon Bessell

Professor, Policy and Governance; Director, Children’s Policy Centre; Director, Poverty and Inequality Research Centre


BA (Hons 1st class, Tasmania), PhD (Monash) Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy

Contact details

Current Research Projects

Sharon is currently working on several major research projects.

Valuing the Past, Sustaining the Future

This project explores education, learning, knowledge and identity formation among children across three generations in small coastal communities. It explores the relationship between place and identity, and local meanings of sustainability - and how these have changed over time. A special issue of Children’s Geographies be published in 2022, as will our first edited volume from the project.

This research is part of a multi-country project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and led by Professor Anne Trine Kjerholt at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Professor Bessell is leading the Australian study, which is focusing on growing up in small coastal communities in Tasmania.

Assessing Childhood Poverty in Indonesia

Poverty impacts disproportionately on children. Of those living in extreme poverty globally, one third are children aged under 12 years. In Indonesia, where considerable progress has been made in addressing poverty, 44.3 million children – more than half the population aged under 18 years – still live on less than $2 per day. Childhood poverty is of particular policy concern, not only because of the terrible impacts on children’s live, but also because of the long term consequences of childhood deprivation on affected individuals and for society as a whole. Responding to childhood poverty remains one of the greatest challenges facing the world.

This research is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant, and is using participatory methods with children to deepen understanding of how they experience poverty and which issues they consider most important. The research aims to develop a child-centred approach to measuring childhood poverty and provide policy relevant findings to assist policy makers identify new and more effective ways of addressing childhood poverty.

Research Team: Professor Sharon Bessell, Dr Angie Bexley, Clara Siagian

The Individual Measure of Multidimensional Poverty

The Individual Measure of Multidimensional Poverty (IMMP)is a gender sensitive measure of multi-dimensional poverty. It is the result of more than a decade of research with a range of partners globally, which commenced with participatory research with over 2,000 women and men with lived experience of poverty across six countries, and leading to large scale surveys of multidimensional poverty in Indonesia and South Africa.

The IMMP was called the Individual Deprivation Measure during its development, and was supported by an Australian Research Linkage grant from 2009-2013 and by the Australian Government from 2016 to 2020.

More information is available on the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre website.

Past Projects:

Children, Communities and Social Capital in Australia Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, this project was undertaken in collaboration between Sharon Bessell, ANU; Professor Jan Mason, UWS; The Benevolent Society and NAPCAN. The project explored children’s views on what makes a strong and supportive community. The research has involved over 100 children, aged between 8 and 12 years, across six sites. The research produced two major reports, available below and several other publications, including a special issue of Children and Society. Please contact Sharon for details or copies.

Putting the Pieces in Place: Children, Communities and Social Capital in Australia (the full report)

Communities Matter: Children’s View of Community in Australia (report to children)

Click here for a brief ‘snapshot’ of the project.

Improving Well-being through Student Participation at School Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, this project is undertaken in collaboration between Sharon Bessell, ANU; Professor Anne Graham and her team at Southern Cross University; the University of Central Lancashire; the NSW Commission for Children and Young People; NSW Department of Education and Communities; Catholic Schools Office, Lismore.

The aim of this research was to strengthen knowledge, policy and practice concerning student participation at school by identifying whether and how such participation improves students’ social and emotional wellbeing. The project investigated: (a) how student participation is currently articulated in education policy in Australia; (b) how students and teachers currently understand and experience participation; (c) which elements of participation at school are core predictors of student wellbeing; and (d) whether Honneth’s modes of recognition (cared for, respected and valued) mediate the relationship between participation and wellbeing. The research took place in government and non-government secondary schools in metropolitan and regional NSW. A key output of the research was a tool to measure participation in school, developed by the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University. More information on this project, and the project reports, is available here.

Research Team:

Professor Anne Graham – Chief Investigator (CCYP – SCU) Associate Professor Sharon Bessell – Chief Investigator (ANU) Associate Professor Judy Cashmore – Chief Investigator (USYD) Professor Nigel Thomas - (UCLAN) Dr Ruth Habgood (NSW Commission for Children & Young People) Dr Lyn Gardon (NSW Department of Education and Communities) Dr Paul Thornton (Catholic Schools Office, Lismore) Dr Catharine Simmons – Research Associate (CCYP - SCU) Dr Donnah Anderson – Research Associate (CCYP - SCU) Nadine White – Research Assistant (CCYP – SCU)

Carespeak Undertaken in collaboration between Sharon Bessell, ANU and the ACT Children and Young People Commissioner, this research explored the views of children and young people in out-of-home care about the language used to describe their lives.

Developing Child-Inclusive Policy in Fiji This research explored the views and priorities of children and young people in Fiji on policy issues that are relevant to them. The first phase of this research focuses on children and young people’s views on education. As part of this research the Children and Young People’s Forum on Education in Fiji was held in June 2009, in collaboration with Save the Children Fiji.

Read the report from the Children and Young People’s Forum [PDF, 2346KB] on Education in Fiji. What does children’s and youth participation mean for children and adults?

Children’s experiences and views of physical and emotional punishment (2005-06) Dr Sharon Bessell, Dr Harriot Beazley (University of Queensland), Dr Judith Ennew, Associate Professor Roxana Waterson (National University of Singapore) Funding Source: Save the Children Sweden

This research records what 3,322 children from eight countries in the Southeast Asia and the Pacific region told researchers about everyday, common violence - both physical and emotional - used as punishment against them. It used a systematic, scientific approach, which sought information about children’s knowledge, experiences and views, using appropriate methods through which they could express themselves easily and without being harmed.

View the monograph View the research protocol [PDF, 1044KB] (including details of our methodology, methods used and ethical considerations

Child Labour Work Book: Rights-Based Situational Analysis Data Collection and Report Writing (2006) Funding Source: Save the Children Sweden Dr Sharon Bessell and Dr Judith Ennew

This research resulted in a Work Book, designed to be used in any country in the world, provides tools and step-by-step instructions on what data to collect and where to find it. Clear directions are provided on writing a situation analysis on working children and child labour, within overall national contexts. Such contextual situation analysis will develop better understanding of the circumstances of working children, and result in focused programme responses for better protection of working children and the fulfilment of their rights. View Child Labour Workbook

Updated:  24 September 2023/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team