Lowitja Institute is proud to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers in health and wellbeing.

Here we profile past scholarship and award winners since 2014 (scholarships awarded from 2010 to 2014 are listed separately and the full list of awardees since 1997 is available in our Changing the Narrative publication).

Vinnitta Mosby

2021 Postdoctoral Scholarship recipient

PhD Social Work – JCU

Vinnitta Mosby is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman with family ties to Meriam Nation, Eastern Torres Strait. In 2015, Vinnitta complete a PhD in Social Work at James Cook University (JCU), exploring Torres Strait Islanders’ experiences of contemporary out-movement to understand how people managed the resettlement experience of ‘living in two worlds’. In the same year, she commenced teaching in the Social Work degree at JCU Cairns. Vinnitta is passionate about working in the Torres Strait with particular focus on building strong, resilient families and communities.

The Lowitja Institute Starlight Scholarship will allow Vinnitta to undertake research in the Torres Strait where she will be exploring the benefits of play in preschool aged children transitioning to formal education. The project will partner with the mobile playgroup program offered by Mura Kosker Sorority Inc. (MKS), one of the leading family and community wellbeing organisation in the Torres Strait region. The unique feature of the MKS playgroup program includes its mobility, taking playgroup into the community and offering support and wellbeing to both parents and children, providing a soft entry point to other services. This project will allow the codevelopment of practice-led resources and training material for playgroup providers and facilitators and generate new knowledge to improve school readiness in Torres Strait Islander children. The project expects to contribute to current knowledge by generating evidence-based approaches to improve social-emotional and educative outcomes in young children.

David Aanundsen

2020 Graduate Scholarship recipient

Graduate Certificate in Research Management, Deakin University

Mr David Aanundsen is a Yamatji Aboriginal man with family from the Shark Bay and Carnarvon Gascoyne region of Western Australia, who was born in Sydney but raised in Perth. He went onto live in Sydney, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, and now currently resides in Darwin. He studied a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Archaeology and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Western Australia. David has been working in the Aboriginal health sector for around 20 years in government and non-government health services in NSW and the Northern Territory. David has worked as an Aboriginal men’s sexual health educator between 2000 and 2007 in NSW. He has had both urban and remote Aboriginal experience throughout his career in the Aboriginal health sector. David currently works for The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program where he has worked since 2016. Since 2016 David has also become involved in Aboriginal health research and was involved on the Indigenous Leadership Group (ILG) for a Lowitja funded research on ‘Health literacy among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in the Northern Territory. David is currently an Advisory Group member for the NHMRC Project: Commissioning Stronger Evaluations of Indigenous Health & Wellbeing Programs.

Jodie Mottram

2020 Graduate Scholarship recipient

Graduate Certificate in Research Management, Deakin University

Jodie Mottram is an up-and-coming academic, who is unashamedly ambitious. Her devotion to her two bachelor’s degrees has provided her with a profound understanding of the disciplines of Psychology (Bachelor of Psychology, Honours), Criminology and Indigenous Studies (Bachelor of Arts with a Double Major). She is a proud Indigenous woman, a single mother of four dependent children (full time), a student respect training facilitator, student-staff liaison officer for the Psychology department, a content contributor writing on mental health, a mentor, an advocate, and an agent of change. Her passion lay in researching and advocating for the most vulnerable in our communities, operating from a strengths-based approach. With the support of the Lowitja Institute, Jodie is about to commence a Graduates Diploma of Research Management at Deakin University, and because of this she hopes to focus on ways in which she can help others to overcome their challenges, through her intended career in research.

Kylie Sullivan

2020 Certificate IV recipient

Certificate IV in Project Management – the College for Adult Learning

Kylie is an Arrernte woman from NT, residing in Coffs Harbour on the Mid North Coast of NSW. She has previously worked in two Aboriginal health services as a receptionist, finance assistant & transport officer. She is now employed fulltime with Neuroscience Research Australia as a Research/Project Assistant, with the Aboriginal ageing team researching dementia in our local communities working on a few different projects. Kylie is passionate about empowering her people, seeing some much-needed change, specifically in the health and wellbeing of our mobs. Kylie was accepted and participated in the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation Milparanga 2020 Indigenous Leadership program. The Lowitja scholarship has enabled Kylie to follow her dreams and goals and possibly aspire to a leader in Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander research.

Margaret Harvey

2020 Graduate Scholarship recipient

Certificate in Knowledge Mobilization – University of Guelph

Margaret is of Saibai Island heritage in the Torres Strait – Ait Koedal and Samu clans – as well as English heritage. She recently completed her doctorate at Monash University. Her interest lies in interdisciplinary performative storytelling that is inherent in the culture of her people from Saibai Island and the mythology that connects the physical plane to the spiritual plane. Working across the medium of live performance and film, she is passionate in reclaiming Indigenous narratives that supports the continued survival, dignity and well-being of a people based on the premise of caring for story. Art offers larger philosophical frameworks and Indigenous artists offer innovative ways to transmit information and knowledge that in turn can be meaningful and of benefit to Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities.

Lauren Poulos

2020 Graduate Scholarship recipient

Graduate Certificate in Project Management – RMIT

Lauren is a Biripi woman from NSW, with over 17 years’ experience in the Finance Services, and the Not-for-Profit Industry. For the last 2 and half years, she has been a part of the Aboriginal Health and Ageing Program team at NeuRA as a Project Coordinator on the Caring for Spirit Project. As part of this project Lauren has managed the project in its entirety from development, implementation and evaluation, which includes a website and online dementia education modules that are culturally appropriate and relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. To support this work, she has undertaken engagement and consultation with Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal Elders, Aboriginal community organisations, and health care service providers. Completing a Project Management Graduate Certificate will allow Lauren to enhance her skills to continue to develop and successfully deliver resources which will contribute to the enhanced care of Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Duean White

2020 Graduate Scholarship recipient

Graduate Certificate of Leadership and Coaching – University of Southern Queensland

Duean is a career development consultant who has assisted thousands of individuals, including many in the health sector, with career advice and guidance, outplacement, training and general consultancy services both directly and through a major Employee Assistance Program provider. As a Biripai woman,now residing in Melbourne, she is driven to assist her Indigenous clients to build and preserve their confidence so they thrive in the workplace. She has provided mentoring and coaching services for Indigenous staff from large government and corporate organisations and has resolved workplace conflict and improved team dynamics through her background as a qualified and registered Mediator. Duean is excited about undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Coaching with USQ to complement her other qualifications in career development (postgraduate), law, training, mediation and various related professional development. This study will allow her to better support the growth of individuals to leadership and management positions.

Shannon Kilmatrin-Lynch

2020 Postgraduate Scholarship recipient

PhD Enginerring, RMIT


Shannon’s PhD focuses on incorporating treated crumb rubber and recycled aggregate into concrete aided by Indigenous Methodologies. The proposed research aims to investigate different ways of incorporating specially treated crumb rubber as well as recycled aggregate into concrete without jeopardising the mechanical properties of the concrete. Indigenous Methodologies and Knowledge systems on Xanthorrhoea Resin will be incorporated into research and testing to act as a binder/cement paste to benefit both Indigenous people and the environment after relying so heavily for years on destruction of natural water ways and land to procure materials for construction purposes. The goal is to expand on Indigenous knowledge systems to counteract the effects that quarrying, and land clearing has had up to this point in time whilst creating a safe and diverse workplace for Indigenous peoples.


Shannon Kilmartin-Lynch is a proud Taungurung man a part of the Yowong-Illam-Baluk people from the Mansfield region in north-east Victoria. He completed his bachelor’s degree at RMIT university in 2018 graduating with honours in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, whilst completing his honours year at university he had my first child which has played a major influence on his career path choices. Whilst at university, Shannon was working with CPB on major infrastructure projects in Victoria as well as John Holland. After the birth of his daughter Shannon began to look at alternative career paths on how he could use my degree to benefit both his mob and daughter and this is when he decided to apply to study for a PhD at RMIT University.

Cameron Raw

2020 Postgraduate Scholarship recipient

PhD Veterinary Science, University of Melbourne


Cameron’s research will focus on the role dogs and cats play as reservoirs of infection for zoonotic parasites. There are several parasites capable of infecting animals and people. These are known as zoonotic parasites, some examples of which are certain species of hookworm and threadworm. These worms can live in the soil before infecting hosts through their skin and, when infected, can produce a range of symptoms from mild to life-threatening which are often hard to diagnose. As a consequence, they have remained endemic in several northern Australian remote communities, where the tropical climate suits their soil development. This is often despite efforts to control them via mass drug administration programs. One reason for this failure may be environmental contamination from dogs and cats. Cam’s PhD research investigates whether dogs and cats play a role as reservoirs of infection for these zoonotic parasites – as they do in other Asia Pacific countries – and if incorporating a One Health parasite program will lead to reducing and eliminating infections. This information will inform best practice guidelines and will enable communities to lead and operate their own parasite control programs in a productive and culturally appropriate way.


Cam is Palawa man who is a descendant of the Lyluequonny people from far south in Tasmania. After growing up and completing school in Hobart, he moved to Melbourne to pursue a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne. Since graduation he has worked in Victoria’s Northern dairy districts, Yorkshire and West Sussex in the UK, as well as in over ten different remote communities across Arnhem Land. Beginning in volunteer clinical veterinary roles, remote community work and the pursuit of improved outcomes for animal, human and environmental health through a One Health approach has become a focus of his career. He is also involved in Indigenous education and STEM experience through the University and the Residential Indigenous Science Experience (RISE). Research The effectiveness, feasibility and economic evaluation of canine deworming programs in reducing the prevalence and intensities of zoonotic ancylostomiasis and strongyloidiasis in selected Aboriginal communities in Northern Australia.

Alister Thorpe

Engage–Exchange–Change: Strengthening Indigenous health research engagement, action, translation and impact

PhD thesis – The University of Melbourne


Ethics and engagement protocols for Indigenous research are well established, yet it is difficult to measure how (and if) protocols are complied with. There has been an extensive range of Indigenous protocols, principles and guidelines published regarding ethics, engagement and translation of Indigenous health research. These principles seek to improve the research process and increase the likelihood of achieving better research outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. However, real research outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and evidence regarding use of research in policy and practice suggest that research is failing to have the impact that it promises.

To be effective, Indigenous research must involve Indigenous people in the planning, development, dissemination and implementation. This research aims to provide evidence that the development of research that is actively informed and guided by ethics, engagement and translation principles will more likely lead to research impact and benefit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

The proposal aims to develop an Aboriginal health research tool to compare and/or measure the impact of engagement, ethics and translation implementation in past (and current) Aboriginal health research projects.


In the last 9 years Alister has worked at the University of Melbourne and been involved in a number of Aboriginal research projects including the Taking Care of Business project, the development of a Victorian Aboriginal Child Health Development and Wellbeing Survey and the Injecting Drug Use Project at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service

As an Aboriginal man Alister wants to protect and strengthen his cultural knowledge and understanding and pass this on to his children. As an Aboriginal researcher and community member he hopes to use the skills and knowledge he has gained to develop research projects applying Indigenous research principles in strong partnership with Aboriginal communities, to support outcomes that improve Aboriginal health and wellbeing.

Emily Munro-Harrison

Urban Invisibility: Identities of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in urban Victoria

PhD thesis – The University of Melbourne


Emily’s PhD project explores notions of identities as described by young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban Victorian areas, through qualitative and participatory methods and a narrative-based approach. This work considers how identity influences social and emotional health and wellbeing, using creative elements of expression of identity, such as photographs, film, writing and artwork (including digital works), which will explore:

Issues underpinning individual self-identification Perceptions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have of ourselves Experiences of expressing our identities as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The focus on urban young people seeks to challenge assumptions about Indigeneity and visibility of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within cities, whilst providing a platform for young people to speak for themselves instead of being spoken for through research.

Identity and culture are foundational contributors to health, happiness and wellbeing. This project builds on the limited research in this area in Australian Aboriginal contexts, with the intended health benefits for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria being to support the expression of identity, which will in turn support positive mental health and wellbeing, more connected communities, higher levels of self-identification when accessing services, more culturally competent staff within services, and more effective services.


Emily has a background in policy, evaluation, research and program delivery. She has worked with young people in a range of settings including in sports and recreation, disability support, youth leadership, literacy development and environmental education. Emily has worked for State and local government, community-based organisations, and is now a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne in the Indigenous Health Equity Unit, focusing on connection to Country, family violence, service coordination for Aboriginal families and identity and wellbeing research. She also volunteers for a number of youth-focused organisations.

Emily is of Wiradjuri, English and Scottish descent. She was born in Port Adelaide and grew up in Melbourne. Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Social Science from RMIT University, Master of Environment from the University of Melbourne and Post Baccalaureate in Creative Writing from Columbia University in New York.

Roxanne Jones

Understanding how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural factors impact on health and wellbeing

Master’s thesis scholarship co-funded with the Australian National University 

Roxanne’s thesis is a compilation of four projects, two of which are linked with the Mayi Kuwayu study. Mayi Kuwayu is a large-scale national longitudinal study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing, designed to produce new knowledge about culture and its relationship to health and wellbeing

As part of the development of Mayi Kuwayu, Roxanne will investigate responses to a pilot study undertaken in the Northern Territory. The pilot comprises of two groups: Central Land Council Rangers and community members. She will look at the presence of cultural factors and health outcomes in each pilot group, as well as investigate any interrelationships between the two. Roxanne will also investigate whether the presence of cultural factors and the self-reported health of rangers differs from that of community members.

The remaining two projects comprise of an outbreak investigation and an evaluation of a surveillance system.

Roxanne was born and raised on Gubbi Gubbi and Jagera land in South East Queensland. She completed a double degree in Nursing and Health Science (Paramedics) from the Queensland University of Technology. Roxanne completed her graduate nursing year on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. She then undertook further training in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. She relocated to Canberra in 2017 to commence postgraduate study in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. In the future, Roxanne hope to undertake a PhD in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child clinical health outcomes.

The Lowitja Institute is a principal funder of the Mayi Kuwayu study.

Related resources:

Jane Pooley

Developing a quality of life tool for the use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with chronic disease

Master thesis – Queensland University of Technology


Jane was inspired to commence a Master of Applied Science in Indigenous health when working with Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute (QCMRI) as a research nurse. Her research is focussed on the development a quality of life tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The primary objective of the study is to utilise the information gathered from the yarning sessions with groups and individuals to assist in the development of a culturally appropriate tool for measuring the quality of life in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with chronic diseases.

This study seeks to guide and inform the development of future health care services, interventions and research by raising awareness and understanding about the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the impact of illnesses and general ill-health on their overall quality of life.


Jane is an Aboriginal registered nurse with cultural and family links to Southern Tasmania. She was born in Kancoona South, Victoria, moved to Tasmania as a toddler and grew up near Hobart. Jane was raised by her mother who she remembers actively wove cultural stories and beliefs into her growing up. After completing school, Jane moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Nursing at Deakin University and, in her graduate year, was nominated for nurse of the year by Western Health. Jane then moved into paediatric intensive care, a role she thoroughly loved and lead to her specialising in paediatrics. Within the health sector she has worked as a pathology collector, a manager of a health facility, and a research nurse. She is passionate about health education and related issues for Aboriginal people and committed to contributing to closing the gap in health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. A student again, Jane is raising her young daughter with her husband and now calls Brisbane home.

Julieann Coombes

What’s next for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children after a burn injury? What are the barriers to appropriate care?

Master thesis  – The University of Sydney


There is significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with burn-related injury. However, there is little research exploring burn victims access to appropriate health care and their quality of life after they return to their homes, families and communities post-burn. Julieann’s research is part of a larger prospective study exploring burn care in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Julieann used semi–structured interviews to conduct qualitative research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under 16 years of age, and their families, who present to a burns unit. The interviews with burn victims map out participants’ pathways to accessing services to gain information to better understanding how a child with a serious burn and their family interact and experience the journey to recovery. The Aboriginal Interpreter Service was present during discussions with the participants whose first language is not English. As an Aboriginal researcher, Julieann used Aboriginal ontology as her framework, this applies a holistic framework based on interconnectedness, person-centred care, and Aboriginal ways of knowing. This research aimed to generate rich data to assess the impact of burns care on the quality of a victim’s, and his or her family’s, life. It also helped understand the barriers to health care once a child is back in community and explore the support systems Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have or need to ensure better health outcomes and recovery and continuous health and wellbeing.


Julieann has lived and worked on the New South Wales Central Coast for more than 25 years and identifies as a Gamilaraay woman from Walgett. She is a registered nursed with extensive involvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and was the first practice nurse and coordinator at the Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre in Wyong. Julieann joined the George Institute as an Aboriginal Research Officer in the Injury Division and worked on the Healthy Ageing project that looks at the impact of falls on older Aboriginal people.

Julieann has a special interest in cultural awareness, equity, and education. She has taught Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in secondary and tertiary institutions and has represented Aboriginal nurses at the national level.

Julieann is very active in local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative groups including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Catholic Ministry of the Broken Bay Diocese, where she serves as Chairperson, the Central Coast Indigenous Responsible Gambling Group, Northern Sydney Women in Leadership Advisory Committee, Central Coast Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, and was the Aboriginal member for FaHCSIA Human Research Ethics National Committee.

Leda Barnett

Informing First Australian conceptualisations of holistic health and its role in suicide prevention

PhD thesis scholarship co-funded with Griffith University

This PhD thesis is an exploration of the way in which a community understands the suicide of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the intention of informing a holistic response that features healing over time as opposed to discrete episodes of intervention. Investigating the lived experience of suicidality among Australia’s First Peoples in the Mackay community, with reference to a recent suicide cluster in the community, will inform the ongoing development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander conceptualisation of a model of holistic health. Building on the current knowledge base of Indigenous suicidality, this investigation will make significant contributions to the conceptual understanding of holistic health and life through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing. This will inform the practice of individuals participating in the improvement of another’s wellbeing by providing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander model of holistic health.

Leda is a registered psychologist and a member of both the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) and Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA). She has extensive experience working with clients on issues that affect everyday living and relationships. Leda’s experience encompasses working in urban, regional and rural regions, including Aboriginal communities. Her educational qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), a Bachelor of Education (Primary), and a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours). Leda has many years of experience in the health sector and has published on Indigenous ways of knowing, Indigenous women with disabilities, chronic disease management and suicide in Australian Aboriginal communities. Her experience as a psychologist and in Indigenous research have allowed her to explore the meaning of holistic health in Australian Aboriginal culture and its relationship with the Western medical system.

Lisa Whop

The first comprehensive study on Indigenous Australian women’s inequalities in cervical screening: a Queensland record-linkage study

PhD thesis – Menzies School of Health Research


Since the introduction of the Australian National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) in 1991, cervical cancer incidence and mortality in Australia have decreased by over 50%. However, incidence and mortality for Indigenous women are two and four times higher respectively than for non-Indigenous women. The NCSP is unable to report on program performance indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women because Indigenous status is not routinely collected by Pap smear registers (PSRs).

Using linked data from the Queensland PSR with hospital inpatient and cancer registry data, Lisa Whop’s thesis investigates cervical screening participation, prevalence of cervical abnormalities and time to clinical investigation following a high-grade abnormality for Indigenous compared with non-Indigenous women in Queensland. Her thesis is currently under examination.


Lisa Whop is a descendent of the Wagedagam tribe of the Gumulgal people of Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait and has family connections to the Darling Downs in South West Queensland.

Lisa’s research to date has focused on improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer. She holds a Bachelor in Medical Science from the Queensland University of Technology and a Masters of Applied Epidemiology from the Australian National University. Her PhD project was focused on the Queensland part of the National Indigenous Cervical Screening Project – the first population-based study in Australia to investigate the effectiveness of cervical screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

She was supported by a Sidney Myer Health Scholarship, a Menzies Enhanced Living Scholarship and a Lowitja Institute Scholarship. She recently submitted her PhD thesis to the Charles Darwin University and is working as a Research Fellow at the Menzies School of Health Research.

Maree Meredith

Health promotion benefits of art centres in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands

PhD thesis – Flinders University


There are approximately 3000 people on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands with 460 people (15%) engaged in art activities in seven art centres. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these centres contribute to community health and wellbeing of artists and the community. This study uses a mixed method approach to examine the health promoting capacity of art centres and identify key features of best practice models using the social determinants of health framework.

The research methods include participant observation, and interviews with Aboriginal and non-Indigenous stakeholders, a survey designed in collaboration with artists and art centre workers, and case studies of two centres identified as health promoting. This research has the potential to extend the scholarship towards a deeper understanding of Aboriginal methodologies and theories.


Maree’s interest in health was triggered when working as a cadet with the Northern Territory Health Department in women’s health policy and as an intern with Danila Dilba Health Services in Darwin. After completing an Anthropology Honours degree at the Charles Darwin University she was accepted into the AusAID graduate program and worked on the Australian Non-Government Cooperation Program, Papua New Guinea Health and HIV/AIDS desks. Returning to the NT, she worked with the Central Land Council (CLC) for five years. During this time Maree worked with Anangu on a number of projects mainly in the field of tourism development.

Maree graduated with a Master in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development at the Australian National University. Her study continues and is in the final stages of completing her PhD research with Anangu and art centre managers on the APY Lands. For the last three years, Maree has lived in the APY Lands collecting the data for her thesis.

Maree’s research acknowledges the support from the Lowitja Institute and other industry partners who have supported her research and community engagement. These include Flinders University, Australian Research Council, Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation, Poche Centre for Health and Wellbeing (Alice Springs), Office for the Arts (OFTA) Centre for Remote Health (Alice Springs), The Palya Fund and The Whyatt Benevolent Fund.

Related resources:

Matthew West

Development of a targeted foot complications screening and intervention program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

PhD thesis


Following on from Matthew’s honours project, this PhD will consist of three phases with the aim of informing policy through the creation of a custom podiatry program that meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The first phase is a clinical audit of existing public health services to explore current attempts to meet community demand. Local health districts and public health podiatry programs will be compared to public health diabetes programs to assess if there is adequate representation between services. This will then lend itself to phase two, part A, which is focused around community consultation, a survey-based assessment that seeks to understand, from the community’s point of view, what obstacles to care exist and potential strategies to overcome them. Phase two, part B, is a clinician survey that enquires about the clinicians’ perception of obstacles to patient care. With an understanding of what and how services are currently being accessed and the professional and community response to how they might be improved, phase three involves the development of a pilot program to examine the effectiveness of a podiatry program post consultation.


Matthew is a Wiradjuri man currently living and working on the central coast of New South Wales. In 2013, he graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Podiatry. In 2015, Matthew completed his honours by research focusing on how his local community currently accesses podiatry services. This provided insight to how lower limb health outcomes might be improved

Matthew has always had a strong sense of responsibility to serve his local community. This has grown as he continued with his studies and came to better understand the vast health inequalities that exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians. He was the first person to successfully complete the Central Coast Indigenous health cadetship program from an allied health discipline and worked his graduate year in the Central Coast Local Health District. This allowed Matthew the opportunity to develop his skills before starting a podiatry service at local Aboriginal Medical Service. During his graduate year, Matthew also worked closely with other stakeholders to coordinate an outreach podiatry screening program at their community NAIDOC event, which he has continued doing each following year. In 2013, Matthew’s efforts to better the health of his local community was recognised by Indigenous Allied Health Australia with the Inaugural Future Leader in Indigenous Allied Health Award.

This strong commitment to improving community health outcomes has guided Matthew’s career and research so that he can hopefully contribute to a better understanding of how meaningful positive change can be pursued and achieved to close the health gap health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians in his lifetime.

Related resources:

Nicky Flynn

(De)Colonising ADHD: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Standpoints

PhD thesis – Flinders University


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and caregivers face the challenge of understanding and dealing with Western standards of health and education when their children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). There is evidence that the development and incorporation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander standpoints and conceptual frameworks is paramount to ensuring successful health and education initiatives. Therefore, in this research major emphasis will be given to decolonising mainstream education and health policy in order to identify key distinctive cultural differences that contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing in relation to ADHD.

This research will develop new knowledge, tools and resources for use with ADHD diagnoses, to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and caregivers can access high quality, culturally competent care from their standpoints. It will also support the development of educational initiatives that respond to those standpoints.


Nicky is a Gamilaroi woman from Mungindi, New South Wales. Nicky has an eclectic ancestry – Aboriginal, Irish, English, Jamaican, and Indian. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Social Science (Human Services), Graduate Diploma Education, Master of Education, and she is currently a PhD candidate.

Robert Monaghan

The role of management in improving sexual health service delivery in Aboriginal community controlled health services

Master thesis  – The University of New South Wales


Robert is collaborating with community controlled health organisations in New South Wales to investigate the efficiency of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and blood born viruses (BBV) programs and introducing a quality improvement program (QIP). The research will examine how doctors interact with Aboriginal clients to disseminate information on STIs and BBVs. The project will have a qualitative approach that will incorporate face-to-face interviews with GPs practicing in Aboriginal Medical Services and clients and community members. The research findings will influence service delivery in a culturally appropriate manner and influence better practice with the development of action plans to monitor quality improvement.


Robert is a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation on his mother’s side. His family and his extended Family are from the North Coast of New South Wales alongside the Clarence River at Baryulgil. His dad’s side gives a long and rich history of ancestors from Ireland.

Robert has a diverse range of experiences from living and working in communities that are passionate and rich in Aboriginal culture and life. Robert has spent nearly 20 years working in national, State and local governments working and in the Aboriginal community controlled sector. His roles within Aboriginal health include working as an educator and the NSW State Coordinator for Aboriginal sexual health hepatitis and reproductive health. Robert has specialised in the development and delivery of face-to-face training packages designed around working with Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people, Aboriginal health and employment, and cross-cultural awareness. Robert has shown an enthusiasm for learning and has progressed his qualifications from his initial Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, to completing a Diploma in Community Services and a Diploma in community development. Robert is currently enrolled in a Master of Public Health.

Scott Avery

A critical analysis of disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

PhD thesis  – University of New South Wales


Statistics suggest that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disability at a rate approximately twice that of other Australians. Despite the high prevalence of disability among Indigenous peoples, there is currently an inadequate understanding of their rights to inclusion in policy and practice. This research looks to ascertain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives through the narratives of those with lived experience with disability.


Scott Avery is the Policy and Research Director at the First Peoples Disability Network (Australia), a non-government organisation constituted by and for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. He has an extensive career in public policy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, health, disability, justice and education. He is a passionate and active advocate for social justice working within the non-government sector. Scott is undertaking a Doctorate of Applied Public Health at the University of New South Wales investigating Indigenous constructions of disability. He is also the lead Investigator on a research program to develop a community-directed research agenda for Indigenous people with disability, which has been awarded funding support through the National Disability Research and Development Scheme. He is also the recipient of a research support scholarship from the Lowitja Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research and is a member of the Institute’s Program Committee on Health Workforce.

Culture is Inclusion: A narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability is available for purchase on the FPDN website.

Skye Trudgett

Improving social, economic and health outcomes for high-risk young people in remote communities: The adaptation and implementation of a transdisciplinary research approach

Masters by Research scholarship co-funded with the George Institute for Global Health

An estimated 640,000 young Australians experience multiple, co-occurring risk factors that result in avoidable social, health and economic harms (such as premature mortality). These risk factors include substance use disorders, psychological distress, poor education, incarceration, unemployment and involvement in petty crime. These high-risk young people are not spread randomly across populations, but are clustered within vulnerable sub-populations, primarily in remote (compared to urban and regional) communities, and among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (compared to non-Indigenous) young people.

To date, responses to these harms in remote communities have typically been a combination of harm reduction strategies (e.g. implementation of low-aromatic fuel at petrol stations to curb the incidence of youth petrol sniffing, or increasing police presence in communities), and diversion activities such as sport. Although existing programs have achieved some positive outcomes, a current literature review by the CIs shows that there is a substantial disconnect between the implementation of programs and their evaluation using robust research methods. A total of 268 data-based studies (as opposed to opinion pieces or study protocols) were published in the international literature between 2009 and 2014, of which only 13 (5%) were evaluations of a program for young people experiencing multiple, co-occurring risk factors (as opposed to single risk factors, such as substance abuse only or suicide prevention only). Moreover, the methodological quality of seven of these 13 evaluations was rated as weak against standard criteria.

The lack of good quality evidence for effective intervention programs for young people with multiple and complex needs in remote communities is most likely a consequence of the difficulty of developing and routinely implementing a multi-component intervention that is highly acceptable and accessible to this high-risk group. A key innovation of the research proposed in this application is to develop, implement and evaluate a transdisciplinary model of research that is integrated into routine service delivery (see project collaborators and participating services sections). Its primary rationale is that achieving the routine uptake of evidence-based services for high-risk young people in remote communities will require collaborative effort between these high-risk young people, service providers who directly engage with them, and researchers skilled in real-world evaluation using both qualitative and quantitative methods. By engaging with a range of relevant experts, this study would be the first international research project to apply a transdisciplinary approach to knowledge co-creation for young people with multiple and complex needs in remote communities. Given these problems are complex and multifaceted the transdisciplinary, co-creation approach is a promising and innovative opportunity to identify cost-effective interventions for high-risk young people with multiple and complex needs.

Skye Trudgett has spent the last 6 years working in medical research and social impact sectors. Skye graduated from ACAP with a Bachelor of Psychological Science, and prior to commencing her Masters by Research, she worked with the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke and Ready Set Go in Port Stephens providing strategic planning and implementation, and program design, measurement, and evaluation.

Stewart Sutherland

A Transnational Study: The effects of reconciliation on social and emotional wellbeing of people affected by past policies and practices of forced removal

PhD thesis – AIATSIS


Stewart’s research, ‘A Transnational Study: The effects of reconciliation on social emotional wellbeing of people affected by past policies and practices of forced removal’, investigates the impact of forced removal policies and practices on the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous peoples in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This study also investigates these populations’ attitudes towards reconciliation in the wake of government apologies; also the impact on people’s social and emotional wellbeing that may have stemmed from government apologies and reconciliation programs.

In undertaking his research, Stewart interviewed 90 participants from 15 sites across the three countries. He developed and used Cultural Situated research methodologies. This allowed his interviewees to be forthcoming and reveal information at great depth that may not have occurred using other methodologies. The level of detail obtained allowed Stewart to draw out themes from an Indigenous viewpoint.


Stewart was born and raised in Wellington, New South Wales – the heart of Wiradjuri country. He has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health for over a decade and has most recently focussed on mental health. He has a particularly interest in the social emotional wellbeing of the Stolen Generations.

In addition to his PhD studies, Stewart is an Indigenous Visiting Research Fellow at AIATSIS.

Suzanne Ingram

Communication needs of Indigenous people whose first language is English for culturally competent chronic disease health care

PhD thesis – The Australian National University


The collection of data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health conditions and experience is voluminous. Notwithstanding significant investment in research as well as programs for education and delivery, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes are not showing commensurate improvement.

Given the focus on acquiring evidence-based health research from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, this thesis explores whether this has impacted on the quality of health literacy and engagement with care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose first language is English.

In examining the effectiveness of current modes of communication, the research is an interrogation of literacy, channels and audience.


Suzanne is an Aboriginal woman of the Galare clans of the Wiradjuri nation. Her focus on health research builds on an extensive background in communications and Aboriginal heritage research. Suzanne has been involved in communications engagement and advocacy work with Aboriginal communities and organisations for more than 20 years. She currently serves as Chairperson of the Black Theatre Company, and conducts community relations and advocacy for the Mudgin-gal Aboriginal Women’s Corporation and the Redfern Aboriginal Women’s Alliance.

Tara Lewis

Culturally responsive methodology for the communication assessment of Australian Aboriginal children

Master thesis – The University of Queensland


Tara’s project was to determine what communication means to Aboriginal people and compare that to what communication means to speech pathologists. Her research is the result of an increasing awareness of the importance of using culturally responsive assessments to inform diagnoses and intervention for Aboriginal children, for which there is only a small amount of literature. Although speech pathologists are aware of issues surrounding the perceived efficacy of standardised assessments they continue to be used. Their use has implications for the assessment of Aboriginal children, as neither cultural differences nor Aboriginal English is taken into consideration and this may invalidate results and lead to poor assessments.

Tara’s research aims to bridge the gap in awareness about communication differences and Aboriginal English. She will address the notion that some Aboriginal languages are thought to be a ‘heavier’ variety, which sounds similar to a Traditional Aboriginal Language and other varieties being at the ‘lighter’ end of the continuum, which’sound similar to standard Australian English. This lack of understanding can lead to incorrect assessment and children being placed in a special needs category of ‘speech language impairment’.

Her research methodology was informed by Aboriginal ways of communicating, thus advocating for culturally responsive assessment practices. Tara’s research developed an evidence-based model for culturally responsive assessment of the communication abilities of Aboriginal children and validate its use for the assessment of Aboriginal children aged five years to eleven years.


Tara Lewis is an Iman woman from the Taroom Country of Western Queensland. She grew up in Brisbane and graduated with a Bachelor of Speech Pathology. Tara has a passion for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and has been working in that area for 12 years. Tara currently works with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health in Brisbane where she is the clinical lead in speech pathology and provides clinical speech pathology services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. She also provides supervision to students on practicum placements and is a guest lecturer at the University of Queensland. She remembers, as a child, following her older cousins around and listening to her Yaboo, brothers and cousins singing around an open fire. This gave Tara the inspiration to turn her childhood memories into an illustrative, expressive and receptive language assessment that contributes to Aboriginal children receiving ethical assessments as well as appropriate language and literacy support.

Vicki Couzens

‘Koorramook Yakeeneeyt’ (Possum Dreaming): Cloaks, cultural traditions and wellbeing in Aboriginal communities

PhD thesis


Vicki Couzens’ thesis asks the question: What impact can reviving age-old Aboriginal traditional practices have on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people and their communities? Her project aims to:

  • Conduct a post-evaluation of 70 Aboriginal communities in Victoria, NSW and SA who took part in the cultural revival of possum cloak-making activities between 2005 and 2015.
  • Examine the health and wellbeing impact of reviving the practice of possum cloak-making among more than 1,400 participants who took part in possum cloak-making workshops in Victoria, NSW and SA during this 10-year period.
  • Develop a culturally-appropriate model of health and wellbeing support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities that leverages the lessons learnt from the cultural revival of possum cloak-making practices.


Vicki Couzens is a Keerray Wurrong woman from the Western Districts of Victoria. Vicki says ‘My work is inspired by my culture. It is my passion for the reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of our cultural knowledge and practices that drives me and informs the work that I do. The research and creative expressions I explore are drawn from the teachings of our Ancestors, Old People and Elders who guide me through my life. Land, language and identity are who we are… through the use of language, stories and image our culture is made stronger, our connections are made stronger, we are made stronger.’

Vicki Couzens is at the forefront of the contemporary school of possum cloak-making and is highly regarded as a senior cloak-maker and teacher. During the past 16 years, Vicki has collaborated with others (including Lee Darroch, Treahna Hamm, Debra Couzens and Maree Clarke) to implement the vision of reviving cloaks and the associated cultural practices across south-eastern Australia. Collectively they have taught cloak-making to over 1000 heirs of the tradition and shared cloaks and stories with thousands more through exhibitions, books, films, public ceremonies and teaching.

Language reclamation and revitalisation is a passion Vicki has inherited from her father Ivan Couzens who was responsible for the first reclamation and revival steps being undertaken in the 1990s. Following on from the publication of the Keerray Woorroong and related dialects dictionary by her father, Vicki has undertaken ongoing and continuing language development work for the past 15 years. This has included the writing of songs and poems, translations of stories and text, delivery of workshops and community teaching/learning opportunities, language use in artworks and a five year ARC research project on revival languages in SE Australia through the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages. Vicki is also a Board member of VACL.

Vicki has a Masters of Art, RMIT. She has co-authored and published various papers and publications on language and culture.

Margaret Harvey

Researching my Island home – Navigating through the intersection of research and Culture in the creation of live performance

Margaret Harvey – AIATSIS

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land across Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.