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Associate Professor Dawn Bessarab is an Indigenous woman of Bardi (West Kimberley) and Indjarbandi (Pilbara) descent, who has a background in Aboriginal child protection, family violence and community development.
Dawn is Indigenous Health Researcher at the Centre for Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University.Prior to joining Curtin University, Dawn worked in a variety of public sector settings in the area of Indigenous issues.
She has worked for the Department of the Attorney General across courts and tribunal services and led the development of culturally appropriate pamphlets informing Aboriginal people about court processes and de-mystifying the legal jargon and language. Dawn has also worked for the Department of Child Protection (then Community Development) as a social worker and an Aboriginal child protection worker where her role involved child protection investigations, development and delivery of Aboriginal child protection training to Departmental workers, providing advice on Aboriginal issues, family support and community development approaches to working with Aboriginal communities, families and children engaged in the child protection system. She also has considerable experience in the field of family violence and was the chair of a women's refuge in Perth for four years.
In 2000, Dawn coordinated the implementation of an awareness video My Body Belongs to Me developed by the Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) to raise awareness in Aboriginal communities on the issue of child sexual abuse. The video project won the 2002 Premier's Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management and the Social and Community Development category.
Dawn is currently a member of a team of chief investigators (CIs) on a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early start to life parenting project Too Solid at the Telethon Institute of Child Health Research. This innovative parenting program is currently in its second year of being trialled and is one of the first Aboriginal parenting programs developed by a team of Aboriginal researchers. As one of the CI's involved in this project she works with other CI's to provide de-briefing, cultural supervision, training and support to the Too Solid team delivering the parenting program.
Other research projects that Dawn is involved with are a collaborative research partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations in an urban and regional location and she provides Indigenous mentoring and supervision to the principal researchers and co-facilitates workshops to build the capacity of both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners.