Supervisors: A/Prof Christina Bryant, A/Prof Carol Hulbert, Prof Tania Sourdin (University of Newcastle)
I was a lawyer before I came to psychology, and have always had an interest in the psychological impact of legal work. In recent years, I have worked closely with judges and magistrates, which ignited an interest in the human dimension of judging and the occupational stress associated with performing this important social and democratic function. A large body of research on lawyer wellbeing, both from Australia and overseas, has consistently revealed alarmingly high rates of stress and psychological ill-health within the legal profession. However, the inquiry has rarely - and never, in Australia - extended to judicial officers. As senior members of a stress-prone profession, with workloads bordering on the oppressive, and in the context of distressing subject matter, high conflict, and intense media scrutiny, there is good reason to expect that the judiciary would be at elevated risk of stress and vicarious trauma. My research is the first empirical and psychologically grounded investigation of the nature and sources of judicial stress in Australia. Five courts and 152 individual judicial officers participated in the exploratory, mixed-methods study - the results of which I expect to publish early next year. Alongside my PhD, I am also employed as the Judicial Wellbeing Advisor to the Victorian courts, and now regularly present and deliver training to judges on managing stress and maximizing wellbeing. Ironically, in the midst of all this, my own wellbeing tends to get pushed to the sidelines, as a year into my PhD marked the arrival of my identical twin boys - now aged 2.5 - leaving not much time for self-care! But I have found caring for those two little guys grounds me and keeps things in perspective, when my research and work projects threaten to become all consuming.