Funding Outcomes

Latest Western Alliance Funding Announcements

This year, we are delighted to announce that after a tight and competitive process, emerging health practitioner researchers from Grampians Health, East Grampians Health Service and Barwon Health have received STaRR Emerging Researcher Grants. 

Two types of grants were on offer in 2023:

  • Emerging Researcher Seed Grants of up to $5,000 for past STaRR participants to conduct a research project to generate new evidence, and
  • Emerging Researcher Translation grants of up to $10,000, for past STaRR participants and past Emerging Researcher grant recipients, to translate research evidence into practice

Our congratulations to these emerging researchers.

STaRR Emerging Researcher Seed Grant recipients

  • April Chiu, Physiotherapist, Barwon Health:  Barriers and Enablers to Prehabilitation prior to Breast Cancer Surgery in a Regional Health Service. Funded amount: $5000
  • Jessica Wynn, Unaccredited Urology Registrar, Barwon Health: Why patients have chosen Botox injections as their preferred treatment for overactive bladder symptoms. Funded amount: $4800
  • Maree Fraser, Registered Nurse and Clinical Governance Coordinator (Aged Care), East Grampians Health Service: A community-based strategy to increase the completion of Advance Care Directives in a local medical practice. Funded amount: $5000

STaRR Emerging Researcher Translation Grant recipients

  • Nicole O’Shea, Pharmacist, Grampians Health: Weighing Liquid Drugs of Dependence to Manage Unaccounted Losses: A Pharmacy Initiative in a Large Regional Health Service. Funded amount: $9575
  • Rhiannon Beggs and Cara Hill, Speech Pathologists, Barwon Health: Improving the provision of prescribed food, fluid, and mealtime supervisions requirements in inpatient aged care settings. Funded amount: $9990
  • Jake Romein, Exercise Physiologist, East Grampians Health Service: Developing a toolkit to support the scaling of a modified sport program for older adults in rural areas. Funded amount: $5000

We are pleased to announce the successful recipients of the inaugural Western Alliance Rapid Applied Research Translation Grants:

Establishment and evaluation of a perioperative medicines management service at regional hospital sites in Western Victoria
Principal Investigator: Dr Greg Weeks
Academic Principal Investigator: A/Prof Kevin McNamara
Executive Sponsor: Dr Ajai Verma 
(Barwon Health, South West Healthcare, Grampians Health, Deakin Rural Health) – $37,200

Developing a roadmap for the implementation of Shared Medical Appointments in General Practice
Principal Investigator: Dr Nic Brayshaw
Academic Principal Investigator: Prof Karen Dwyer
Executive Sponsor: Andrew Giddy
(Western Victoria Primary Health Network, Deakin University) – $33,413

Translating research into practice: improving texture modification systems in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) in rural and regional Western Victoria
Principal Investigator: Cara Hill
Academic Principal Investigator: A/Prof Anna Wong Shee
Executive Sponsor: Joanne Money
(Grampians Health, Colac Area Health, Deakin Rural Health) – $29,387

A huge congratulations to all of the team members involved in these proposals – we look forward to seeing these projects come to life. 

We are pleased to announce the successful applicants for our Higher Degree By Research Scholarship Program.

Congratulations to Michael Pang, a senior clinician Physiotherapist from Grampians Health, who will be completing his PhD with Federation University to investigate whether continuing professional development positively influences allied health workforce retention in regional and rural Victoria. 

Congratulations to Cara Hill, who will be completing her PhD with Deakin University to implement best-practice meal-related dysphagia interventions to improve mealtime-related quality of life for people living with dysphagia in rural and regional aged care facilities in western Victoria. Cara works clinically as a Speech Pathologist and also as a research assistant. This PhD program will be based at Grampians Health and will complement the work she will be leading as part of her Western Alliance Rapid Applied Research Translation Grant.

We wish Cara  and Michael all the best throughout their studies and look forward to seeing them progress.

This exciting initiative aims to minimise barriers to health professionals undertaking health sector embedded HDR studies whilst enabling candidates to continue to progress their professional practice.

We are pleased to announce that two projects supported by Western Alliance have recently been successful in attracting Medical Research Future Fund grants to undertake their research.

Both of these projects are led by Prof Antonina Mikocka-Walus from Deakin University:

  • CoDeEndo: Co-Designing, Evaluating, and Implementing Supportive Care for Endometriosis – $1.4m

Impacting 1 in 10 women, endometriosis is under-recognised. Usual care, comprised of hormone and pain medications, has limited efficacy, is associated with considerable side effects, and discontinued by 40% of patients. Surgery often fails to prevent recurrence of disease. Comprehensive management of chronic pain is urgently needed to address the poor QoL of 830,000 Australians with endometriosis. This project will evaluate and implement a person-focused supportive care model for endometriosis.

  • Randomized E-hypnotherapy for Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome Trial (REST) – $1.3m

Chronic pelvic pain syndrome impacts up to 20% of Australians. It is associated with poor quality of life and psychological health, but the effective treatment is lacking. Hypnotherapy is known to improve mental health and pain. Our pilot studies showed that hypnotherapy might help to treat depression, anxiety and pelvic pain. This study will examine whether hypnotherapy improves pain, mental health, and quality of life as compared to relaxation alone and a waitlist group over 12 months.

Both of these projects applied for funding through our program to support major external research grants, and each will receive $20k towards rural and regional aspects of the research.

We are delighted to announce the outcomes of the 2022 STaRR Emerging Researcher grant round.

The following emerging researchers have all been awarded $5000 to support their research:

  • Holly Lewtas – Community Health Nurse, Barwon Health: A feasibility study of using a personalised tool to communicate the needs of clients affected by trauma to a health professional
  • Hayley Keane – Learning and Development Coordinator, South West Healthcare: Supporting learner agency with mobile technology – a study with public health employees in low technology roles
  • Cara Hill – Speech Pathologist, Barwon Health: Improving the provision of prescribed food, fluid and mealtime supervision requirements in inpatient and aged care settings
  • Laura McCredie – Physiotherapist, Grampians Health: Feasibility and acceptability of a stroke circuit group class in a regional rehabilitation community program
  • Angela Holmes – Unaccredited Urology Registrar, Barwon Health: Are we underestimating urinary retention following intravesical onabotulinumtoxinA in women with overactive bladder and a history of prior pelvic surgery

Congratulations to our five inaugural STaRR Emerging Researcher Grant winners.

Western Alliance undertook a Mental Health Research Grant Round in 2022 to support translation focussed mental health research across Western Victoria.

Expressions of interest opened in March 2022 with 12 projects being submitted and 4 being shortlisted for formal review. We were extremely impressed with the calibre of projects put forward, and we are pleased to announce that the following two projects have been selected by our review panel for funding:

CReW-Ace (COVID-19 & Regional Health Staff Wellbeing – Accessibility of Support Strategies) – $35,000

Principal Investigator: Alison Buccheri (Colac Area Health)

Collaborating organisations: Grampians Health (Ballarat), East Grampians Health Service, Terang & Mortlake Health Service, Timboon & District Health Service, Mildura Base Public Hospital, Barwon Health, South West Healthcare, Deakin University, Western Health, Monash University School of Rural Health

CReW-Ace (COVID-19 & Regional Health Staff Wellbeing – Accessibility of Supports) will build on our successful Western Alliance funded, multi-site CReW (COVID-19 & Regional Health Staff Wellbeing) study that investigated the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of staff in rural health services in Victoria.

CReW identified that staff wellbeing was influenced by interdependent factors including 1) the nature of the health workplace, 2) rural community relations, 3) self-care and supportive networks, and 4) public health measures and the unpredictable pandemic. CReW-Ace is the next phase of research and will explore staff and manager perceptions of access to and provision of wellbeing supports and strategies in rural Victorian health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CReW-Ace will build on established partnerships from CReW to focus on how rural health services support the wellbeing needs of staff. An online survey completed by staff in eight rural Victorian health services will elicit enablers and barriers to accessing and providing wellbeing supports and strategies. The survey, informed by CReW study findings, will be co-designed with participating health services to ensure relevance and potential for rapid translational impact.

Survey findings and recommendations will be disseminated among all participating health services and will inform organisational strategies to support the wellbeing needs of the rural health workforce.

Co-design and evaluation of Hospital in the Home (HITH) for young people accessing Eating Disorder Services in the Barwon region – $15,000

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Genevieve Pepin (Deakin University)

Collaborating organisations: Barwon Health, National Centre for Farmer Health

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant increase in young people developing eating disorders globally, with a corresponding increase in demand for inpatient Eating Disorder Services (EDS) in the Barwon region.

In response, Barwon Health initiated the development and implementation of a Hospital in the Home (HITH) service, treating young eating disorder patients requiring inpatient care.

The research project will be underpinned by co-design principles and processes to evaluate this new service, contributing to the Listening and Learning Mental Healthcare System developed by the Change to Improve Mental Health (CHIME) Translational Research Partnership between Deakin University and Barwon Health.

In line with co-design principles, this project will include consumers of services, their carers, and clinicians who have first-hand experiences of eating disorders and eating disorders service delivery.

We thank all of those who applied and participated in the review process, and we congratulate the grant recipients and look forward to seeing their important work come to life.

