Rachel Carson

Executive Manager

Family Law, Family Violence and Elder Abuse Research

Dr Rachel Carson is a socio-legal researcher with expertise in family law and mixed-method research. Rachel is a Senior Research Fellow and Executive Manager of the Family Law, Family Violence and Elder Abuse Research Program at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. She has over twenty years’ experience researching the Australian family law system, including examining the intersections between the family law system and family violence, and particularly legislative, policy and practice reforms designed to improve the system.

After practising as a family lawyer, Rachel worked as a researcher in family law at the Melbourne Law School and was awarded a Melbourne Research Scholarship to undertake her PhD in this field of research at the University of Melbourne. Since joining the Institute in June 2012, Rachel has worked on a range of significant family law research projects, including the Independent Children’s Lawyer Study and the Evaluation of the 2012 Family Violence Amendments Project. Rachel was the lead researcher for the Children and Young People in Separated Families: Family Law System Experiences and Needs project, and the Direct Cross-examination in Family Law Matters Study.  

Rachel is currently leading the empirical research components of the Family Relationships Services Program Review and she recently completed leading the Institute’s Evaluation of the Children’s Contact Service Activity. Additionally, Rachel and the team have just finalised commissioned work relating to adolescent boys and young men at risk of using violence and developing the Consultation Draft WA Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Strategy.  

Rachel also recently led the Evaluation of the Small Claims Property Pilot in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and the Evaluation of the Legal Aid Commission Trial of Lawyer-assisted Property Mediation. These programs are complementary initiatives that were funded under the Women’s Economic Security Package and aim to address gaps in the availability of efficient, low-cost avenues for post-separation property/financial settlement. Each of these mixed-method evaluations were commissioned by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department.

Additionally, Rachel managed the Institute’s recent mixed-method research project investigating compliance with and enforcement of family law parenting orders. This important research was commissioned by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, as a priority project under the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. Rachel also led the Institute’s contribution to the Future-proofing Safety – COVID 19 and Family Violence project which examines service interactions for people who experienced and used family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, Rachel managed the Institute’s Coercive Control Literature Review for the Australian Attorney General’s Department, as well as an AIFS-led consortium producing research syntheses on all forms of violence against women commissioned by Respect Victoria.  

Rachel also currently manages the Institute’s elder abuse research program and in 2022-23 she led the Evaluation of the National Plan to respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019-2023, as well as working on the Elder Abuse National Research Program and the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, commissioned by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department.  Additionally, Rachel has contributed to research undertaken for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and to the work of the Institute’s Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) and Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information hub project.

Rachel has represented the Institute in various capacities, including at the Senate Estimates Hearings and submissions to the Australian Law Reform Commission and Government requests for submissions and parliamentary inquiries. Rachel is a member of the Family Law Council, an independent body of experts that provides advice on family law to the Australian Attorney-General, and she is a member of the editorial board of the Australian Journal of Family Law.


  • Admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Law), University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Laws (Honours), University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Melbourne