2023 research projects

Dietitians Australia
September 2020 – January 2023


In Australia, 4.4 million people (one in six) have a disability and there is increasing emphasis on the need for all health professionals to better understand and respond to the needs of people with disability. The importance of equipping dietitians working in diverse areas of practice to work safely and effectively with people with disability in contemporary dietetic practice was recognised with the awarding to Dietitians Australia (DA) of a Mainstream Capacity Building Grant, through the NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program. DA is partnering with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations to develop an appropriate educational program and resources. The project has drawn from contemporary literature in this field and through a broad consultation process with dietitians, people with disability, carers and other relevant stakeholders to inform program design and delivery. An advisory group is informing program development and implementation.

What we did

The purpose of the Capacity Building for Dietitians in Disability project is to enhance dietitians’ knowledge and capacity to meet the needs of people with disability and improve access to timely, inclusive, relevant and high‐quality dietitian services. DA has engaged CHSD to provide support in the development and implementation of a monitoring and evaluation framework. Working collaboratively with CBDD project team members, we have continued to provide advice relevant to planning the evaluation, developing a program logic and theory of change, evaluation questions and data collection strategies. We are providing particular support with qualitative data collection and analysis in subsequent phases of the project, the results of which will be synthesised and analysed, and submitted with our final report.

NSW Department of Education Strategic Research Fund: Building the Evidence Base
May 2021 – May 2023


There is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the impact of child protection and mental health issues, including self-harm and suicidal behaviours on wellbeing and education outcomes for NSW students. The NSW Department of Education Wellbeing Framework for Schools report highlights the importance of schools fostering the wellbeing of students and supporting them to “connect, succeed and thrive”. For schools to foster wellbeing for students, it is necessary for “students, teachers and staff, and members of the wider school community to have a shared understanding of the behaviours, attitudes and expectations that enhance wellbeing and lead to improved student outcomes”. Students with child protection and mental health issues are at increased risk of poorer educational attainment and completion of schooling but we still know very little about how to intervene more effectively to support student’s wellbeing.

What we did

In May 2021 the research study commenced, led by Dr Michelle Townsend (School of Psychology), Dr Luise Lago (CHRISP), Prof Brin Grenyer (School of Psychology), Prof Nagesh Pai (ISLHD), and Dr David Alcorn (ISLHD), supported by Associate Research Fellows Dr Karlen Barr and Mr Stephen Moules. The grant will support two activities:

  1. The establishment of a linked, cross-sectoral population-level dataset containing information on children living in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD). The datasets will be sourced from ISLHD, NSW Ambulance, NSW Department of Education (Attendance/ Engagement), NSW Education Standards Authority (NAPLAN), NSW Department of Communities and Justice (Child Protection and Out of Home Care), NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the Australian Early Development Census, and the Australian Coordinating Registry.
  2. A research study using the linked dataset, to increase the understanding of students in the moderate to severe spectrum of mental ill health who may be presenting in crisis and have a high need for coordinated support to improve their mental health or wellbeing.

The ethics application has been submitted, and negotiations with data custodians are completed. This research program will provide tangible outcomes that can be used by policy makers, educators and clinicians to better support vulnerable students to ensure they are supported at school and in the community. It is expected that the outcomes from this research program will inform interagency collaborations and management of students across ISLHD by school link coordinators, caseworkers, school psychologists and health clinicians.

NBNCo, Vita Foundation, Australian Government’s Be Connected Initiative
Duration: August 2016 – present


Living Connected has created a service to improve the digital literacy of older citizens who live in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Sothern Highlands. This service applies the results of four years of research into why and how older people use digital devices and on the benefits to social wellbeing from this use.

There is a large body of evidence that remaining active and engaged with others contributes to the health and wellbeing of the elderly. With age, the physical capability to get out and about diminishes. Meanwhile, digital technology continues to improve, providing new ways to connect with others and engage in exciting new activities.

The most recent Telstra report on digital inclusion in Australia reveals that older citizens are missing out on the benefits of the Internet; something that the rest of us take for granted. Government agencies, businesses and community services expect everyone to interact with them online and are making it difficult to access services in person. This is a real challenge for the digitally excluded made even more acute in 2020-21 with COVID-19 restrictions.

What we did

The mission of Living Connected is to be a not-for profit community enterprise providing services for the social wellbeing of elders assisting them to set up and use a computer whereby they remain independent, connected and engaged. Research into the outcomes of social services has identified eight domains of wellbeing, three of which are on a higher level than the others: maintaining independence, staying connected and being able to engage in meaningful activities. The Living Connected team of contract and volunteer mentors has spent four years translating this service into practice, helping seniors to use digital technology in small groups and on an individual basis throughout the Illawarra and NSW South Coast.

In 2021 we received an additional $60,000 in grants, enabling us to pivot under COVID-19 restrictions to deliver services online. We have run weekly digital mentor training on Zoom and taught seniors how to join and run Zoom sessions. Being online has allowed us to extend our services into more outer regional areas. In late 2021, we resumed our home visit service and some face-to-face community group drop-in sessions in the Illawarra that have been well attended.

While we continue to deliver our program to seniors, we now have special-needs clients of all age referred to us by care providers who appreciate our approach to digital mentoring.

In 2021 Living Connected received the Community Industry Group ‘We Do Magic – Terrific Team Effort’ award.

View the Living Connected website

Project lead: Professor Helen Hasan

National Health and Medical Research Council
Duration: March 2018 – December 2023


Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is ageing: in 1991, Aboriginal people aged 55 years and over accounted for only 6% of Australia’s total Aboriginal population and this proportion was predicted to double to 12% by 2021, with resulting increases in ageing conditions such as falls.

This large-scale trial in NSW, SA and WA is testing the effectiveness of a community-based program in reducing falls and improving function in older Aboriginal people. The project was named after the Ironbark tree because it is native to Australia, evokes images of old, strong trees standing tall and that is what we want to see our old people doing. Standing tall and strong as they age. The Ironbark Study is comparing two different programs aimed at improving health and wellbeing of older Aboriginal people. Both involve an ongoing program delivered weekly by a local person, in a community setting. The Ironbark: Standing Strong program is a weekly exercise and discussion program, and the Ironbark: Healthy Community program is a weekly program that involves discussions and social activities.

The study has recruited approximately 60 Aboriginal community or health services which have been randomly assigned to receiving one of the two programs. Both programs aim to improve the health and wellbeing of older Aboriginal people. At the end of the trial, sites that delivered the Ironbark: Healthy Community program will have the opportunity to deliver the Ironbark: Standing Strong program for a further six months, including all resources and equipment needed.

The study is being conducted by researchers from The George Institute for Global Health, the University of NSW, the University of Sydney, Flinders University, the University of Wollongong and Curtin University.

What we did

Ngarruwan Ngadju researchers are represented on the chief investigator team and Aboriginal Governance Committee, and are continuing to assist with recruitment of sites in south-eastern NSW. Due to its reliance on face-to-face intervention with elderly Aboriginal people across Australia, the project was directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, research recommenced in late 2021, with program outcomes adjusted and, with NHMRC approval, the research design was modified to increase engagement and the project timeline extended.

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AHSRI research projects