Staff profile - Wendy O Brien

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Dr Wendy O'Brien

Position: Lecturer in Criminology
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Arts & Education
Department: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Campus: Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 92443080 +61 3 92443080



Dr Wendy O’Brien is a lecturer in Criminology. Wendy was previously senior research fellow with the Australian Crime Commission where she conducted research on the criminal justice response to children charged with sex offences. Wendy conducts research on human rights, particularly on women’s rights and rights for children in conflict with the law. Her broader research interests include surveillance, digital cultures, and the right to privacy. Wendy has published in leading international journals in the fields of gender studies and law.


International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect

Australian Womens and Gender Studies Association

Law Institute of Victoria


Conferences and seminars

Wendy has presented the findings of her research at a variety of national and international conferences, including the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology, Critical Criminology, Australian Institute of Criminology conferences, the Australasian conference for the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, and at the Conference of the International Society for Child Indicators. Wendy has also presented her work at conferences of the Feminist and Women's Studies Association (UK).

In 2012 Wendy was invited to provide a keynote address at the Sexual Assault Support Service Pathways to Change Conference in Hobart. Wendy’s presentation was entitled: “Children in Need: Increasing Services to Children and Young People with Sexualised or Sexual Offending Behaviours.”

In 2010 Wendy received an invitation from the Community and Disability Services Ministers’ Advisory Council, to present a keynote address at the National Therapeutic Residential Care Workshop in Melbourne. Wendy delivered a paper entitled: “Therapeutic Services for Children and Young People.”


Research projects

Australia’s Digital Policy Agenda: Adopting a Children’s Rights Approach
This project critically examines Australia’s digital policy framework, identifying the role that discourses of risk, security, and protection play as putative justification for increased surveillance and interference with the right to privacy. This work identifies the key features of a rights-based approach that might redress the dominance of narratives that elide children’s interests and the right to privacy more generally. This research will be published in The International Journal of Children’s Rights, (forthcoming in 2014).

Attenuating human rights: at what expense?
This project involves a critical reading of a strain within contemporary moral philosophy that seeks to attenuate human rights. Underpinned by a practical empiricism, and highly critical of the ubiquity of utopian rights discourses, these philosophical accounts seek to redress the gulf between the proclamation and fulfillment of rights by excising those rights that cannot be practically fulfilled. Whilst such a move might achieve a ‘tidier’ list of human rights, I argue that conceptual clarity of this kind would come at too great a cost. To give this analysis focus, I discuss the means by which the proposed rights attenuation would impact, in particular, on the already imperiled second generation rights – to the detriment of women. In response, this project will also explore pluralistic philosophical approaches to rights that obviate the need for a circumscription of either the rights agenda or the means by which we pursue its fulfillment.

Research interests

Research Interests

Human rights (children's rights in particular)

Children's contact with the criminal justice system

Child sexual abuse

Gender based violence

Surveillance, digital cultures, and the right to privacy



Refereed Journal Articles

O’Brien, W. (2014) “Australia’s Digital Policy: Adopting A Children’s Rights Approach.” The International Journal of Children’s Rights, Forthcoming, 2014.

O’Brien, W. (2011) “Challenges Redoubled: Contexts of Risk and Compromised Access to Services for Children with Sexualised Behaviours”. Child Indicators Research. Vol 4, No 4. p. 697.

O’Brien, W. (2011) “Youth Justice: Challenges in Responding to Young People Convicted of Sexual Offences.” Deakin Law Review. Vol 16, Issue 1.

O’Brien, W. (2006) “Feminine Freakishness: Carnivalesque Bodies in Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus.” Genders. Issue 44.

Refereed Book Chapters

O’Brien, W. (2007) “Sexy or Sexually Exploited: young women, feminism and performative politics.” Negotiating Boundaries? Identities, Sexualities, Diversities. Eds. Clare Beckett, Owen Heathcote and Marie Macey, Cambridge Scholars Press.

O'Brien, W. (2004) “Qu(e)erying Pornography and Contesting Identity Politics in Feminisms." Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration. Eds. Stacy Gillis and Rebecca Munford, Palgrave Macmillan.

Refereed Journal (Co-editor for Special Issue)

Morland, I., & O'Brien, W. (2004) Issue Editors, "Queering Regionality," Transformations: Regions of Sexuality.

Relevant Industry Research

O’Brien, Wendy. (2009) Australia’s Response to Sexualised and Sexually Abusive Behaviours in Children and Young People. National study undertaken for the Australian Crime Commission.

O’Brien, Wendy (2008) Problem Sexual Behaviour: A Review of the Literature. Study published by the Australian Crime Commission.

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