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Associate Professor Nicola Atwool

atwoolBSocSc (Waik) MA (Applied) (Well) PhD DipChPst (Otago)

Social Work Programme

Contact details

Room 6C11, Richardson Building
Tel +64 3 479 5442


I have professional qualifications in social work and child psychotherapy. I was employed in a variety of roles by what is now Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children for nearly twenty years.

I joined the University of Otago in 1994 when I was appointed to a lecturer position in Community and Family Studies. I became a Senior Lecturer in 2000. During this time I had a close association with the Children’s Issues Centre.

At the beginning of 2006 I took up a position as Principal Advisor in the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. I returned to the University at the beginning of 2012 as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work.

Research interests

The goal of my research is to influence policy and practice to improve outcomes for children and young people exposed to adversity. I came to an academic position with extensive practitioner experience and am committed to research that bridges the worlds of academia, policy and practice.

I have a particular interest in attachment theory and resilience and in 2008 completed a PhD exploring the use of attachment assessments in decision-making for children in care. An ecological framework, the sociology of childhood, critical theory, and a children’s rights perspective informs my work.

Postgraduate supervision

I currently supervise two Masters students completing projects related to attachment. I am interested in hearing from students interested in the application of attachment and resilience theories to social work and therapeutic intervention. I have a continuing interest in research on children in care and child maltreatment prevention.