Active Research

The dignity by design project: survivor-led system redesign

    • Needs of victims and survivors
    • Response to child sexual abuse
Research Topic areas 
  • Government & policy responses
  • Justice & legal responses
  • Mental health
  • Therapeutic responses
Project Duration
Start: July 2023
End: May 2026
Geographical Scope
Victims and survivorsWorkforce
Young adults (18-25 years)Adults (25-65 years)Older adults (>65 years)
All genders

Project Lead

Professor Susan Heward-Belle, University of Sydney
Project lead email:

Project Team

Professor Judy Cashmore, University of Sydney
Professor Donna Chung, Curtin University
Professor Rita Shackel, University of Sydney
Associate Professor Ruth Phillips, University of Sydney
Dr Alison Evans, Centre for Women's Safety and Wellbeing (WA)
Dr Betty Luu, University of Sydney
Dr Sarah Ciftci, University of Sydney
Mary Jo McVeigh, University of Sydney
Patrick Shepherdson, University of Sydney


In partnership with survivors, this project will design, implement and evaluate innovative, place-based tools and resources to foster dignity-driven, trauma-informed, culturally safe and inclusive practice and policy development.


The project will seek to understand the messages that young victims and survivors have for practitioners and policy actors within mental health and alcohol and other drug services. Further, the contributions that participatory action research can make to policy and practice redesign and developments that better serve young victims and survivors who access these services will also be investigated. Finally, this project will examine the legislative, policy and practice barriers and enablers to dignity-based and compassionate responses to young victims and survivors.


Dignity by Design is a survivor-centred, participatory action research project that will build the capacity of policymakers, practitioners and service leaders to change systems that compound trauma. The project is a collaboration between people with lived and living experiences of child sexual abuse, professionals, policy and legal actors and researchers.

Significance and Dissemination

This project will generate new knowledge to better understand the needs of young victims and survivors. It will improve service design and develop innovative practice and policy tools that offer prevention and intervention pathways to protect and improve health and wellbeing.

Further Details

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Funding body:
The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Funding budget:
$249,866 grant
Monitoring and governance:
This project is guided by oversight of the Project Advisory Group
Australian Human Research Ethics Committee:
This project is subject to ethical oversight by the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee
Response to child sexual abuse

Evaluation of the Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team

James Herbert
Centre for Social Impact - University of South Australia
David O'Shaughnessy
University of Western Australia
Understanding child sexual abuse

Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)

Jonah Rimer
The University of Queensland
Response to child sexual abuse

Effect of multi-agency deliberation on perceptions of risk in responses to child abuse and neglect

James Herbert
Centre for Social Impact - UWA

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