Trauma and Resilience Research Group

The Trauma and Resilience Research Group is an interdisciplinary group of researchers based at Western that adopts a wholistic approach to understanding the cumulative impact of adversity and trauma, including across generations. Our understanding of trauma processes and impacts is informed by the social ecological framework. This framework recognises the individual, family, community, and social/political processes that contribute to experiences of, and recovery from, trauma. It also facilitates an understanding of the way trauma intersects the physical, spiritual and inter-relational spaces that a person inhabits. It also underscores the importance research that amplifies resiliency processes inherent in people and communities through strengthening protective factors and minimising systemic or structural risks that inhibit a person’s ability to respond to trauma.

Many communities are affected by trauma. Research shows approximately 70% of the general population experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. Our group focuses on groups that experience complex trauma including developmental trauma, transgenerational and intergenerational trauma, and collective trauma. This may include:

  • Populations that experience chronic adversity, such as those exposed to racism and discrimination, poverty and homelessness.
  • Military personnel and their families.
  • First responders.
  • Substance use treatment populations.
  • Refugees and people in the process of seeking protection.
  • People affected by, or involved in, criminal behaviour.

Schedule of Meetings

The group meets bi-monthly and provides researchers with opportunities for mentoring, peer review and collaboration.

Meetings are held on a Thursday, 11-12 noon, either online or at Campbelltown or Parramatta campuses, and followed by lunch.

Students interested in pursuing research in the area are most welcome to attend.


27th Oct 2021 – The Trauma and Resilience Research Group held an introductory webinar on traumatic stress research as part of Western’s Research Week. You can watch the recording above or download the presentation slides. (opens in a new window)

Current members

Anna Denejkina

Dr Anna Denejkina

Elizabeth Conroy

Dr Elizabeth Conroy

Natalie Morrison

Dr Natalie Morrison

Current Research

A Place to Call Home: making meaning of home/lessness for people seeking asylum in Australia

  • Investigators: Dr Elizabeth Conroy (WSU THRI), Anjali Roberts and Mr Nishadh Rego (Jesuit Refugee Services Australia)
    Summer Research Intern: Angelica Ukak

There is limited data on the number of people seeking asylum who are experiencing housing instability and homelessness in Australia although the demand for support from organisations working with this population suggest this need is quite large. This study aims to document experiences of housing and home-making for people at different stages in their claim for protection. This study has adopted the conceptual framework of Burn and Fabos (2015) in distinguishing between three kinds of homes – HOME that refers to the broader political and historical context in which home is understood and experienced; Home that refers to a person’s memory, longing and imagination of an idealised home; and home that refers to day-to-day practices and meanings individuals give to the places they inhabit. Data from narrative interviews and a brief cross-sectional survey will inform roundtable discussions with stakeholders to develop a set of recommendations for policy and practice across the housing and refugee sectors.

Impact of parental post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and deployment to conflicts in Iraq  and Afghanistan on adult children in military families. A pilot study.

  • Investigators: Dr Anna Denejkina (WSU THRI)

This pilot study measures the impact of parental posttraumatic stress disorder and military deployment on adult children. The study focuses on parental deployment to conflicts in Iraq (First Gulf War 1990-91; Second Gulf War 2003-11) and Afghanistan (2001-present). This impact is measured through the social and emotional wellbeing of children whose parents have been in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and attachment styles of both the parent and child. This study focuses on parents of all sexes and genders, with at least one child aged ≥18. The study will use a mixed-methods approach: quantitative data based on participant self-reported questionnaire results, and qualitative data based on semi-structured interviews. Results of this pilot study will be used to develop and run a large-scale study from 2022, with these research outcomes used to develop an intervention study for the prevention of intergenerational trauma transmission from parents to children in military and veteran families.

Transgenerational Trauma amongst Western Sydney Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Youth

  • Investigators: Dr Natalie Morrison (WSU THRI)

Western Sydney’s Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Youth are well overrepresented amongst self-harm and other self-injurious presentations (including suicide attempts) in local Emergency Departments. A current project in collaboration with Western Sydney Local Health District is investigating ways in which mental health clinical staff could better provide services to this population so as to reduce such alarming statistics. This proposed project will attempt to better appreciate the historic and ongoing traumatic nuances felt uniquely by this group to provide better direction to decision makers in health and government to support these youth. This project will involve two sub-phases including a systematic review followed by focus groups to enable a qualitative enquiry into the experiences of these youth.
This project will be supported by the Western Sydney Local Health District and Area Mental Health.

Understanding Referral Practices for Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) in Australia

  • Investigators: Dr Natalie Morrison (WSU THRI)

This project is focussed at gaining an understanding of primary health physicians’ knowledge of, and attitudes, towards the use of EMDR in the treatment for individuals who may present to their place of practice. In Australia it is understood that approximately 57-75% of adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their life and while not all individuals will require psychological intervention as a result of such experience(s) the current uptake of EMDR, an evidence-based treatment for trauma based mental health complications, in Australia is well below expectation. Recent commentary in the professional bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society suggests that such under-usage might in part be explained by poor knowledge amongst health professionals of what, when, and how EMDR can be clinically indicated. This series of studies is designed to further this more colloquial discussion regarding EMDR referral statistics to determine the knowledge of and attitudes towards EMDR therapy by clinicians representing the primary referral pathways for trauma treatment via survey-based methods. Further it will also investigate the channels by which clinicians can be better educated about this treatment modality to maximise future EMDR referral practices using online platforms supporting varying educational resources in an experimental design to investigate real time clinical decision making.
This project is funded by the EMDR Association of Australia.