Research Ethics MonthlyAbout Us


Sarah is a lawyer who has worked in the areas of health, medicine, intellectual property and ethics for more than 25 years. Positions she has held include in-house counsel for State and Commonwealth Health departments, General Counsel and Director of Ethics for the Australian Medical Association, Human Rights Advisor to the ACT Government, ACT Public Advocate and, most recently, the Executive Director responsible for research integrity at the National Health & Medical Research Council, including the project to harmonise clinical trials ethical review, and the management of research misconduct allegations. She chairs two HRECs and is the lawyer on a third, a member of APHRA professional disciplinary committees, and an independent director of the Australian College of Optometrists.

Sarah is an accredited mediator with particular experience in the resolution of workplace disputes, and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, maintaining an interest and involvement in clinical and corporate governance in the non-profit sector. She has proficiency in chairing and facilitating meetings, including the ACT Government’s working group on Substituted Decision-Making, and its Sexual Assault Reform Project, both of which resulted in positive legislative change. Sarah is a knowledgeable and popular presenter and trainer, with particular expertise in good decision-making and regulatory compliance. She is also a capable investigator with experience in workplace conduct and research misconduct processes.

Sarah is also recognised for her considerable expertise in information and privacy law, having headed the Information Law practice of a national law firm and produced an award-winning manual for the Commonwealth Department of Health. She has been closely involved in the development of policy and legislation around informed consent and substituted decision-making in several of her previous roles. Her work in human rights and the protection of vulnerable people has informed her approach to research ethics. Her background in both the teaching and practice of regulatory compliance has convinced her of the value of an educative, receptive and facilitative approach that builds a culture of compliance, rather than reliance on sanctions. She believes that the process of ethical review should be a vehicle, not an obstacle, to the efficient delivery of high-quality research.


In her work with national law firms, and in-house, Sarah has conducted training in areas as diverse as code of conduct and workplace behaviour, good-decision-making, third-party consent, information law, mediation, and regulatory compliance, including as a sessional trainer for the Resolution Institute and the Canberra Institute of Technology. She has a particular interest in the dynamics of group decision-making and has conducted numerous inductions for statutory committees involving, inter alia, managing conflicts and observing procedural fairness. Sarah has experience facilitating meetings and successful resolution of disputes; she is also particularly good at assisting committees to reach “appeal-proof” decisions, as the legal advisor to several prominent statutory decision-making boards and committees. She is an excellent problem-solver with a strategic and lateral perspective that clients value highly in finding their way through complex issues. In private practice, she has worked with government clients to effect successful cultural change in the delivery of legal services, in particular from inflexible and insular systems to client-focused, facilitative models of service. She maintains a legal advisory and mediation practice alongside her work with AHRECS.


    • Research ethics governance
    • Regulatory compliance, based on facilitative and educative principles
    • Information law – privacy, FOI, confidentiality and intellectual property
    • Law relating informed consent and substituted decision-making
    • Procedural fairness, and good-decision making for individuals and committees
    • Advice and assistance in managing conflicts of interest
    • Government relations and strategy
    • Mediation and facilitation
    • Professional ethics, particularly law, medicine, bioethics and public sector
    • Training and development in a wide range of subjects and contexts
    • Human rights and the ethical treatment of vulnerable individuals and populations
    • Cultural and structural change management in organisations
    • Research integrity policy and systems implementation
    • Research misconduct investigations, and the management of external messaging.