2017 Scholars


Helen Benassi

Supervisor: Professor Bryan Rodgers, School of Demography, ANU College of Arts and Social Science

Helen joined the Department of Defence in 2005, where she has worked in mental health screening, surveillance and unit climate, epidemiology and personnel selection research. Ms Benassi completed a psychology internship with Defence, registering as a psychologist in 2010. Prior to starting her PhD, Helen was responsible for the coordination of strategic mental health research within Defence and managed the delivery of a number of influential research projects, including the Longitudinal ADF Study Evaluating Resilience, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study and the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme.

Helen’s research will explore e-health solutions to support early identification and self-management of mental health in the ADF. Her research will examine stigma and barriers to care, the role of mental health screening as a means of enabling treatment-seeking behaviour and identify the role that technology plays in supporting screening, early intervention, and self-management in a workplace context.


Christiane Gerblinger

Supervisor: Professor Joan Leach, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU

Christiane joined the Treasury as a speechwriter in 2012. Before that, she worked across a range of areas in the APS, from analysing financial intelligence to providing advice on counter-proliferation, energy, health and rural policy. Along the way, and partly as a result of completing her first PhD in literature in 2000, Christiane continued to critically analyse discourse – but, instead of closely reading literary texts, her attention turned to analysing how public policy is communicated to governments and the public.

As such, her research topic examines the language of the Australian Public Service (APS) and how it expresses its expert policy advice. Balancing two of its key obligations – objectivity and responsiveness – the APS has produced policy advice that is increasingly rebuffed. Why is that? Two case studies from distinctly different policy areas across the last two decades are juxtaposed: advice about the 2016 state-wide blackout event in South Australia; and Australia’s 2003 intelligence assessments on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.


Tess McGirr 

Supervisor: Professor Peter Whiteford, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Tess has a long-held passion for social policy. In her most recent role in the Department of Social Services, Tess provided advice on children’s policy, family policy and programs, homelessness policy, family safety, gambling and financial wellbeing (including welfare quarantining measures such as income management and the cashless debit card trial). Tess also has experience overseeing delivery of various social service and infrastructure initiatives in communities and town camps in the Northern Territory, and has worked in the private and not-for-profit sectors.

Tess’ doctoral research will use a mixed-methods approach to examine how social services can best complement reforms in the tax and transfer systems to improve employment outcomes. Her study will investigate the impact of social services on welfare receipt, and consider options for service supports and interventions such as case management and individualised mutual obligation compacts. This will involve exploring how conditionality arrangements can be tailored to the individual needs of the welfare recipient, including addressing non-vocational barriers to employment.

Updated:  1 August 2019/ Responsible Officer:  Foundation Director/ Page Contact:  Sir Roland Wilson Foundation