Professor Meaghan O’Donnell


Head, Research

BAppSc(N), BSc(Hons), MPsy(Clin), PhD

Meaghan O’Donnell is the Head of Research at the Phoenix Australia, Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne. She has published widely in the area of posttraumatic mental health. She is the Research Director of the Phoenix Australia Traumatic Research Clinic, which tests new and emerging treatments to promote recovery following trauma exposure. She is on a number of scientific advisory committees including the 2020 National Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics) and Australian Veteran Health and Wellbeing Advisory Council (Department of Veterans’ Affairs). She is Past President of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies and is a recipient of an Experienced Researcher Humboldt Fellowship. She is on the editorial board for the European Journal of Traumatic Stress Studies, and guest editor on a special COVID-19 edition of this journal.

Dr Tracey Varker


Senior Research Fellow

BSc(Hons), PGDip (Statistics), PhD

Tracey Varker is a Senior Research Fellow, and Lead of the Evidence Synthesis Hub at Phoenix Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. Tracey is an expert in evidence synthesis (i.e. literature reviews) and is experienced in review methodologies including rapid evidence assessments, systematic reviews, meta-analysis, scoping reviews, as well as general literature reviews. She is experienced in working with clients to develop reviews that best suit their needs and has published systematic reviews and papers on review methodology. She also has expertise and interest in working with those at high-risk of encountering trauma through their work, such as emergency services and military personnel. Her other research focusses on the prevention of PTSD, and early intervention for PTSD, and she has tested several of these interventions within high-risk occupational groups.

Research interests:

Evidence synthesis, high-risk occupations, PTSD, prevention and early intervention.

Dr Lisa Dell


Senior Research Fellow

BAppSc(Hons), M.Eval, PhD

Lisa Dell is a Senior Research Fellow at Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. She is one of Australia’s emerging leaders in military mental health having specialised in military and veteran research for over 15 years.

Lisa’s research is focussed on recovery after the experience of traumatic events, with a particular emphasis on identification and management of early signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how the trajectory of the development of mental health problems can be intervened with. She is also interested in the concept of psychological resilience and the factors that can enhance resilience in order to protect against the emergence of mental health problems.

Research interests:

Sub-threshold mental health problems, early intervention, military mental health, psychological resilience, PTSD.

Dr Sean Cowlishaw


Senior Research Fellow

BSSc(Psych), BA(Hons), PhD

Dr Sean Cowlishaw is a Senior Research Fellow with the Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. He also holds an honorary position with the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol in the UK.

Dr Cowlishaw’s research is focussed on improving recognition and responses to complex psychosocial issues and mental health problems, with a particular emphasis on:

  • Gambling problems and addictive behaviours;
  • Posttraumatic mental health concerns, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anger problems and alcohol misuse; and
  • Interpersonal violence, including Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) exposure and perpetration.

His recent work has addressed the identification and response to these issues within various health service settings, including primary care, mental health and addiction services, as well as high risk occupational environments (e.g., military and emergency services), and post-disaster recovery contexts. His work has a strong emphasis on knowledge translation and dissemination, and routinely involves close relationships with service providers and research end users, and the ongoing engagement of stakeholders in the research process.

Dr Cowlishaw is also an experienced research methodologist and head of the quantitative methods and data analysis hub at Phoenix Australia, which has particular expertise in the design, implementation, and analyses of cross-sectional and longitudinal cohort studies, including routinely collected data-sets, as well as clinical trials and mixed-method studies.

Research interests:

Gambling and addictive behaviours, posttraumatic mental health, interpersonal violence.

Dr Winnie Lau


Senior Clinical Research Specialist

BBSc(Hons), PhD/MPsy(Clin)

Winnie leads the Interventions Stream of Research at Phoenix Australia. She is the Principal Clinician and Deputy Lead of the Phoenix Australia Traumatic Stress Clinic, which tests new and emerging treatments to promote recovery following trauma exposure. Winnie has over 15 years experience as a psychologist specialising in trauma focussed interventions and is an expert in trial methodology and randomised controlled trials. Winnie leads a research program focused on developing and testing novel psychological treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder and other trauma related mental health conditions across diverse trauma populations including complex trauma. She also leads a program of work in early intervention strategies for subclinical posttraumatic stress, depression and anxiety following trauma. She co-developed the SOLAR program, an early strength based intervention for survivors of disaster and trauma.

Her current work is investigating a novel emotion regulation based intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder against gold standard prologue exposure treatment, and an emerging new intervention for Sleep disorders in high risk trauma exposed populations.

Winnie is Acting Director of Research at Phoenix Australia and Deputy Chair of the Human Research Ethics Advisory Committee for the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne.

Research interests:

Psychological treatments for PTSD, complex trauma, early interventions for subclinical PTSD