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New funding for research into Aboriginal mental health

National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) researcher, Dr Michael Wright, has been granted more than $3 million in funding to lead two new projects aimed at transforming WA’s mental health, and drug and alcohol services, for Aboriginal people.


Dr Michael Wright.
Dr Michael Wright.

Dr Wright has been awarded a prestigious $1.22 million National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Grant for a five-year project, ‘Looking Forward – Moving Forward’. The project aims to lead statewide systemic improvements in mental health and drug and alcohol service accessibility and responsiveness for Aboriginal clients.

The project will build on a framework developed by 18 Aboriginal Elders in partnership with 11 mainstream health service providers during the formative ‘Looking Forward Aboriginal Mental Health Project 2011-2015’, led by Dr Wright.

It will involve a unique collaboration between the Elders from the formative study, nine partner organisations, and a team of researchers from NDRI (Dr Michael Wright, Professor Steve Allsop), the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (Professor Alex Brown), the University of Western Australia (Professor Pat Dudgeon, Professor Elizabeth Geelhoed, Associate Professor Geoffrey Smith), and the Telethon Kids Institute (Professor Fiona Stanley, Dr Ashleigh Lin, Mr Glenn Pearson).

Nikki Peapell, Headspace Midland psychologist, Natasha Moore, Headspace social worker, John Day, Health Minister, Dr Michael Wright.
Nikki Peapell, Headspace Midland psychologist, Natasha Moore, Headspace social worker, John Day, Health Minister, Dr Michael Wright.

NHMRC funding will be matched by funding from the project’s partners, which include six service organisations: Hope Community Services, MercyCare, Palmerston Association, Richmond Wellbeing, Ruah Community Services and St John of God Healthcare Midland; three statewide peak bodies: the Western Australian Association for Mental Health, The Western Australian Council of Social Service and the Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies; and the Western Australian Mental Health Commission.

Through a process of co-design with the Aboriginal Elders and service provision partners, this project will implement and evaluate a culturally secure systems change framework to alter the way in which mainstream mental health and drug and alcohol services work for, and with, Aboriginal people.

Dr Michael Wright.
Dr Michael Wright.

Dr Wright has also been awarded $386,000 by the West Australian Health Promotion Foundation, Healthway, to lead a three-year Aboriginal youth mental health project, ‘Building Bridges’. The aim of this project is to develop a unique intervention that increases the engagement of Aboriginal young people with youth mental health services, and builds better relationships between the Aboriginal community and services to sustain long-term partnerships.

Three youth mental health services from government and non-government sectors will be involved: Headspace Midland, Youth Mental Health Services (WA Department of Health) and Youth Focus. These agencies will work with Aboriginal Elders and young people, service providers and policy and advocacy partners to co-design an intervention to support mental health and wellbeing in Aboriginal youth.

Rachael Lobo

Communications Officer

NDRI