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The Childhood, Law & Policy Network (CLPN)

Dr Bernadette Saunders


Associate Professor and Head, Social Work, Victoria University, Australia



Bernadette has spent much of her academic career of 20+ years enthusiastically engaging in research, teaching, and social justice advocacy - predominantly in relation to children’s human rights, well-being, and protection from maltreatment. Her PhD and two subsequent books relate to the corporal punishment of children, and the intergenerational transmission of family violence. The role and impact of the media, language, and literature in entrenching or changing unconstructive attitudes and behaviours are also a focus of her research and publications. Lived experiences of multiple challenges, disadvantages and injustices, and ways of addressing these issues and concerns, have captivated her attention and research output over many years. Funded research projects have focussed upon several areas, including the interface between the criminal justice system, the welfare system, and people living with addictions to drugs and alcohol, experiencing family violence, and living with acquired brain injuries, as well as the experiences of Indigenous children and young people involved in child protection systems. Desirable law reform and policy changes, together with attitudinal and behavioural changes, have been notable outcomes of her research findings.



Lansdell, G. Saunders, B.J and Eriksson, A. (Eds) (2021) Neurodisability and the Criminal Justice System: Comparative and Therapeutic Responses, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Saunders, B.J., Leviner, P., and Naylor, B. (Eds.) (2018) Corporal Punishment of Children; Comparative Legal and Social Developments, Brill|Nijoff, The Netherlands.

Saunders, B.J. and Goddard.C. (2010) Physical Punishment in Childhood: The Rights of the Child, Chichester, Wiley/Blackwell.

Walton, B. and Saunders, B.J. (2020) “Towards an Understanding of Children’s Perceptions of Physical Punishment in the Family Context”, International Journal of Children’s Rights, 20, 401-423. 

Saunders, B.J., Lansdell, G., Frederick, J. (2019) "Understanding Children's Court Processes and Decisions: Perceptions of Children and their Families”, Youth Justice, 20 (3),pp272-292.

Saunders, B.J. (2019) “‘Lawful Correction’: Children’s Human Rights and Social Work Advocacy”, Special Issue: Australian Social Work – Vulnerable Children and the Law, 72(1), 1-13.

Eriksson, A., Saunders, B., Lansdell, G. & Bunn, R., (2019) “'Short fuse and no filter': acquired brain injury - how a medical disability transforms into a social and criminal justice concern” International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice. 57, 126-136

Lansdell, G.T., Saunders, B.J, Eriksson, A. M. & Bunn, R. (2018) ‘“I am not drunk, I have an ABI’: Findings from a qualitative study into systematic challenges in responding to people with acquired brain injuries in the criminal justice system”, Psychology, Psychiatry and the Law, 25, 5, pp.737-758

Saunders, B. J. (2017) “Words matter: Textual Abuse of Childhood in the English-Speaking World, and the Role of Language in the Continuing Denial of Children's Rights”, International Journal of Children's Rights. 25,2,p. 519-536.

Saunders, B.J. (2013) ‘Ending the Physical Punishment of Children by Parents in the English-speaking World: The Impact of Language, Tradition and Law’ International Journal of Children’s Rights 21, 2, pp. 278 – 304. 


Children's rights; physical punishment, parental discipline of children, and lawful correction; acquired brain injury/neuro-disability in youth and adults and interaction with the criminal justice system; the power of law, language and culture as contributors to diminished social status and injustices; Indigenous children and out-of-home care.
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