Our research - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Our research


Understanding sexual violence and abuse enhances our capacity to prevent and respond effectively to this issue. Understanding causal pathways, and individual, ecological, and situational risk factors, for example, provides important information to guide the development of effective primary and secondary prevention initiatives. Likewise, understanding reoffending pathways, recidivism and re-victimisation risks, can inform tertiary responses to sexual violence and abuse. For this reason, the Sexual Violence Research and Prevention Unit focuses on research that promotes and enhances our understanding of sexual violence and abuse.

Sexual abuse by educators: A comparison between male and female teachers who sexually abuse students

Project Investigators: Dr Lara Christensen and Dr Andrea Darling


This project provides a comparison between male and female teachers who have engaged in sexual misconduct towards students in the United Kingdom. Similarities and dissimilarities across the two groups in relation to case characteristics and pathways are identified. Their findings of should assist in the development of practice guidelines, policies and legislation that prevents sexual relationships between students and teachers.

Reconceptualising the role of guardianship in preventing child sexual abuse

Project Investigators: Dr Nadine McKillop, Dr Danielle Reynald and Dr Sue Rayment-McHugh


This project investigates guardianship in domestic settings. The study aims to identify micro-situational and contextual factors that serve to promote or impede effective guardianship and likelihood to intervene, using empirical data from male youth and adults who have committed sexual offences against children. Findings will assist in the (re)conceptualisation of guardianship in preventing child sexual abuse in domestic settings.


Researchers within the SVRPU are dedicated to preventing sexual violence and abuse. Sexual Violence Research and Prevention Unit research therefore aims to prevent sexual violence and abuse before it occurs in the first place. Research projects and publications focus on primary and secondary prevention; examining theoretical frameworks underpinning prevention practice, investigating prevention across diverse settings, and evaluating discrete prevention initiatives.

Enhancing risk assessment for preventing child sexual abuse: An evaluation of Life Without Barriers 'train-the-trainer' program

Project Investigators: Dr Susan Rayment-McHugh, Dr Nadine McKillop and Dr Lara Christensen


The aims of the project are to evaluate the implementation of new foster carer recruitment tools, designed to enhance the prevention of child sexual abuse in out-of-home care settings.

LEADing evidence-informed Child Exploitation Material (CEM) Reduction.

Project Investigators: Dr Susan Rayment-McHugh, Dr Lara Christensen, Dr Nadine McKillop, Dr Dominique Moritz, Associate Professor Kelley Burton, Professor Christian Jones, Professor Tim Prenzler, Professor David Lacey and Dr Graeme Edwards in partnership with Queensland Police Service


Effective CEM reduction requires policy and practice to be evidence informed. This project synthesises the current evidence across a range of disciplines that contribute to CEM reduction and presents it in an accessible format for use by academic, government, and practice professionals. This synthesis will ascertain what is most effective (i.e., ‘what works, for whom, in what circumstances, in what respects and how’) as well as ‘what looks promising’. To enhance knowledge-to-practice transfer, the research team will disseminate these findings via an accessible, interactive, and consumable online toolkit (website).

Examination of the Benevolent Society’s ‘child-safe, child-friendly’ risk management framework: Recommendations for enhanced practice

Project Investigators: Dr Nadine McKillop
Funding Body: The Benevolent Society


The aims of this project are to systematically review current workplace culture, policies and practices and to provide recommendations for augmenting current prevention strategies at an individual, situational and systemic level, to mitigate risks associated with abuses occurring in the first place, and for appropriate responses, when abuses do occur. Guidance for developing locally-tailored, place-based prevention strategies that address the unique settings (e.g., out-of-home care, residential settings, day-care) served by the organisation will be a key focus of the final report and recommendations.


When sexual violence and abuse does occur, it is crucial that responses are timely and effective, reducing harms to victims of abuse, including risk of re-victimisation, and reducing the likelihood of re-offending by perpetrators. Sexual Violence Research and Prevention Unit research, therefore, also targets responses to sexual violence and abuse. This includes justice system responses, treatment program evaluation, and investigating factors associated with better outcomes for victims and perpetrators.

