Australian Rotary Health is one of the largest independent funders of mental health research within Australia.
Australian Rotary Health provides funding towards research grants, fellowships and PhD scholarships focused on finding preventative and curative solutions for mental illness in young Australians. From 2023, our funding focus will narrow to the mental health of children aged 0-12.
We also provide funding into a broad range of general health areas, provide scholarships for rural medical and nursing students, as well as Indigenous health students. Australian Rotary Health provides funding into areas of health that do not readily attract funding, and promotes findings to the community.
Australian Rotary Health is a project of the Rotary Districts of Australia and is supported by Rotary Clubs. We have a broad vision to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians.
Australian Rotary Health provides funding into four focus areas, and promotes findings to the community:
In 1981 Past President Ian Scott of the Rotary Club of Mornington in Victoria presented a submission to his club to establish a Rotary-sponsored, nation-wide research charitable fund to support research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – addressing the tragedy of Cot Death.
Subsequently the project gained support from other Rotary Clubs, and approval from the Rotary Institute, and in 1986 the first research projects in Cot Death were funded. Funding in SIDS research continued for the next 18 years in various capacities. The main recipient of funds was Professor Terry Dwyer of the University of Tasmania who’s research team received over $300,000. His work on sleeping positions of babies has had a major impact as one of the major causes of Cot Death.
From 1989-1995 the focus of funding moved to Environmental Health Problems of the Aged and over $1.4 million was invested in research in this area. Funding included investigations into Environmental Factors and depression in old age, Alzheimers Disease, Living at home v living in a retirement village and factors affecting re-admission into the health-care system.
From 1993-1996 Adolescent Health funding commenced. During these years, $1.5 million was allocated to research in various projects including Adolescent Health Lifestyles, Injury control program on farms in young adults, and low birth weight and impact on school achievement and behaviour.
In 1996 to 1999 funding encompassed Family Health and $1.4 million was allocated to research in this area. Research grants including Rheumatic Fever in Aboriginal Families, Children of Mothers with severe Mental Illness, Family therapy for patients with cancer, the Quality of life in children with asthma.
Several smaller areas of research were introduced during these years:
- Ross River Virus – 1998-2000 $210,000 invested in research
- First Aid, Pre-Hospital treatment and Emergency Care – 1999-2001 $290,000
- Evaluation of the Bowelscan program – $50,000 in 1998
- Malaria – $30,000 in 2000
The move to Mental Illness
In 1998, the Board of ARH accepted a recommendation from the Research Committee that funding focus on Mental Illness from 2000.
Funding has been allocated within research project grants, postdoctoral fellowships and PhD scholarships.
This commitment was initially planned for five years and included a National Community Forum program, which assisted in raising the community’s awareness of mental illness. Public Forums – Community, corporates, Schools, Probus Clubs and Emergency Services and the Police Force.
The Board has continued the commitment both to research and awareness of Mental Illness. Mental Illness research did not stop at 5 years as originally envisaged but in 2012 until 2021 the focus shifted to Mental Health of Young Australians and then in 2013 there was the inclusion of Prevention of Mental Health Disorders.
The initial Community Mental Health Forum program was sponsored by the Department of Health and Ageing until 2009 when the formal program was finalized.
From 2010 – 2012 Mental Health First Aid Workshops, sponsored by a Rotary Club, were held around Australia with funding provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health. It should be noted that funding from Australian Rotary Health funded the research for the guidelines for Mental Health First Aid.
Following an Australian Rotary Health Symposium held in Canberra (May, 2013) on Prevention of Mental Disorders Across the Lifespan: Setting New Directions for Research and Implementation the message came out loud and clear that Rotary could have a role to play in conducting Forums and Workshops that could help communities be more aware of factors that can make a difference on one’s mental health and well-being.
From 2013 – 2015 Rotary Clubs throughout Australia were invited to conduct community forums focusing on “Preventing Mental Health Problems in Our Community” with funding again from Department of Health.
In 2012, ARH again changed focus towards research relevant to the mental health of Young Australians.
Currently, commencing in 2023 funding supports research aimed at Improving the Mental Health of 0-12 year olds. In 2022 a Symposium was held in Sydney to discuss with researchers around Australia how this looks going forward.
Research grants commenced in 2023 and PhD Scholarships and Post-Doctoral Fellowships added from 2024.
Funding Partners – General Health research – from 2000
Australian Rotary Health also works in partnership with Rotary Clubs/Districts/Rotarians who seek to fund PhD research scholarships in a range of other health areas including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and motor neuron disease. This program funds up to 50 PhD scholars each year, with a three-way funding split – the Club/the University/ARH.
Other Health support – from 2002
In addition to supporting mental illness research, support is provided for scholarships for medical and nursing scholars to complete at least one year of their studies working in a rural area, endeavouring to influence them to consider a career in a rural location. This program operates through donations to ARH from Rotary Clubs or Rotarians wishing to support this program. The Rural Medical and Nursing Scholarship programs commenced in 2007 and varying numbers of scholars participate each year.
Over 80 Indigenous Health Scholars receive funding through the ARH Indigenous Health Scholarship (IHS) program. The program was instigated by PP Geoff Bailey OAM and the Rotary Club of Mitcham in SA and Australian Rotary Health took over the administration in 2003. Scholars come from all States of Australia and more than 300 scholars in the program have graduated.
In 2023 the ARH First Nations Alumni commenced. All scholars who have been through the IHS program form the Alumni which is led by 8 former scholars, assisted by ARH staff.
Since 1986 over $55 million has been invested in the health of all Australians.