Research funding, support and capacity building initiatives

For the past five years the Western Alliance Grants-In-Aid program has provided funding to over 20 research projects across the western region of Victoria. This has been an important initiative in building the research footprint and capacity in regional/rural areas, as well as fostering collaboration between the health sector and academia. Feedback from our member organisations, as well as a review of international best practice, has highlighted that our research funding efforts could be strengthened by ensuring we focus on the identified health priorities for our region. In order to do this, and in preparation for our bid to become an NHMRC accredited Centre for Innovation in Regional Health (CIRH), we conducted a workshop earlier this year to identify the region’s key health and research priorities. The workshop involved over 30 of our key health and research leaders and consumers, with a guest presentation from Professor Helena Teede, Executive Director of Monash Partners Academic Centre for Health. With the Primary Health Network regional data as a guide, we were able to identify and prioritise our key areas for future research, as well as our collective capacity to meet these research needs. The graphic below gives an overview of what was generated on the day and what will be used to guide Western Alliance research efforts moving forward.


In light of the above, we are moving forward with a new program of research funding and support which will replace our research Grants-In-Aid program. This involves the establishment of regional interprofessional research ‘hubs’ to drive collaborative research efforts across identified focus areas, to link with established associate organisations to access external funding and capacity building, and to set the agenda for internal research funding programs. As a starting point, each hub will be launched via a forum which will see health professionals, consumers, researchers and managers from across the Western region gather to identify the key issues and gaps within a particular theme and to develop these into specific research questions. This process will narrow the research focus to ensure regional relevance, and will foster collaboration across regions and sectors. This will then be followed by a competitive funding round specifically targeting the generated research questions within that theme. As part of this approach, we have also been building partnerships with key research institutes and peak bodies, who will provide support, and in some cases co-funding, for our research efforts. Funding of up to 100k will initially be allocated to each research hub.

The first cab off the rank for this approach is Ageing, and we are excited to be launching the Western Alliance Ageing Research Hub, in partnership with the National Ageing Research Institute. The inaugural forum was held on Friday 6th September 2019 in Warrnambool. You can view the presentations made on the day and read an update here.

The next forum to be held is the Digital Health Forum, scheduled for 14 February 2020, you can read more about this upcoming forum here.

Further hubs and forums are also in planning and will follow, with rolling funding rounds aligning with the development of each research hub.

Small Research Grants for Early Career Researchers

 As part of our new research funding approach, we have also recognised that there are a number of early career health sector based researchers with excellent research ideas, but who have not been competitive in the major Grants-In-Aid funding rounds. We are keen to support these budding researchers to progress their skills and further develop their research ideas. To do this, we will be offering six small research grants of up to $5,000 each per year. These will also align with our identified research themes, and further details on how to apply will be provided at our research forums and in future communications.

Access to specialised research support

Feedback from across the region has identified that accessing specialised research support, particularly for biostatistics and health economics, can be extremely difficult and cost prohibitive. Fortunately, our academic partners Deakin and Federation Uni have significant expertise in these areas. To assist health sector based researchers to access this support, Western Alliance has allocated $20,000 of funding per year, which will be offered via an Expression of Interest process. Individuals will be able to access up to $3,000 in funding to meet their biostatistics or health economics research support requirements. Further details of the EOI process and timeline will be distributed shortly.

New positions – Research Translation Coordinators

Over the past five years, Western Alliance has built a research presence across the Western Victorian health landscape, with activities to promote collaboration, build research capacity, and ultimately fund regionally focussed health research. Feedback from Western Alliance health service members has indicated that ‘boots on the ground support’, particularly in smaller health services, is critical to fostering engagement and driving both capacity building and health sector led research.  As a result, therefore, it is proposed to appoint three Research Translation Coordinator positions across the western region of Victoria. These roles will be embedded within the health sector, and among other things they will provide technical support for conducting research, assist with identifying and facilitating opportunities for collaboration and grant funding, and develop and deliver research education. Three positions of 0.6 EFT each will be recruited, with one being located in the Ballarat/Grampians region, one in the South West/Western District and one in the Barwon/Colac region. The roles will specifically aim to build research capacity in rural health settings.

The Grampians/Ballarat role has been appointed and is set to commence in mid-January, with the successful candidate to be announced very soon. Interviews have recently been conducted for the Colac/Geelong role and the Hamilton Warrnambool will be advertised in January.

