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Research projects

Projects to improve understanding, prevention and treatment
Our research projects aim to increase the knowledge base around the effective prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders.

Current projects

  • Australian longitudinal study of heroin dependence: an 18 – 20 year prospective cohort study of mortality, abstinence, and psychiatric and physical health comorbidity (APP1147212).
  • Healthy, wealthy and wise: the long-term effectiveness of an online universal program to prevent substance use and mental health problems among Australian youth (APP1143555).
  • Internet-based universal prevention for anxiety, depression and substance use in young Australians (APP1047291).
  • Randomised controlled trial of an integrated cognitive-behavioural therapy for the treatment of co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder in adolescents (APP1127141).
  • The radar project: identifying early warning signals on the pathways to alcohol use disorder (APP1105521).
  • Pathways to prevention: The effectiveness of universal and selective prevention in altering developmental pathways to alcohol and cannabis-related harms in young adults (APP1124958).

The Climate Schools Combined (CSC) study commenced in 2014 as the first randomised controlled trial of an integrated approach to preventing depression, anxiety and substance use in adolescents. Over 6,000 students from 71 secondary schools across New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland were involved in the CSC Study until 2016.

The CSC study cohort is now approaching young adulthood. This transition, from adolescence to adulthood is characterised by immense social and vocational change. A young person’s ability to cope with these changes can have a profound impact on their subsequent life-course, their communities and Australia’s economic future.

The Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Study aims to follow up the CSC study cohort until 2021, as they make the critical transition from secondary school into early adulthood. This landmark study will allow the long-term durability and cost-effectiveness of school-based programs for mental health and substance use to be assessed.

This research is funded by The NHMRC and Australian Rotary Health and is being conducted in collaboration with The University of New South Wales, Curtin University, The University of Queensland and Deakin University.

For more information, please contact Annalise Healy or visit

As part of a response to the National Ice Task-force Final Report, The Australian Government Department of Health funded the development of Cracks in the Ice, an online toolkit which aims to improve access to evidence-based information, online resources and support around crystal methamphetamine ‘ice’) for the Australian community.

The toolkit includes fact sheets, guidelines, and printable handouts covering information about the effects of ice, tips for how to stay safe, and information about where, when and how to get help or support. The toolkit was informed by input from over 400 community members from around Australia, and was developed in collaboration with researchers at the at the Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS) at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University.

The Health4Life Initiative aims to empower young people to improve their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life. Based on the best available evidence and aligned with the Health and Physical Education curriculum, the Health4Life Initiative represents the first eHealth program to concurrently target six key lifestyle risk factors among secondary school students: physical inactivity, poor diet, risky alcohol use, smoking, recreational screen time and poor sleep. Health4Life is funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and mental disorders, are the leading cause of death and disability in Australia. Although most young people are free of chronic disease, far fewer are free of the risk factors. Education and prevention are critical for equipping young people with the knowledge and skills needed to lead healthy lives in adolescence and beyond.

What is Health4Life?

Developed with input from students, teachers and researchers across Australia, the Health4Life Initiative aims to empower secondary school students to:

  • eat healthily
  • be physically active
  • limit sedentary recreational screen time
  • adopt healthy sleep habits
  • resist peer pressure to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.

This makes it the first intervention of its kind to concurrently address these “Big 6” behaviours among adolescents, within the one web-based program.

Based on the effective Climate Schools school-based substance use prevention programs, pioneered by researchers at the Matilda Centre, Health4life is:

  • evidence-based
  • aligned with the Australian Health and Physical Education (HPE curriculum and NSW Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus
  • interactive, through web-based cartoon storylines and personalised feedback
  • delivered online, requiring no teacher training.
We are looking for secondary schools to take part in a trial of Health4Life in 2019!

Researchers at the Matilda Centre, in collaboration with Curtin University, the University of Queensland, the University of Newcastle, Northwestern University, and UNSW Sydney, are conducting a cluster randomised controlled trial in over 70 schools, and more than 7000 Year 7 students, across NSW, WA and QLD beginning in mid-2019.

If you are interested in participating, or would like to know more, please contact or visit

The Australian Government Department of Health funded National Comorbidity Clinical Guidelines, or Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings (2nd edition), aim to provide alcohol and other drug workers with evidence-based information on the management and treatment of co-occurrring mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment settings. The Guidelines are currently being disseminated to AOD services Australia-wide in the form of hardcopy, online, and via an online training program.