A team of Barwon Health clinician researchers has been awarded over $500,000 from Cancer Council Victoria, The Victorian Cancer Agency and Western Alliance to build the first regional Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit specialising in Cancer Supportive Care and Survivorship.

This three-year project will bring together cancer care consumers and leaders from three of Barwon Health’s most highly regarded clinical and research areas; Allied Health, Cancer Services and Clinical Trials, to design and develop a unique Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit based at the Adrian Costa Clinical Trials Centre.

Catherine Williams, Chief Investigator of the project, is a physiotherapist and Barwon Health’s Oncology Rehabilitation Care Coordinator. Catherine recognised that as allied health professionals are important providers of clinical care to people diagnosed with cancer, they are well-placed to identify and investigate potential areas for improvement.

The project team will work with local partnering organisations such as Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre, Deakin University and Barwon South West Regional Integrated Cancer Service, as well as connecting with the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance and the Victorian Clinical Trials Education Centre.  Milestones will include the design of a customised clinical trials education and training package for the allied health cancer workforce, and identification of the best strategies for delivery of interventions using virtual care tools and teletrials, to support relationships between metro, regional and rural cancer care providers.

Once allied health clinical trial activity starts , the Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit will support and conduct trials that are initiated by allied health clinician researchers within Barwon Health and across the region, and will build partnerships with other providers of cancer supportive care and survivorship throughout Australia and internationally.

This project was supported by Western Alliance through our external funding support program, which is pitched at assisting research teams applying for major external research grants. To find out more or complete an EOI for this program, please click here.


Previous Western Alliance Funding Announcements

In partnership with our friends at the Melbourne Ageing Research Collaboration (MARC) via the National Ageing Research institute (NARI), Western Alliance has over the past two years (with a few COVID based delays on the way) been working to identify ageing research projects to support in the western region. From this process, two projects were collaboratively developed, and are now being co-funded between the two organisations. We look forward to seeing the progress of these two important initiatives, and continuing to support collaborative ageing research with MARC and NARI into the future.


Reducing patient sedentary behaviour in sub-acute units at Ballarat Health Services (BHS)

Amount Awarded: $50,008

Principal Investigator: A/Prof Danny Hills

Associate Investigators: Professor Colette Browning (Federation University) Meredith Theobald (Ballarat Health Services), Danelle Klein (Ballarat Health Services), Dr Angela Rintoul (Federation University), A/Prof Frances Batchelor (National Ageing Research institute), Dr Christina Ekegren (Monash University)

Project overview:

The overall objective of the proposed project is to co-design, implement and evaluate interventions to reduce the sedentary behaviour of inpatients in two sub-acute units at BHS. Sedentary behaviour can make older adults particularly susceptible to deconditioning, and they will be a key participant group in this project.

The proposed project builds on research that found Australian nurses recognise reducing sedentary behaviour in patients is part of their role, but many have poor knowledge of physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. Barriers to activating this role include a lack of time, poor patient motivation, and expectations of patients’ family and friends the patient should be allowed to rest. Having clear plans to facilitate greater activity in patients could overcome barriers.

Working in consultation with service managers, the research team will engage ward staff, inpatients and their family members. A participatory, co-design approach will be employed to develop site-appropriate strategies to reduce inpatient sedentary behaviour. Potential interventions might include communication with patients, family and friends, and/or new protocols for nursing staff work, review of ward design, policies and procedures, care planning and delivery, education and training.

Selected interventions will be implemented and evaluated in order to recommend ways to scale these interventions across other settings. In this way, the project will serve as a pilot to develop strategies that can be adopted more widely throughout the Western region of Victoria and beyond. Implementation mapping will be used to support the adoption, implementation and maintenance of the changes.


Feasibility and acceptability of the Digital Inclusion – Social Connections (DI-SC) Program

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Principal Investigator: Caroline Gibson (Ballarat Health Services)

Associate Investigators: A/Prof Mark Yates (Ballarat health Services), Dr Kirsten Moore (National Ageing Research institute)

Project Overview:

DI-SC brings together the provision of digital devices by the Bigger Hearts Ballarat Dementia Alliance (BHBDA) with the digital activity and mentoring project with the Ballarat North Neighbourhood House (BNNH) Be-Connected Program to implement one coherent project delivering a curated virtual social connections opportunity for socially isolated people impacted by dementia. DI-SC is a community driven program developed using principles of co-design, with participants supported through the program by informal carers, dementia trained Digital Mentor volunteers and a Dementia Support Coach.  

