Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Dr Sarah Wallwork

Main Campus
City East

Applications Close
27 Sep 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic only)

About this project

Help recalibrate how we perceive pain 

If you are passionate about advancing your career in child health and concerned about modern pain management, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within the IIMPACT in Health research concentration. 

Persistent pain is a major public health issue. Our understanding of persistent pain is based on outdated models that are contrary to current scientific understanding. The most effective interventions for persistent pain involve complex care packages, including education about how pain works. But clinicians are finding it challenging to change patients’ fundamental understanding of pain and injury – beliefs likely developed in early childhood. 

This project will help researchers better understand how pain is socialised in early childhood, when fundamental beliefs and behaviours surrounding pain and injury are first developed. By understanding how these beliefs develop, and the messages that are portrayed, we are better placed to implement strategies that can help children to build resilience against developing persistent pain. We can also equip them with knowledge that will help them to seek treatments that are more likely to be effective. 

To meet these project aims, you will investigate different avenues through which children might learn about pain and injury – for example, through picture books, play-based learning, peer-interactions, and personal experiences.  

You will also explore how caregivers react/respond to childhood pains and the nature of the messaging that occurs through all these mediums, how these messages may (or may not) be interpreted by children, and the influence of sociocultural diversity on pain messaging. 

This project will directly inform the development of strategies and resources that provide children with the knowledge and tools to deal with pain that will facilitate a generational shift in how society understands and manages persistent pain. This is an opportunity for you to develop research that has real-world consequences.  

You will be affiliated with both IIMPACT in Health and the Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion (CRESI), based within the Body in Mind Research Group. You’ll benefit from being part of a highly supportive work environment that fosters open communication, collaboration, and work–life balance. 

With cross-disciplinary supervision from experts from across the health and education fields, you can tap into the knowledge and experience of worldclass researchers. There will be opportunities for you to work closely with international experts in pain education, early childhood education, paediatric psychology, and child development.  

We will encourage you to get involved in the Pain in Child Health international trainee program, which connects trainees (across disciplines) in the field of paediatric pain. This may involve attending and presenting at webinars (quarterly), fostering networking and international collaborations with other trainees in the field. 
What you’ll do 

In this project-based research degree, you will work closely with children, families, and educators from diverse backgrounds to plan, collect, and analyse data (quantitative and qualitative). This may involve interviews, child play-based observations, resource content analysis, and running community-based focus-groups.  

Project outcomes will be used to directly inform the development of resources that will be trialled, implemented, and assessed across state-wide child and community centres. You may have the opportunity to undertake an industry-related placement.  

We will support you in co-producing 3–5 published peer-reviewed manuscripts and there are opportunities for you to present your work at the University (research week), and at local (PainAdelaide), national (Australian Pain Society) and international (International Symposium for Paediatric Pain, International Association for the Study of Pain) conferences.  

This is a dynamic project with real societal impact so it may attract high interest from the general public. This will give you the opportunity to engage with media (radio, TV) and/or present to the general public, building your communication and research translation skills and helping you to establish your professional reputation. 

Where you’ll be based 

You’ll be based within the IIMPACT in Health research concentration. Our vision is to enable and empower people with chronic conditions to reach their potential for recovery, independence and wellbeing. We will achieve this vision by impacting individuals, health service delivery, outcomes and education through strategic collaborations, bold ideas, outstanding research and exemplary communication. 

We work together with consumers and clinicians to identify real-world problems. We undertake qualitative, behavioural and neurophysiological experiments to find new solutions. We conduct clinical trials to test those solutions, and undertake implementation projects to optimise uptake of effective solutions and identify remaining problems.

Supervisory team

Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses.  Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders.  Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time. 

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to applications from Australian or New Zealand citizens, and Australian permanent residents or permanent humanitarian visa holders. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time. 

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. 

All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate. 

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City East Campus in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Wednesday, 27 September, 2023

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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