The Liberal Nationals Government is investing $3.7 million in a collaborative project led by the University of New England (UNE) to significantly boost mental health research in regional Australia.
UNE will establish the Regional Australia Mental Health Research and Training Institute (RAMHeaRT) in Armidale NSW to better translate its mental health research to help regional communities.
Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said the funding will provide critical research in the region at a time when mental health is a significant issue.
“Our funding will support UNE, working with local industry partners, to expand its mental health research to literally save lives.”
“By conducting this vital research here in New England, we ensure that the new findings and skills developed by researchers will directly benefit our community,” Minister Joyce said.
“The project will also include important engagement with the local Indigenous community to provide significant health benefits .”
Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge said the project is one of six that will share in nearly $20 million through the first round of the Government’s Regional Research Collaboration (RRC) Program.
“We want our world-class research to be at the forefront of our economic and social success and we want regional univerities to be a big part of that,” Minister Tudge said.
“This project will translate excellent research into real-world health benefits for the community by improving mental health, reducing deaths by suicide, and easing the burden on the healthcare system.
“Students will also have the opportunity to collaborate with highly regarded health industry partners, such as suicide prevention service Lifeline.”
UNE Vice Chancellor and CEO, Professor Brigid Heywood said that the consortium is demonstrating the value of regional universities in solving regional problems.
“Each RUN partner in this new Institute model brings their own unique expertise and experience to the table. Regional Universities cover a significant geographic footprint and are best placed to develop community driven solutions to very complex social problems.”
“Regional Australia has faced significant challenges over the past three years with drought, bushfires and now the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There is a lot of vulnerability but also a lot of resilience.”
“This project builds on the existing success of RUN and partners who share the collective vision for a healthy and prosperous regional Australia by focusing on the key challenge of mental health and wellbeing for the ongoing resilience of regional Australia,” Professor Heywood said.
Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education, Senator Bridget McKenzie said regional Australia is primed to lead our economic recovery post COVID.
“Australia’s regional and remote centres of excellence are already generating ground-breaking solutions to real world problems. Its essential they’re supported to deepen these communities of expertise,” Minister McKenzie said.
“Enhancing UNE’s research capabilities will draw more students, researchers and businesses to the area. Our investment will also create more opportunities for students to pursue research projects and gain a post-graduate qualification in regional NSW.
“This program is another way the Government is supporting regions to realise their full potential and create more resilient local economies and communities.”
The Coalition Government has invested a total of $48.8 million over four years in the RRC Program to boost research capacity in regional Australia. Round two is expected to open in 2022.
The RRC Program is being implemented in response to the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy and is part of the Government’s mission to strengthen the regional and remote tertiary education sector.