This project will explore the feasibility and acceptability of the DI-SC program above. A sample of participants and support people will be invited to participate in small focus group interviews to understand their perceptions of the feasibility and acceptability of the DI-SC program.  Alongside these focus group interviews we will use questionnaires to document the characteristics of the participants living with dementia and the volunteer DI-SC digital mentors. A different questionnaire will be used to collect program implementation data including recruitment and retention from the Dementia Support Coach and BNNH Coordinator.

Western Alliance is delighted to announce its inaugural Flagship Research Program, ‘The Pregnancy Research and Translation Ecosystem (PRT-E)’, a collaboration between Deakin University and health services in our region involved in pregnancy care.

The Western Alliance Flagship Research Program is a new initiative that supports a major program of research and capacity-building that will assist in solving a health problem identified as a top priority by Western Alliance member organisations.

A collaboration between Barwon Health, Ballarat Health Services, East Grampians Health Service, Colac Area Health, Western District Health Service, Deakin University, Gen V (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) and Federation University, the Pregnancy Research and Translation Ecosystem (PRT-E) will receive a $200,000 grant from Western Alliance to generate and implement best evidence to improve maternal and infant health.

To achieve this, PRT-E will collect data on pregnancy care and collaborate with the GenV initiative, which aims to recruit and follow 80% of all infants born in Victoria over the coming 2 years. This data will create a world-leading and unique resource for future research.

In parallel, PRT-E will establish a Pregnancy Stakeholder Working Group of consumers and health professionals that will be trained and supported by the established systems of Deakin University’s Institute of Health Transformation.

The Working Group will then co-design and co-produce the research program. A starting priority is to design a clinical trial and translation plan with the aim of safely reducing the caesarean section rate in the region, which has risen to around 40%. It is a complex problem requiring design of a multifaceted intervention. Our congratulations to the PRT-E team.

We are pleased to announce the successful recipients of our inaugural Emerging Researcher Grant round (listed below). We would like to congratulate the investigators and mentors on their hard work and excellent submissions.

We received 29 submissions in total and recognise that there were many high-standard projects which were not allocated funding in this round. We thank all applicants for their time and dedication throughout this process, and also thank our review panel who worked diligently to reach an outcome.

We look forward to announcing further Emerging Researcher Grant rounds in 2021 and beyond.

  • Robert Beavan & Ben Spedding, South West Healthcare & Barwon Health; Asymptomatic peripheral arterial disease (PAD): A community based multidisciplinary early intervention vascular clinic – A feasibility study
  • Alicia Boyd, St John of God Warrnambool; Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA): Post-Surgical Swelling Assessment- a Feasibility Study utilising Bioimpedence Spectroscopy (BIS)
  • Jayde Cesarek, Western Victoria PHN; Covid-19 and men’s mental health in western Victoria
  • Renee Heard, Barwon Health; Implementing a Risk Feeding Policy and Education Program for Multidisciplinary Clinicians Participating in Risk Feeding Practise at Barwon Health
  • Adelene Hilbig, Barwon Health; Management of possible cervical spine injury in paediatric patients in rural and regional emergency departments in Australia: a retrospective cohort study
  • Jessica McDonald & Sarah Kelley, Barwon Health; Making the call: Improving timely access to community health physiotherapy services
  • Suzanne Rayner, Barwon Health; Exploring perception and experience of leadership amongst emergency medicine practitioners
  • Jake Romein, East Grampians Health Service; A community based modified sport program for rural community dwelling older adults: A pilot study
  • Judith Russell, Ballarat Health Services; The challenges of breastfeeding a late preterm or early term infant: women’s and clinicians’ perceptions of provision of antenatal information when considering early planned birth
  • Jessica Seater, Ballarat Health Services; Intra-infusion exercise in the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre Chemotherapy Day Unit – A pilot study
  • Elouise Simpson, South West Healthcare; Rectus abdominis vs transversus abdominis training in reducing the interrecti distance in early postpartum patients with DRAM: a randomised controlled trial
  • Hirva Thaker, Western District Health Service; Preventing pathology related errors
  • Sarah Williams, Ballarat Health Service; The role of relapse prevention plans for mental health consumers in reducing acute inpatient admissions

Western Alliance supported a submission from Professor Andrea Driscoll (Deakin University) and her team, with a $20k contribution for their NHMRC partnership grant. The project, which involves partnership from Western Alliance member health services, has been successful in attracting $1.5m in funding. Congratulations to Andrea and the team! Project title: ‘I-HEART – Implementation of Heart failure guidelines in Regional Australia’

Project overview: Heart failure (HF) is a common disease of the heart with a high rehospitalisation and mortality rate. Regional HF patients rarely receive the full benefits of evidence-based care simply due to inaccessibility to a HF specialist team.

This translational project will implement key recommendations from clinical guidelines in regional health services and improve access to specialist services. It has the potential to keep patients out of hospital and save lives.