Re-design and evaluation of the the Sexual Offending Program for Indigenous Males (SOPIM)

Project Investigators: Dr Susan Rayment-McHugh, Dr Nadine McKillop, Dr Bindi Bennett, Dr Lara Christensen and Dr Justine Campbell

Funding Body: Queensland Corrective Services


This project will investigate new innovations in correctional treatment for Indigenous offenders, along with stakeholder perspectives, experiences and recommendations, to inform the design and development of a revised sexual offender program manual, incorporating culturally informed practice guidelines. A train-the-trainer package will also be developed and delivered, and a comprehensive pilot evalaution undertaken.

'What Works' in Policing: Managing Child Sex Offenders in the Community

Project Investigators: Dr Lara Christensen, Dr Sue Rayment-McHugh and Dr Nadine McKillop
Funding Body: Queensland Police Service


This project aims to provide a systematic review and synthesis of current empirical and practice literature on the management of chid sex offenders in the community, to identify ‘what works’, particularly with regard to community-based policing practices. The review will target risk assessment and management, intelligence, supervision and monitoring, situational management strategies, and prioritisation of resources to enhance community safety.

The effectiveness of sexual and violent offender rehabilitation and reintegration programs: Integrating global and local perspectives to enhance correctional outcomes

Project Investigators: Dr Nadine McKillop, Dr Susan Rayment-McHugh, Dr Lara Christensen and Professor Tim Prenzler
Funding Body: Queensland Corrective Services 


This project aims to identify the most successful pathways from rehabilitation to reintegration for sexual and violent offenders. The impact of individual-level (e.g., cultural heritage, gender, age) and program-level (e.g., type, design, delivery, dosage) factors on outcomes will be examined. Significant to QCS, this project will identify key strengths and areas for enhancement to guide future policy and practice, consistent with international best-practice standards and in line with recent Queensland review recommendations.

Evaluation framework for therapeutic interventions delivered within a forensic context

Project Investigators: Dr Nadine McKillop and Dr Susan Rayment-McHugh
Funding Body: Queensland Corrective Services


This project developed an evaluation framework to measure therapeutic progress and other associated outcomes at the individual, practitioner and system levels for adult clients undertaking individual or group therapeutic programs across custodial and community correctional settings. The proposed framework recommended for adoption by QCS is based on realist approach (Pawson & Tilley, 1997), operationalised through the EMMIE Framework (Johnson, Tilley & Bowers, 2015). This is recommended on the basis that it accommodates the complexities inherent in correctional programming and is adaptable to group and individual modalities, and custodial and community settings.

Sentencing disparities for female and male sexual offending in Queensland: Do they exist, and what is the impact?

Project Investigators: Dr Nadine McKillop, Associate Professor Kelley Burton, Dr Tess Patterson, Linda Hobbs, Dr Lara Christensen and Dr Susan Rayment-McHugh
Funding Body: University of the Sunshine Coast


Using sentencing data from 2012-2017, the aim of this project is to determine whether sentencing disparities exist between female sexual offenders (FSOs) and male sexual offenders (MSOs) in Queensland. This is an under-researched area in Australasia. Historically, there has been debate in scholarship concerning gendered sentencing disparities for these crimes. Sentencing decisions are important as a deterrence measure and for ensuring access for all individuals to appropriate assessment and intervention programs to address these behaviours and reduce reoffence risk. This project strengthens an existing international and interdisciplinary collaboration between USC researchers in criminology and justice, and law, with NZ researchers in psychology (University of Otago). Extending the NZ study to Australia will produce the largest comparative sample of MSO and FSO sentencing data in Australasia and allow for cross-cultural comparisons.

A short-term outcome evaluation of the Bravehearts Turning Corners program

Project Investigators: Dr Nadine McKillop
Funding Body: Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women


The purpose of this project is to evaluate the short-term outcomes and effectiveness of the Bravehearts Turning Corners program for addressing sexually harmful behaviour by youth. Turning Corners program was developed to fill a perceived service gap in responding to and preventing harmful sexual behaviours by youth within the community. The program provides a comprehensive, integrated and multi-systemic response to this issue through support and counselling, to address these problematic behaviours and prevent future harms. Turning Corners is unique in that clients do not need to be currently engaged in the juvenile justice system and the program has a strong focus on early intervention and improved outcomes for the young person, their family and the community. Findings and recommendations stemming from this research will help inform decision-making regarding service expansion. Learnings will help to improve and refine the Program and its service delivery as part of a broader ongoing program development strategy.