Dr Sarah Wayland

Dr Sarah Wayland is a social worker and renowned researcher from the University of Sydney. She has been working in the Missing Persons space since 2004, when she was the first permanent counsellor for the Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit.

In 2005, Sarah was the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship and spent months in the USA working closely with Emeritus Professor Pauline Boss — who coined the term Ambiguous Loss in 1999.

“Families of missing people present as if they’re having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is around grief ruminations – imagined ideas as to what happened to the missing person.”

Sarah is Australia’s oracle on the topic of missing persons, providing expert comment and interviews to various media outlets about the experience of loss for families of missing people. She lectures in the Sydney school of Health Sciences, teaching in the areas of introduction to health, health and lifelong disability, and qualitative research methods. Her research interests relate to suicide prevention, suicide postvention, returned missing people and mental health recovery.

Her PhD study‘I still hope but what I hope for now has changed: a narrative inquiry study exploring hope and ambiguous loss’​ was awarded the Chancellors medal for Doctoral research at the University of New England in October 2015.

Due to a large number of repeat-missing incidents — particularly regarding younger people — Sarah is passionate about exploring the untapped potential in conducting Return Home Interviews.

She is currently leading a pilot program for Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN) around training practitioners in the specifics of ambiguous loss so that families of long term missing persons can receive specialised support. She is also part of an international partnership grant, to work with Scotland’s Professor Hester Parr, the leader of the Geographies of Missing People project.


Hosted by Loren O’Keeffe

Dr Sarah Wayland

Ambiguous Loss, pioneered by Dr Pauline Boss

Theme song
‘Wildflowers’ by Jess Ribeiro

Audio production and music composition by Mike Migas

Graphic design by Maricarmen Rubí Baeza

Video and web design by Paulina Szymanska

The Missed Foundation (Formerly known as MPAN)

Casefile Presents