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Personal profile

Personal profile

Karen Bell is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and Arts, Faculty of Arts and Education. She co-leads the Environmental and Social Justice research group and the Future of the Professions (Sturt) research group.

Karen completed a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in legal studies and philosophy (La Trobe University Melbourne, 1986) a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours, University of Melbourne, 1988) and a PhD (CSU, 2009).  She was granted a CSU Research Fellowship (2018-2020). 

Research interests include:

  • Philosophy of social work, social theory
  • Gender, women and social policy
  • Environmental social work
  • International social work
  • Social work curriculum development, international education, and practicum
  • Assisted reproduction 
  • Rural and regional service delivery

Karen’s doctoral thesis - The experiences and support needs of non-metropolitan women who have used assisted reproduction clinics – explored the experiences of rural women in relation to infertility and assisted reproduction and the role of social work and human service professionals in this context. The dominant paradigm in assisted reproduction remains quite traditional, biomedical and individualistic in its ontological orientation. This shapes regulation, research and service provision. A major outcome of this research is its contribution to a post-conventional knowledge base in relation to human reproduction – one that validates women’s epistemic agency. In terms of health and social services delivery, the research reinforces a need for a multidisciplinary, human rights approach to service delivery in the context of IVF in Australia and internationally.

Karen has worked in social work education at CSU since 1993, initially as a sessional academic and since 2000, as a tenured academic.  Karen teaches at all levels in the social work and human services degrees, including undergraduate and postgraduate subjects. She coordinates the  Bachelor of Social Work Honours program, the Masters-level research strand, and the Doctor of Social Work degree. In addition, she supervises PhD and DSW students, and she has examined several PhD theses. Karen has also co-facilitated several international student mobility programs (China, India, Samoa, Korea). 

Prior to academia, Karen’s professional practice experience was mainly in health as a generalist hospital social worker and in mental health as an on-site social worker in a regional psychiatric unit. She has also undertaken various contract and locum positions in health and community services over the years. In addition, she worked at Centrelink in direct and indirect practice roles including staff training and development, reviews and projects.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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