Childhood maltreatment and late modernity: Public inquiries, social justice and education

Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)

Dr Katie Wright

This historical sociological study examines the unfolding Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse alongside past inquiries that either focused explicitly on child maltreatment or included this within their remit. The earlier inquiries that the project is taking a close look at include the Royal Commission on Human Relationships in the 1970s, the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families in the 1990s, and the Senate Inquiries into Child Migration and Children in Institutional 'Care' in the early to mid-2000s.

The project is examining the role of inquiries in social change and policy reform. It is also exploring how changing understandings of children's development, vulnerability and rights have shaped social policy, educational responses and public attitudes towards safeguarding children and promoting their wellbeing. In particular, it is investigating how concepts of childhood and policy approaches are changing as a result of social imperatives for openness and disclosure about matters once considered taboo, particularly child sexual abuse. The project aims to advance conceptual policy insights on a major social issue and sociological insights on childhood and the forms and effects of late modernity.

This project is funded the Australian Research Council, DE140100060, 2014-2017.

Presentations and publications

K. Wright (2016). Speaking out: Representations of childhood and sexual abuse in the media, memoir and public inquiries. Red Feather Journal: An International Journal of Children in Popular Culture 7(2): 17-30.

K. Wright (2016). ‘Conceptualising childhood and youth in an age of historical abuse inquiries’, ‘Cities and Successful Societies’, Annual Conference of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA): Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, 28-30 November.

K. Wright (2016). ‘Narrating the impact of child sexual abuse on adult mental health’, International Sociological Association (ISA) 3rd Forum of Sociology, Vienna, Austria, 10-14 July.

K. Wright (2016). ‘Remembering difficult childhoods: Historical abuse and public inquiries’, The Social, Biological and the Material Child, 6th International Conference of the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth (CSCY), Sheffield, UK, 5-7 July.

J. McLeod & K. Wright (2016) ‘What does wellbeing do? An approach to defamiliarize keywords in youth studies’. Journal of Youth Studies, 19(6): 776-792.

K. Wright (2015). ‘Lifting the Lid: Child Sexual Abuse and the Royal Commission’. Invited presentation to CG Jung Society of Sydney, 14 August.

K. Wright (2015). ‘Child abuse and public inquiries: Tracing the rise of a culture of disclosure’. Shadow of the Past: Theoretical and conceptual frameworks for understanding historical child abuse and its contemporary relevance, Society for the History of Childhood and Youth (SHCY) Biennial Conference, Vancouver, Canada, 24-26 June.

K. Wright (2014). ‘Child abuse and public inquiries: Historicizing the imperative for openness and disclosure’. Childhood and Abuse in Comparative-Historical Perspective, International Sociological Association (ISA), XVIII World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, 13-19 July.

Wright, K. (2014). 'Childhood, public inquiries and late modernity'. In Challenging Identities, Institutions and Communities. Refereed Proceedings of the Australian Sociological Association Conference: Adelaide.


For further information about this project, please contact:

Dr Katie Wright
Department of Social Inquiry
La Trobe University
T: +61 3 9479 1009