Social work academics at the School of Allied Health are engaged in research projects that respond to a wide range of social justice issues.

Our social work staff undertake research that is designed to inform culturally responsive, evidence-informed practice which is relevant to current and changing social work practice in health and human service settings.

With a strong social justice and social work practice orientation, we partner with industry, practitioners and community organisations to conduct research that is relevant and responsive to current issues in policy and practice.

Meet our researchers


Professor Suzanne Hodgkin

Suzanne Hodgkin is the Professor of Social Work and Discipline Lead. She has a background in management, supervision, research, teaching and social work practice experience in the tertiary, government and non-government sectors. Professor Hodgkin was awarded a teaching Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (2013). Professor Hodgkin has an international record of research that is placed based and related to critical social challenges such as developing sustainable rural health and aged care workforce models, improving comprehensive geriatric assessments and examining support provided to palliative care patients and their caregivers. Translation of this research has occurred in the following forms: Industry commissioned reports, media reports, conference proceedings, monographs, book and book chapters. In 2019, called as an expert academic witness to the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Safety to highlight issues for carers of older people. Her work and expert testimony was cited in the released interim report, Neglect.



Dr Aniqa Farwa

Dr Aniqa Farwa brings 23 years of extensive domestic and international expertise in social work practice, research and teaching. Having completed her PhD with The University of Queensland, Australia, her research is focused on Mental Health, Decolonising Knowledge, and Social Work Practice and Ethics. Aniqa has contributed significantly to practice spanning Mental Health, Hospital Social Work, Human Rights advocacy, and citizen/system-level advocacy in Government and International Non-Profit organisations. Her teaching portfolio encompasses undergraduate, postgraduate, and interdisciplinary programs, where she instructs units on mental health, skills-based learning, and research methodologies. As the Discipline Lead and Co-Convener of the School of Allied Health Research Network (SOAHRN), she actively fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Additionally, she serves as the Social Work Lead for the School of Allied Health's Inter-Professional Education (IPE) core working group.

Aniqa has a number of current research partnerships with universities, government and non-government organisations. She has extensive experience in collaboration with domestic and international universities, having previously coordinated programs in various capacities. Since 2019, she has been a pivotal member of the Australian Catholic University, where she presently serves as the Assistant Deputy Head of School and Course Coordinator for the Master of Social Work Qualifying program at the Strathfield campus.


Sonia Martin

Dr Sonia Martin

Sonia Martin is an experienced academic having held positions in universities in Melbourne and Adelaide and policy, and practice and research positions in the community sector. Sonia's experience in Higher Education includes program management of post-graduate and undergraduate social work degrees, Honours coordination, extensive teaching in social policy, social research and sociology, as well as work on a range of research projects. Sonia recently joined ACU in 2023 to coordinate the Masters of Social Work online program.

Sonia's scholarly work is primarily concerned with poverty, inequality and social inclusion informed by a commitment to social justice. Building upon her PhD, her research focus is primarily on social policy issues, state welfare, stigma, the underclass thesis, and research methodologies that capture lived experience. Sonia's research track record includes work on several ARC and other federal government grants, presentations at national and international conferences, formal training in spatial methodologies and a co-authored book on lived experiences of welfare.

Sonia is firmly committed to advancing a higher education system that focuses on innovative research and teaching practices that are responsive to diverse student learning needs, to contemporary social, economic and environmental challenges and to improving the lives and well-being of those experiencing social disadvantage.



Dr Jennifer McConachy


Natalie Morton

Ms Natalie Morton

Natalie Morton is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work with extensive clinical experience working with individuals, couples, and families, primarily drawing on narrative therapy approaches in her practice. Natalie has been fortunate to work in a variety of settings, including child and family health, mental health, child protection, disability, and organisational development.

Natalie is currently completing a PhD investigating parent experiences after final orders: a NSW Childrens' Court statutory order to allocate parental responsibility until the child is aged 18 years. Natalie has experience working with both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Her qualitative research interests include projects which engage with people experiencing disadvantage, to investigate lived experience. She has been a founding member of the International Network of Cooperative Inquiry and is interested in utilising innovative methodologies, including the use of narrative approaches in research.



Dr Elise Woodman

Elise is an experienced social work practitioner, researcher and academic with a focus on youth mental health, family connectedness, children's participation, and evidence-informed practice. She has worked for nine years as a school counsellor and continues to research with children and young people to support their wellbeing and mental health. She is currently employed as a lecturer and researcher at the Australian Catholic University and provides training to local welfare organisations in Canberra. Elise is currently developing and trialling the Family Connectedness Practice Tool designed to help social workers support family relationships and youth wellbeing. She is also conducting research on qualities of effective supervision and how we can effectively teach and assess critical reflection. She is supervising two PhD students.



Dr Eliana Sarmiento



Dr Bethany Wilkinson

Dr Bethany Wilkinson's research focuses on social justice for women and children who experience male perpetrated intimate partner violence. Her work centres on understandings of this phenomena in a variety of contexts, and how these understandings determine professional's actions. She has worked in practice with women and children who have experienced domestic violence, with women who were experiencing homelessness and with mental health consumers. She has conducted research on responses of mental health practitioners to women who have or were experiencing intimate partner violence. Her most recent research culminated in a book exploring judicial understandings when men kill women in the context of intimate partner violence.



Honorary Professor Debbie Plath

Professor Plath has a long-standing interest in the integration of social work research and practice. She has developed international and national standing as a leader in the critical and practical application of evidence-informed practice approaches to social work. This has comprised funded research and publication, including a large Australian Research Council funded project, as well as engagement with organisations as a consultant to develop research-informed organisational cultures.
In the area of social policy, Professor Plath has undertaken research into the impacts of the shift toward individual budgets for accessing services in the fields of disability, aged care, and child protection. She has also worked with practitioners to research and publish on their practice with Anorexia Nervosa, infertility, and parenting education.



Adjunct Professor Joanna Zubrzycki

Adjunct Professor Joanna Zubrzycki is a senior academic with 30 years-experience in the field of social work education. Her research expertise spans the fields of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work, Cultural safety in health and social care, Cultural safety in higher education and the lived experiences of Asylum seekers and refugees. Her national and international publications are highly valued and extensively cited. She is currently a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Grant Indigenous Discovery Grant that seeks to develop co-designed Simulation Curriculum aimed at preparing social work students to be culturally responsive practitioners in regional and remote Aboriginal communities. She has successfully supervised 14 PhD students to completion.


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