The de Lissa Early Childhood and Family Studies Research Group

The de Lissa Early Childhood and Family Studies Research Group, led by Professor Pauline Harris with Dr Elspeth McInnes as Deputy Director, comprises members from University of South Australia’s School of Education and elsewhere in the University as well as our department for education and Child development partners. Members include Dr Valerie Aloa, Dr Jenni Carter, Dr Glenn Cupit, Alexandra Diamond, Dr Christine Garnaut, A/Prof Sue Hill, Dr Janet McDowall, Martyn Mills-Bayne, Dr Chad Morrison, Dr Sue Nichols, Dr Jamie Sisson, Dr Christy Ward, Dr Jane Webb-Williams and A/Prof Victoria Whitington Our DECD partners include Miriam Daley, Harry Manatakis, Barbra Cooper and Margaret Sankey. Prof Deborah Harcourt (Australian Catholic University and Research Director/Goodstart) is also associated with the de Lissa Research group.

The broad vision of the de Lissa Early Childhood and Family Studies Group, as stated in its 2012-2016 Strategic Research Plan, is quite simply: ‘Children being valued and nurtured as diverse individuals to reach their full potential in whatever context.’ Our fundamental purpose, as stated in our Plan, is to implement and disseminate research and scholarship that builds knowledge that enhances the care, education, development and wellbeing of children and families; and ensures that children’s and families’ diverse perspectives and experiences are available to inform policy and practice.

Strengths: early literacy, early childhood educator identity, children's voices and participation in communities
Emerging themes: play and early childhood learning, IT and young children, children as citizens, environmental design for young children

Key Research Areas

Four key research priority areas of the de Lissa Early Childhood and Family Studies Group are:

  • Children’s Voices and Participation as Learners and Citizens – led by Professor Pauline Harris with Dr Elspeth McInnes, Dr Sue Nichols, Dr Jamie Sisson, Dr Jane Webb-Williams, Harry Manatakis (DECD), Barbra Cooper (DECD), Margaret Sankey (DECD), Professor Deborah Harcourt (ACU and Goodstart) - This priority is framed by the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and theoretical views of the child as social actor, active learner and valued citizen, which has strong national and international resonance. Two projects arising within this priority are Children’s democratic participation and citizenship in building child-friendly communities; and A Matter of Voice:  Perspectives and experiences of children, families and educators in the nexus of early years literacy research, policy and practice
  • Early Childhood Education, Development and Care  Workforce Developmentled by Dr Elspeth McInnes with Dr Jamie Sisson, Dr Jenni Carter, Dr Christy Ward (ECA), Dr Sue Hill, Dr Rochelle Woodley-Baker, Alexandra Diamond, Dr Sue Nichols, Chad Morrison, Dr Briony Carter, Dr Jane Webb-Williams. Research in this area explores issues relating to education and training, professional identity, recruitment & retention, practices and routines, and workplace culture.
  • Contemporary contexts of early childhood – led by Dr Janet McDowall with Dr Glenn Cupit, Dr Susan Nichols, Jeff Meiners, Martyn Mills-Bayne, Leigh Disney, Lesley-Anne Ey, Toni Deer. This work focuses on the complex contexts of contemporary Australia in which young children are immersed in an array of media and information and communication technologies, with special interest in children’s participation in consumer culture and experience of the media, and the commercialisation of childhood.

Environmental Design for Young Children – led by Dr Victoria Whitington with Prof Pauline Harris, Alexandra Diamond, Miriam Daley (DECD) and Dr Christine Garnaut. Research in this area focuses on environments for young children in terms of architecture, interior design as well as the natural environment including gardens, bush and landscaping. This work strongly connects with international research and aligns with the work we are doing in UNICEF’s Child Friendly City Framework.  


Pauline Harris (Group Leader)
Elspeth McInnes (Deputy Group Leader)

Christy Ward
Eleni Giannakis
Jamie Sisson
Jane Webb-Williams
Janet McDowall
Lesley Anne-Ey
Martyn Mills‐Bayne
Trevor Feder
Valerie Aloa
Victoria Whitington
Alexandra Diamond (Affiliate)
Sue Hill (Affiliate)
Sue Nichols (Affiliate)

External members

Barbra Cooper (DECD)
Miriam Daley (DECD)
Deborah Harcourt (Australian Catholic University and Good Start)
Harry Manatakis (DECD)

De Lissa PhD Scholarship Holders:

Amy Farndale
Julie Zrna

Areas of study and research

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