Research Education and Training

Building the capacity of our health workforce to engage in research is essential as we strive towards improved health outcomes in regional and rural Victoria. Providing research education and training in health settings is a key component of this approach. Whilst there have been many isolated efforts to address this, including those of the Western Alliance and individual health services, we lack a comprehensive, coordinated and evaluated approach to research education across regional and rural Victoria. We also lack online components, which can be essential for those across the region who have difficulty accessing face-to-face training. We have recently been successful in attracting $40,000 from the DHHS to conduct a scoping exercise to lay the foundations for a coordinated approach to research education. We will be conducting a literature review and benchmarking, a gap analysis of the current state, and a needs analysis to better understand what would work for the health workforce (at all parts of the research continuum) and how we can go about providing it. Whist we recognise that this is not a quick fix, we want to get this right and to make sure we can facilitate a meaningful research education program. The Western Alliance will continue to support and provide research training throughout this process, but our focus will be on the longer term coordinated strategy.

Previous Western Alliance Funding (Grants-in-Aid)

Each year, Western Alliance invites submissions of ideas and proposals for innovative research projects. The aim is to support the development of collaborative, applied and translational research that will improve health outcomes for people in western region and at the same time to provide opportunities for capacity building in the health workforce. Through multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary collaborations, health professionals who are interested in research can develop skills that will enable them to undertake and lead research in the region’s health services. As expert mentors and co-investigators, academic researchers will be able connect with clinician-researchers and gain access to the clinical context as well as data.

For research to be supported by Western Alliance it must be relevant to regional and rural/remote health outcomes and aligned with Western Alliance’s values, principles and priorities.

To read more about the research that Western Alliance has supported, please click here.

Grants-in-Aid Program 2019: Call for research ideas

Grants-in-Aid Program 2019 Western Alliance is calling for fresh and innovative ideas to conduct research relevant to the western region of Victoria. Each year, Western Alliance invites submissions of ideas for innovative research projects. The intention is to support the development of collaborative, applied and translational research to improve regional and rural/remote health outcomes. We...

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Grants-in-aid 2017 round

The following studies have been approved for support by Western Alliance in 2018 Let’s have a yarn about chronic disease: A collaborative, multidisciplinary, participatory action research approach to addressing Aboriginal health in south-western Victoria Investigators: Hannah Beks, Candice McKenzie and Dr Joshua Hayward (Deakin University); Kerry Hudson, John Bell and Tamika Amos (Dhauwurd Wurrung Elderly...

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Associate Research Fellowship

Call for applications Western Alliance is calling for applications from recent graduates who wish to undertake an Associate Research Fellowship in Regional and Rural Health in the western region of Victoria. Background and focus Developing our human capital is essential to the future of research in western Victoria. In order to accelerate our research performance...

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Call for research ideas

Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre is calling for innovative ideas to conduct health-services research relevant to the western region of Victoria.   Grants-in-Aid Program 2018 Western Alliance was the first Australian academic health science centre and network established exclusively to focus on regional and rural/remote health outcomes. It is an alliance of academic institutions...

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Rural Acute Hospital Data Register

The Rural Acute Hospital Data Register (RAHDaR) project is a new regional initiative being supported by Western Alliance as one of a possible series of demonstration projects for its Regional Data Collaboration. Investigators: A/Prof Tim Baker and Kate Kloot, South West Healthcare and Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine, Deakin University For completion by: January 2018...

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Grants-in-aid 2016 round

The following studies were supported by Western Alliance in 2017 Determining best practice for the management of teenage pregnancy in rural and regional health services Investigators: Dr Natasha Frawley, Dr Anna Wong Shee, Carolyn Robertson, Anne Marie McKenzie and Julie Lodge, Ballarat Health Services; Dr Catherine Nagle and Dr Vincent Versace, Deakin University; Allison Schotton,...

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Research supported by Western Alliance

2018-2019 Identifying barriers, facilitators and strategies for implementing cardiac tele-rehabilitation to address access inequalities in Western Victoria Investigators: Jonathan Rawstorne, Dr Susie Catledge, Dr Sheik Mohammed Shariful Islam, Ralph Maddison (Deakin University), Dr Matthew Wallen (Federation University), Luke Evans (Ballarat Health Service),  John Amarena (Barwon Health), Cathreena Gervis (South West Healthcare), Anne Morrison (South West Healthcare) Mentors: Professor Fergal Grace (Federation University) Affiliation/collaboration: Barwon...

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Grants-in-aid 2015 round

Following the 2015 Call for Research Ideas, the following research projects were approved for funding, to commence in 2016 Development of a Grampians small towns cancer strategy (Dodson et al.) $80,000 Farm-related major trauma in Victoria and both the long-term and immediate impact on recovery (Pedler et al.) 40,000 Does 20-minute rounding reduce the number of falls...

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Grants-in-Aid 2014 round

Funding support Following the Call for Expressions of Interest in 2014, the following research projects were funded by Western Alliance, for commencement in 2015: SEA Change: Preventing childhood obesity within the Great South Coast, beginning with Portland (Allender et al.) $100,000 Integrating alcohol and drug prevention and treatment services in western Victoria: A community wide approach to...

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