Winter 2015 Looking Forward, Looking Back: 30 Years Of Passion And Results For Indigenous Health Professor Alan Cass has great passion for the Menzies School of Health Research. Research’s past and present: its incredible legacy of improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for over 30 years, and its vital work in the field today. Menzies began as a bold vision to understand and address the unique health problems faced by Aboriginal communities in the north of Australia. Today, it is an internationally recognised medical research institute with a proud history of scientific discovery and public health achievement. Prof Cass, a former Menzies PhD student and today one of Australia’s leading kidney specialists, points to the anniversary year as providing a key national platform for the organisation to broadcast the impact of its research and to celebrate the contribution of Menzies researchers, working in partnership with Aboriginal communities. Beginning as a bold new vision to establish a dedicated health research centre in the Northern Territory to deal with health problems unique to this region, Menzies began its research efforts in January 1985. Early areas of research focus included heart disease, trachoma, hepatitis B, alcohol-related diseases, nutrition and infectious diseases.
Demonstrating the international standing of its research outputs, Menzies received a ‘5 out of 5’ Australian Government Ranking for Excellence in Research with its work being described as “well above world standard”. In an environment where fewer than 1 in 6 applications for national competitive research funding are successful, Menzies was awarded federal funding for more than 1 in 3 of its submitted competitive grants and fellowships by Australia’s peak body for supporting health and medical research, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). A major success for 2014 was the announcement that both of its submissions for Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) were successful. The CREs in Indigenous ear and hearing health and improving Indigenous primary health care, were some of a select few announced nationally, and have added to Menzies’ stable of Indigenously focussed CRE’s which include cancer and lung health centres of excellence. Despite clear and sustained health improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, outcomes are
nowhere near those for non-Aboriginal children, nor are they where they should be. “Improving health outcomes requires more organisations respectfully working together, partnering with and growing capacity within communities, and having leading researchers on the ground who are truly passionate to make a difference,” Prof Cass said. “Throughout our history we have honed respectful, culturally sensitive ways of working. Our collective and considerable wisdom, acquired in communities across Australia, positions Menzies uniquely to lead other agencies in a redoubled effort to ‘close the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and wellbeing.’ Visit the 30th anniversary website to learn more about Menzies’ history, achievements and a wide range of celebratory events planned for the year. menzies.edu.au/30years
Jonas & Elias Bonson from Maningrida
Fast forward to 2015, some 30 years later, Menzies research continues to grow and diversify. “At Menzies, our research teams seek to work hand-in-hand with communities to ensure our research and education agenda addresses fundamental health and developmental priorities. This represents a foundation pillar of our work,” Prof Cass explains. “These same teams are making discoveries that will shape the future of Indigenous and tropical health, which reach beyond the laboratory and will benefit all Australians and many others in our region. “Complementing our laboratory-based biomedical research, is our work to boost the capacity of health service providers, community based researchers and health services – to deliver better care based on evidence about what works, and what doesn’t.” Menzies’ current full-time workforce comprises of more than 200 researchers, many of which are award-winning researchers from around Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
Research Australia grassROOTS WINTER 2015