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Program Head, Development & Education


Donna Cross is a Professor with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia, and Head of the Health Promotion and Education Research team at the Telethon Kids Institute where she leads 32 researchers who develop and test strategies to improve children’s and adolescents’ wellbeing, with a focus on mental health and social-emotional wellbeing.

She is also the Director of the Early Childhood Development and Learning Collaboration (CoLab), which brings researchers together with service providers, communities and policy makers to improve early childhood outcomes.

Additionally, Donna is a Chief Investigator and the Western Australian Node Director of a recently awarded 2020 ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course. This $32.1m project will aim to produce and empower precision methods and adaptive social interventions to optimise support for disadvantaged children and families, helping them to achieve their life potential.

She was previously the Founding Director of the Child Health Promotion Research Centre at Edith Cowan University (2003-2012), where she led numerous research projects to build researcher capacity in the promotion of children’s and young people’s social and emotional development and wellbeing.

Donna is an experienced educator and applied health promotion researcher, with expertise in engaging with stakeholders to enhance intervention effectiveness and sustainability. Most of her research has involved school and community-based interventions and through the formation of stakeholder, consumer and peak agency advisory groups, she has developed strong collaborative links with state/federal government departments and major NGOs related to health, education and children. She has extensive research translation experience, contributing to major child and adolescent health practice and policy in Australia.

Donna has 29 years of applied research experience as a Chief Investigator for $84m in research funding. She is currently a Chief Investigator on nine longitudinal research projects aiming to prevent bullying, cyberbullying and associated mental health harms among young people; promote healthy technology use, and improve the socio-emotional wellbeing of young children and supporting the social and emotional development of children and adolescents with chronic disease.

Donna has published 37 books/chapters, 152 journal articles, 91 reports and over 100 health education resources, frequently cited by other scholars.Her research outputs have been translated by government and non-government agencies to influence policy and practice in many areas including mental health promotion, especially linked to adolescent bullying, cyber bullying and aggression prevention. Most of the major policy documents and curriculum used in schools across Australia – including the current Australian Curriculum – invited her contribution. Further, she has developed and tested components of an innovative project called Friendly Schools Plus (FS+), implemented in over 3,000 schools in Australia, Singapore, the UK and USA.

Donna has supervised 42 PhD/Masters students and currently supervises 7 PhD students and formally mentors 8 post-doctoral researchers.

Her scholarly contribution to children’s health research has been recognised by many university, state and national awards. Most recently she was named a finalist 2017 WA Scientist of the Year. In 2016 she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship and an NHMRC Research Fellowship to investigate ways children’s wellbeing, development and learning is influenced by their use of technology.

In 2015 she was inducted as a fellow to the Australia Academy of Health and Science. She was awarded the 2012 WA Australian of the Year Award, the Future Justice Prize 2012, and the ECU Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Research (2012, 2011) and Research Supervision (2011).

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