Professor Karen Healy

Head of School

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
+61 7 336 51847


My research promotes a healthy start to life with children, young people and families who are at risk of social exclusion. I aim to enhance the social, economic and cultural well-being of vulnerable children, young people and families across the life course. I seek to build the theory and knowledge base of social work and human services. I use mixed methods and co-design approaches. I enjoy researching with people with lived experience of service systems, service providers and policy makers to create real world change. In 2016, I was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for my contribution to social work particularly in relation to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children and families, higher education and research. In September 2018, I was awarded the position of Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

My research focuses are:

a) policy and practice to support social and economic inclusion and the cultural well-being of vulnerable children, young people and families across the life course;

b) the participation of vulnerable children, young people and families in decision-making especially within child welfare, family support, health care and out-of-home care services;

c) professional education and organisation support for promoting job satisfaction, workforce retention and best practice among health and welfare professionals;

d) social work theories and professional practices.

My research is published several languages including Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Danish and Japanese.

Research Impacts

I have led 17 applied research projects knowledge building projects to improve policy and practice with children and families who experience vulnerability linked to social disadvantage. These initiatives have contributed to improvements in parents and children's participation in child protection decision-making in policy and in practice. I currently lead an ARC Linkage project with four co-investigators and 8 industry partners, to understand and enhance the social and emotional well-being of children in Out of Home Care. I have supervised 30 Research Higher Degree students to completion of their projects.

I am Head of Discipline for Social Work and Counselling programs at The University of Queensland and member of the Australian Council of Heads of Schools of Social Work. As Head of Discipline, I have led the innovations in the use of practice and policy simulations to improve student preparation for practice at foundational and advanced levels.

I hold senior advisory positions in industry and in my professional community. I am also: Community Services Commissioner for Anglicare Southern Queensland; and research advisor to Micah Projects, an innovative community services agency aimed at building social inclusion. In my partnerships with Micah, I am pleased to have contributed to major social health initiatives, particularly the establishment of Young Mothers for Young Women (an integrated midwifery, family and peer support program)., and to have supported parents to work with the Child Safety Minister and Agency to develop a Parents' Rights Charter, founded on Human Rights Principles.

My track record of leadership includes as: National President of the Australian Association of Social Workers (2011-2017); National Director of The Benevolent Society (2011-2019); National President for the Australian Association of Social Work and Welfare Education (2005-2009).


  • Graduate Certificate in Statistics, Swimburne UT
  • Bachelor of Social Work 1st Class Honors, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


View all Supervision



Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision