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Indigenous health research centre launched

31 July 2017
Leadership and partnership for better health

Today marks the opening and launch of the Centre for Research Excellence: Indigenous Health and Alcohol. 

The Centre represents a unique effort to build, grow and support an emerging generation of Indigenous researchers to develop solutions to alcohol-related harm in Indigenous people.

Led by the University of Sydney’s Professor Kate Conigrave it is a national alliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, health services, clinicians and researchers to develop workforce development, prevention and treatment programs.

Uniting the skills and experience of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders in the health, teaching, research and policy sectors, the Centre will expand programs that have shown promise in reducing risky drinking, improving mental health and increasing empowerment in Indigenous people. 

This program is founded on strong partnerships with Aboriginal community-controlled health services, communities and health professionals across Australia
Professor Kate Conigrave, University of Sydney

“Critically, this program is founded on strong partnerships with Aboriginal community-controlled health services, communities and health professionals across Australia,” Professor Conigrave said.

“It represents an exciting opportunity that unites leading Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers, clinicians and policy experts across the country.

“This field has been characterised by piecemeal efforts to address alcohol-related problems but clearly needs a broad range of integrated actions.”

Speaking at today’s launch, the University of Sydney’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence said the Centre was about leadership and partnership.

“This new Centre is not about people being studied. It is about people finding genuine solutions together.

“This is critical because we will never know what it means to be authentically Australian educators until we see a genuine partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”

We will never know what it means to be authentically Australian educators until we see a genuine partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
Dr Michael Spence, University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Aboriginal co-chief investigator of the new centre, Adjunct Associate Professor Scott Wilson, underlined the need for responses that account for the array of social, cultural, psychological and economic issues underlying alcohol-related harm in Aboriginal Australians.

“This is an ambitious program that will draw together a broad range of responses,” said Associate Professor Wilson who is also Director of the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council, South Australia.

“These include assistance for unhealthy drinking in Aboriginal community-controlled health services; treatment and aftercare for alcohol dependence in other settings; grass-roots community-led prevention; and improving research methods.”

Associate Professor Noel Hayman, an Aboriginal co-chief investigator and Clinical Director of the Inala Indigenous Health Service in Brisbane, added: “The Centre will provide much needed research in building evidence-based culturally sensitive models of care for addressing risky drinking for Indigenous Australians attending general practice settings.”

Despite widespread community concern about alcohol, and broad acknowledgement of the key role that Aboriginal Australians have in leading solutions, there is a critical shortage of Aboriginal researchers with expertise in preventing and treating alcohol problems.

The Centre will grow and build the capacity of Aboriginal research leaders through a well-defined program of training and support.

It will also provide Aboriginal researchers with strong and supportive links to non-Aboriginal research leaders and clinicians in the field. Recruitment, training and career development of Aboriginal researchers will be supported through research traineeships, PhD stipends and support of early career researchers.

Dan Gaffney

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