The Turnbull Government has announced a further $190 million in health and medical research, including a $10.6 million investment supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley said these new grants—awarded through the National Health and Medical Research Council—would help Australia’s research community to make discoveries that improve the diagnosis, treatment and cure of illnesses that can affect Indigenous Australians.

“We know there is much work to be done with Indigenous health outcomes. This government is committed to making long-term improvements in Indigenous health and providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers,” Ms Ley said.

The announcement includes $2.5 million for a Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) to build Indigenous research capacity and to find solutions to alcohol-related health problems.

The Centre, led by Professor Kate Conigrave at the University of Sydney, will build a strong network of Indigenous researchers with expertise in preventing and treating alcohol-related problems.

“The Centre will bring together senior Indigenous and non-Indigenous investigators at organisations including the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council South Australia and the Inala Indigenous Health Service,” Professor Conigrave said.

“Together, these investigators have an extensive track record in research, clinical work and policy development.”

Professor Conigrave brings significant experience working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to target substance misuse. She said this funding would provide a major pathway forward in research to reduce the harms from alcohol among Indigenous Australians.

“Indigenous Australians are eight times more likely to suffer death or illness as a result of alcohol use, yet there is a critical shortage of Indigenous researchers with expertise in this field.

“The team will generate new knowledge, integrating efforts along the continuum of treatment and prevention for unhealthy alcohol use. The Centre is designed to ensure that evidence will be readily translated into practice and policy.

“The CRE also offers a range of training and development opportunities to Indigenous research students and early-career researchers. It will provide pathways into postgraduate research study for Indigenous Australians, with comprehensive support and training at every step along the way,” Professor Conigrave explained.

Together with this CRE, NHMRC has committed to fund research targeting a range of other health issues for Indigenous Australians including:

  • improving outcomes of Hepatitis B infection
  • improving diet quality and food supply in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • implementing interventions to improve health and justice outcomes for Indigenous offenders
  • addressing the high rates of depression amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Today’s announcement also includes three Early Career Fellowships (ECFs) for Indigenous researchers.

Assistant Minister for Health Ken Wyatt said the Government was committed to providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers.

“These ECFs have been awarded to help Australian health and medical researchers early in their careers to establish themselves as independent, self-directed researchers. It is essential that we build a vibrant future for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers who will play a crucial role in addressing Australia’s health issues,” Mr Wyatt said.

Associate Professor James Ward from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute is one of the Indigenous researchers to receive an ECF. His research seeks to establish interventions to improve outcomes for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with sexually transmissible infections or blood borne viruses and for people using methamphetamines.

This funding is part of NHMRC’s commitment to expend at least five per cent of its budget to support research to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

A total of $190 million across 320 grants funding health and medical research were announced today.  This includes a $100 million investment in fostering career development and supporting leading health and medical researchers in full-time research. This comprises $58 million to support Research Fellowships and $38 million to fund ECFs.

Ms Ley reiterated these grants will play a vital role in funding new research for treatments of diseases that affect Australians.

“Health and medical research is a powerful investment and one that delivers immense benefits through better health and health care.

“The researchers we have funded are at the leading edge of health and medical research from which considerable benefits will flow.

“Congratulations to these grant recipients and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work in improving the health and wellbeing of all Australians,” Ms Ley said.

More information on the grants is available on the NHMRC website.