Dr Sonja J Ellis

Sonja Ellis

Associate Professor in Human Development

Qualifications: BSocSc, MSocSc (Waikato), PhD (Loughborough), MPH (Charles Darwin), AFBPsS, SFHEA

About Sonja

I began my academic career here at The University of Waikato, where I completed my Bachelors and Masters degree majoring in Education Studies and worked briefly as Tutor. In 1997 I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship opportunity to study as a doctoral student at Loughborough University in the UK, where I had the privilege of working with some of the most famous academics in both Feminist Psychology and Critical Social Psychology. Shortly before graduating from my PhD, I secured a Lectureship in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University (in the UK) where I worked for 15 years. In 2015, I relocated to Brisbane, Australia where I worked for a small higher education provider and then the Australian Catholic University. I returned to Aotearoa New Zealand at the end of 2017 to take up my current post as Associate Professor in Human Development. I have an established international reputation for my research and scholarship in the field of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, and Queer (LGBTIQ) Psychology. I have published widely in this field and with Damien Riggs (Flinder University) and Liz Peel (Loughborough University) am coauthor of the substantially revised and updated second edition of the textbook Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, and Queer Psychology: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2020). I am currently undertaking research on the inclusion of sexuality and gender diversity in sexuality education and in the wider school context.

Papers Taught

Research Supervised

I am currently co-supervising the doctoral research programmes of the following students:

Ron Dick - Mental health and wellbeing in young people in New Zealand

Maggie Lyall - "It's all sorted now isn't it?": Gender discourses in the New Zealand Early Education Sector

Mellisa Chin Lee Lee - A critical realist discourse analysis of inclusive education policy and practice in Malaysia.

Doctoral completions:

Kyle Tan (Conferred 2021) Mental Health of Trans and Gender Diverse New Zealanders:
Inequalities, Risk Factors, and Protective Factors. The University of Waikato.

Henry Lennon (supervised until 2015; conferred 2018). The discursive construction of Romanian identity and migration in the UK. Sheffield Hallam University.

Damien Fitzgerald (conferred 2015). Gay fathers' construction of identity as 'gay' and 'father'. Sheffield Hallam University.

Keeley Abbott (conferred 2013). The construction of young people's sexuality within sex and relationships education. Sheffield Hallam University.

Catherine Nixon (conferred 2012). Accounting for 'disclosure': Lesbian parents' identity management in home and school contexts. Sheffield Hallam University.

Research Interests

My research interests focus primarily on social justice issues relevant to LGBTIQ people; but also on gender and sexuality in adolescence. Over the last decade I have engaged in a range of research projects including the UK Trans Mental Health Study; social connectedness and suicide risk in transgender people in Australasia with Damien Riggs (Flinders University) and Gareth Treharne (University of Otago); sexuality, sexual health, and knowledge of STIs among teenagers in New Zealand; and currently, the inclusion of sexuality and gender diversity within school-based sexuality education.

Recent Publications

  • Tan, K. K. H., Schmidt, J. M., Ellis, S. J., Veale, J. F., & Byrne, J. L. (2021). ‘It’s how the world around you treats you for being trans’: mental health and wellbeing of transgender people in Aotearoa New Zealand. Psychology & Sexuality, 1-13. doi:10.1080/19419899.2021.1897033 Open Access version:

  • Ellis, S. J., & Bentham, R. M. (2021). Inclusion of LGBTIQ perspectives in school-based sexuality education in Aotearoa/New Zealand: an exploratory study. Sex Education. doi:10.1080/14681811.2020.1863776

  • Tan, K. K. H., Schmidt, J. M., Ellis, S. J., & Veale, J. F. (2020). Mental health of trans and gender diverse people in Aotearoa/New Zealand: A review of the social determinants of inequities. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 64-72. Retrieved from

  • Treharne, G. J., Riggs, D. W., Ellis, S. J., Flett, J. A. M., & Bartholomaeus, C. (2020). Suicidality, self-harm, and their correlates among transgender and cisgender people living in Aotearoa/New Zealand or Australia. International Journal of Transgender Health, 21(4), 440-454. doi:10.1080/26895269.2020.1795959

Find more research publications by Sonja Ellis


Health; Human Development; Psychology; Women and Gender Studies; Youth

LGBTIQ Psychology; sexuality and gender diversity; social justice; mental wellbeing; sexual health; sexuality education.

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Room: TC.2.12
Phone: +64 7 838 4466 xtn 6571