Visit the Comorbidity Guidelines website.

The Matilda Centre hosts the PREMISE NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use.

The Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use Centre of Research Excellence (PREMISE) was funded in 2018 by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.

PREMISE is directed by Professor Maree Teesson AC with strategic support from Program Director Associate Professor Cath Chapman. PREMISE is in the process of establishing a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) which will provide input into the governance and research priorities of PREMISE and contribute to specific youth-focused research projects.

The objective of the PREMISE Centre of Research Excellence is to provide a world first synergy of the leading prevention and early intervention research and translation programs in mental health and addiction across five Australian universities (University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne, the University of Newcastle, Deakin University and the University of Sydney). Our vision is that world-class, innovative, evidence-based prevention and early intervention for substance use and mental disorders is available to all young Australians.

Chief Investigators
  • Professor Maree Teesson (Director), The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Professor Patrick McGorry, Orygen National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Melbourne University
  • Professor Helen Christensen, Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales
  • Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin (Program Lead, Translation), Centre for Brain and Mental Health Priority Research Centre, University of Newcastle
  • Associate Professor Nicola Newton (Program Lead, Prevention), The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Katherine Mills (Program Lead, Early Intervention)The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Cathy Mihalopoulos (Program Lead, Health Economics), Deakin Health Economics, Population Health Strategic Research Centre, Deakin University
  • Associate Professor Tim Slade (Program Lead, Epidemiology), The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Cath Chapman (Program Director). The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Andrew Baillie, The University of Sydney
Associate Investigators
  • Dr Alison Calear, Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University
  • Professor Pim Cuijpers, VU University Amsterdam
  • Professor Patricia Conrod, CHU Sainte-Justine Mother and Child Hospital Centre
  • Professor Ian Hickie, Brain and Mind Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Professor Eoin Killackey, Orygen National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Melbourne University
  • Dr Mark Larsen, Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention, Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales
  • Leonie Manns, Consumer Advocate
  • Dr Lexine Stapinski, The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Dr Matthew Sunderland, The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Dr Louise Thornton, The Matilda Centre, The University of Sydney


Positive Choices is an online portal that facilitates access to interactive evidence-based drug education resources for school communities (parents, teachers and students). It provides a central access point for evidence-based information and prevention resources about alcohol, cannabis, psychostimulants, crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy, and allows users to search by drug type, by resource type, such as fact sheets, games or videos, and by age appropriateness. The resources can be used to develop lesson plans which align with the Australian Curriculum.

The portal was funded by Australian Government and developed in collaboration with researchers at the by researchers at the Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS) at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI).

Visit Positive Choices.  

A number of Matilda Centre research studies are currently seeking participants, current opportunities are listed below.

International study of pro/antisocial behaviour in young adults (HC180527)

This research study aims to explore factors that are associated with prosocial and antisocial behaviour during early adulthood. The online survey will ask you for some general demographic information, sociodemographic information, information about your time at school, your experiences with drugs and alcohol, problems with police, your friendship network and important life events. It will also ask you about adverse childhood experiences, deviant behaviours in the last year and in your lifetime, personality traits, coping strategies you use, and your prosocial attitudes.

We hope to use information we get from this research study to better understand factors associated with the development of prosocial and antisocial behaviour. 

This survey is completely voluntary, de-identified and confidential.

If you would like to participate or know someone who would be interested in participating, please click here.

Treating substance use and traumatic stress among adolescents (HREC 2018/863)

It is estimated that 80% of adolescents have experienced at least one traumatic event and one in seven suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For 50% of these adolescents, the course of their illness is further complicated by a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD), which frequently develops as a consequence of repeated 'self-medication' of PTSD symptoms. The aim of this randomised controlled trial is to examine the efficacy of two integrated psychological therapies for adolescents who are experiencing traumatic stress and using alcohol or other drugs. Eligible participants will receive up to 16 sessions with a psychologist, delivered at locations convenient for them within the greater Sydney area.

Through this study we hope to better understand how to best treat young people who are using alcohol or other drugs and who have experienced traumatic events.

If you would like to participate or know a young person who may be interested in participating, please click here for more information on how to contact us.