Heather Ploeger

The significance of the child’s voice in child death inquiries


Professor Lynn Gillam, Academic Director, Professor in Health Ethics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

Associate Professor Clare Delany, Professor in Health Professions, Department of Medical Education, University of Melbourne

Professor John Devaney, Professor, Centenary Chair of Social Work, University of Edinburgh.

Title of PhD:  

The significance of the child’s voice in child death inquiries


International law declares that all children have a right to express their views on their lives and experiences. However, when it comes to children involved with child protection, research suggests that their voices are rarely heard or represented. By conducting a study on 14 child death inquiries, I sought to understand how professionals describe and document observations about the child and the child’s experiences. I found that the lives of these children were either minimised, or not meaningfully understood. I suggest some explanations for this and recommend a new approach whereby child protection practitioners document a child’s life biography for children involved with child protection.


Heather Ploeger os a PhD candidate and a maternal and child health nurse. She has extensive experience working with children and their families involved with child protection services. Over the last nine years, Heather has been employed by the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People conducting child death inquiries. Heather is currently on leave working as a maternal and child health nurse in Aurukun, a remote Aboriginal community, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.