Staff profile - Wendy O'Brien

Staff image

Dr Wendy O'Brien

Position: Lecturer In Criminology
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Arts and Education
Department: SHSS Arts & Ed
Campus: Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 924 43080 +61 3 924 43080



Dr Wendy O’Brien lectures in criminology, and conducts research on children's access to justice. Focusing on the legal and therapeutic responses to violence against women and children, Wendy also conducts research on the practical implementation of public policy, including evaluation of social sector service delivery for children. Recent publications include scholarly articles in the International Journal of Children’s Rights, the British Journal of Criminology and the Human Rights Law Review.

Prior to her appointment at Deakin, Wendy served seven years as Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Crime Commission where she conducted intelligence led research, and provided policy advice on issues of sexual violence and the wellbeing of children. 

Wendy holds a PhD in Gender Studies, a Master of Public and International Law (Human Rights), and a Master of Evaluation. Wendy is the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Program for the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA). She currently serves as a Board Member of the Victorian Division of the UNAA, and is a member of both the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), and the Asia Pacific Council on Juvenile Justice (APCJJ).

Wendy welcomes applications from PhD students with an interest in the following fields:

  • children's rights and children's access to justice;
  • legal responses to violence against women, children and LGBTI identified individuals; and
  • human rights and international justice


  • GCHE Exempt, Deakin University, 2015


Member of the Asia Pacific Juvenile Justice Council

National Coordinator, Human Rights Program, United Nations Association Australia

Member of the Academic Council on the United Nations System

Board Member - United Nations Association of Australia, Victorian Division

Member of the United Nations Association of Australia, Status of Women Committee


Subjects and units currently teaching

ACR301 International and Comparative Criminal Justice

ACR303 Criminology Practicum

ACR101 Introduction to Crime and Criminology

ACR201 Issues in Criminal Justice

Knowledge areas

Children's rights

Children's access to justice

Legal responses to violence against women, children and LGBTI individuals

Program evaluation

Human rights and international justice

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 2015 Wendy provided a keynote address at the annual conference of the Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association, in Melbourne. Wendy's paper is entitled "Upholding the Rights of the Child: Play Therapist Perspectives on Practice."

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.”

Media appearances

O'Brien, W. "Children with sexualised behaviours need understanding and support, not silence and stigma." The Conversation. 27 May, 2016.

O'Brien, W., & Fitz-Gibbon, K. "'Silent Victims' : Royal Commission recommends better protections for child victims of family violence." The Conversation 1 April, 2016.

Fitz-Gibbon, K., & O'Brien, W. "No prospect of release: Kevin Crump and the Human Rights Implications of Life Imprisonment." The Conversation 8 February, 2016.

O'Brien, W. "Data reveals allegations of children sexually abusing peers at school, experts call for action." Interview on ABC Radio.


Awards and prizes

In 2014 Wendy was awarded a Teaching Excellence Award for Teaching Innovation (Deakin University, Faculty of Arts and Education).


Research projects

2015 Projects

"International Legal Norms on the Right to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Australian Reforms Contextualised" (Published in the volume Queering Criminology in 2015).

At a time when the international momentum for sexual orientation and gender identity rights is strong it is important that scholars and activists remain vigilant to ensure that the discourses framing sexuality rights do not intentionally, or inadvertently, deepen incursions on the rights of individuals of sexual and bodily diversity. This chapter offers a critical examination of selected Australian case law and legal reform for the putative progress t offers sexual minorities. Identifying the entrenched binary determinism at the heart of the law, this chapter echoes the call of queer criminology, concluding that challenging invisibility is but part of the project. Queer scholars need also remain vigilant about the law’s constitutive power, and its role in producing sexual minorities as objects of pathology, perversion and criminality.


"Can International Law Accommodate Bodily Diversity?" (Published in the Human Rights Law Review in 2015).

This article considers recent efforts by international bodies and advocacy groups to secure the human rights of individuals with intersex variation. Identifying that these efforts are constrained by powerful assumptions about binary sex, it argues that international rights discourse looks set to regulate intersex individuals by the same protective strategies applied to the last four decades of the women’s rights movement. A frank reading of legal feminist scholarship indicates several possible risks for the nascent intersex campaign. Efforts to ensure the substantive enjoyment of rights (for all) need to move beyond the constraints of a binary system in which women and sexed/sexual minorities will always be produced as other. Having argued that human rights are not contingent on biological determinants, the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex traits is considered.

"Australia's Digital Policy Agenda: Adopting a Children's Rights Approach." (Published in the International Journal of Children's Rights in 2015).

Children’s engagement with online technologies may seem second nature, yet the impact that the Internet has on their lives is shaped by a powerful public policy agenda that largely overlooks children’s interests. Australia’s digital policy framework is dominated by discourses of safety and risk on the one hand and, on the other, neoliberal arguments about the possibilities for economic growth offered by e-commerce. In the midst of such powerful discourses it is difficult for children’s voices to be heard. This paper offers a close textual analysis of the Australian public policy context for regulating cyberspace. Finding a discursive duopoly that overlooks children’s interests, the author identifies two key features of a rights-based approach to challenge the dominant narratives currently serving the interests of the private sector and the State.


Research interests

Research Interests

International justice, with a particular focus on children's rights and children's access to justice.

Child sexual abuse.

Gender based violence and legal responses to violence against women, children and LGBTI individuals.



Refereed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

O'Brien, W., & Fitz-Gibbon, K. (2016) "'Cemented in Their Cells' : A Human Rights Analysis of Blessington, Elliott, and the Life Imprisonment of Children in New South Wales." The Australian Journal of Human Rights.

Fitz-Gibbon, K., & O'Brien, W. (2016) "The Naming of Child Homicide Offenders in England and Wales: The Need for a Change in Law and Practice." British Journal of Criminology.

O'Brien, W. (2015) "International Legal Norms on the Right to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Australian Reforms Contextualised" Queering Criminology. Eds. A. Dwyer, M. Bell and T. Crofts. Palgrave Macmillan.

O’Brien, W. (2015) “Can International Law Accommodate Bodily Diversity?” Human Rights Law Review. Vol. 15. Num. 1. March 2015.

O’Brien, W. (2014) “Australia’s Digital Policy: Adopting A Children’s Rights Approach.” The International Journal of Children’s Rights, Vol 22 Issue 4. pp. 748-775.

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

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

Page custodian: External Relations Group
Last updated: