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CoLab Director & Program Head, Development and Education

EdD GradDipHSc BEd Dip Teaching, FAHMS GAICD

Areas of research expertise: Child and adolescent social and emotional development; translational research; bullying and cyberbullying prevention; health promotion; school-based interventions; early childhood research

Donna Cross is a Professor with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia and Program Head, Development and Education and Director, Early Childhood Development and Learning Collaboration (CoLab) at the Telethon Kids Institute.

Donna and her co-investigators have been awarded more than $30m in research funding since 1999, including eight NHMRC grants, six ARC grants and 34 WA Health Promotion Foundation research grants (all category 1 grants).

This funding has supported applied intervention research, including more than 60 empirical trials addressing child and adolescent health promotion issues related to social and emotional development, bullying prevention, cyber safety, injury control, drug use control and early childhood development and learning. These intervention trials included two longitudinal studies involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

In June 2016 Donna was appointed Director of CoLab (Collaborate for Kids), a group established to bring together families, clinicians, educators, policy makers, other practitioners and researchers to improve the development and learning of young children. CoLab is a partnership between Telethon Kids Institute and the Minderoo Foundation.

Donna's research has been translated into evidence-based policy and practice interventions that have being systematically disseminated throughout Australian and internationally. She has contributed to sustainable practice, policy and regulatory change, including national and state policies for cyber safety, bullying prevention and management, sun safety policies (such as 'no hat, no play') and road safety laws.

Donna has an international reputation for developing community-based interventions to enhance social and emotional development and reduce anti-social behaviour among young people. She is currently a lead investigator on six 3-5 year longitudinal research projects developed to promote wellbeing and prevent bullying, cyberbullying and associated mental health harms among Australian children and adolescents and six flagship projects addressing the needs of children and families experiencing adversity. Her focus on translational research has culminated in the dissemination of an evidence-based program called Friendly Schools Plus to over 3,000 Australian schools and schools in the USA, New Zealand, the UK and Scandinavia. She is also a chief investigator for three studies investigating the socio-emotional wellbeing of children with chronic disease (T1D, Cystic Fibrosis, hearing problems).

For her services to children’s health and wellbeing research, Donna received the 2012 WA Australian of the Year Award, and in 2015 was inducted as a Fellow to the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Most recently, Donna was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, an NHMRC Fellowship and in 2017 was a Finalist, for Western Australian Scientist of the Year.

Donna has also won awards for service professionalism and enterprise, including the 2012 Future Justice Prize; the Mental Health Research and Education Award from the Mental Health Commission of WA; NGO awards for road safety, smoking cessation, mental health, and bullying and violence prevention (e.g. from the Australian Council for Health Physical Education and Recreation); and the National Honour Award for scholarly achievements and leadership in children's school-based health research.

After being nominated by students and staff, Donna has won eight university awards for excellence in teaching, knowledge mobilisation, research leadership and research training. She has supervised to completion 18 PhD students and 23 Masters students.

Donna has published a total of 138 refereed articles, 90 major reports and professional articles, 33 books/chapters in collective works and over 80 school-based curricula and resources. She has given hundreds of invited research presentations in Australia and internationally, and regularly provides workshops and seminars for school staff and community members. 

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