Researchers whose work is having a real impact on the ground – in areas as diverse as alcohol-related violence and supporting people to gain driver licences – are being celebrated today at the Sax Institute’s 2017 Research Action Awards, presented in Sydney.
“These awards recognise researchers whose work has made a real-world difference to people’s health and wellbeing,” said Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman.
“The Sax Institute is pleased to be able to celebrate two outstanding researchers: Ms Patricia Cullen’s research testing the impact of a program supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across NSW to gain their drivers’ licence has led to the rollout of this program across NSW. Professor Kypros Kypri demonstrated that reducing trading hours of licensed premises could reduce alcohol-related violence and informed alcohol policies in both NSW and Queensland.”
“The work of this year’s winners, along with that of the impressive pool of talented researchers who entered the awards, will benefit the entire community,” Professor Redman said.
A panel of national and international experts chose the two award winners. They are:
Professor Kypros Kypri, University of Newcastle − Building evidence to underpin new policies on alcohol-related violence
Professor Kypri, a behavioural scientist and Professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, examined the impact of the Newcastle ‘last-drinks’ restrictions on assaults in the CBD. The restrictions limited the opening hours of some licensed premises. He found that these restrictions resulted in a large reduction in assaults compared to a similar locality where pubs remained open.
The findings of the Newcastle study helped support the continuation of restrictions despite intense and persistent pressure from the alcohol industry. The findings were also important in the design and efforts to implement law changes in Sydney (2014) and Queensland (2016).
Professor Kypri says a “confluence of factors” played into the policy changes in each jurisdiction, but the research findings helped give policy makers the evidence that changes were effective.
“Research alone very rarely drives policy change, but it can facilitate reform,” he said. “In this situation, it gave the politicians something to show that the changes they were introducing were likely to be effective.”
Ms Patricia Cullen, Research Fellow, George Institute for Global Health − Driving change in licensing systems and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing
Low rates of licensed drivers in many Aboriginal communities are a “missing piece of the puzzle” – a driver licence is critical not just for safe driving but for accessing healthcare, education and employment and for reducing the risk of incarceration, says Research Fellow Patricia Cullen.
“Having a driver licence can do much to improve health and reduce road injury.”
Ms Cullen, a PhD candidate, evaluated a community-led program called Driving Change, which aims to help Aboriginal people to overcome barriers to gaining a driver licence. The program involves the employment of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth workers to help people in their community with all aspects of the driver licensing system.
Her research enabled the program to be adapted to meet community needs and her findings showed the program was a culturally-safe facilitator of licensing, which was strengthened by community ownership.
As a result, the NSW Government directly funded 14 communities across the state to deliver the Driving Change model of support for driver licences in 2016-17, with further communities set to become involved this year.
“Getting a driver licence has an amazing impact on people’s independence and empowers communities,” Ms Cullen said. “It opens so many doors for people and their families − many of those involved have told us that it has changed their lives.”
About the Sax Institute
The Sax Institute is an independent Australian leader in helping decision makers find and make best use of research to solve real-world health and social problems. It is a non-profit, public good organisation with a membership base of 48 public health and health services research groups and their universities. The 2017 Research Action Awards were open to Sax Institute member organisations who conduct public health or health services research.