Australian Rotary Health

about us2016-12-08T09:55:12+10:00

News Spotlight

A Flexible, Low-Cost, Online Program for Teens With Depression and Anxiety

A new online program for high school students with anxiety and depression has been found to be effective, following a research trial funded by Australian Rotary Health (ARH). The Chilled Plus Program (similar to the [...]

Identifying Mental Health Problems Before Puberty

Puberty marks a transition in risk for the onset of mental health problems, but the earliest symptoms often begin before the physical changes of puberty start. Recent research funded by Australian Rotary Health has found [...]

Who We Are

Australian Rotary Health is one of the largest independent funders of mental health research within Australia.

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 supported by a number of Rotary Clubs in Australia. We have a broad vision to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians.

What We Do

Australian Rotary Health provides funding into four focus areas, and promotes findings to the community:

Watch – The ARH Story

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Our Statement

education and life skills

Supporting healthier minds, bodies and communities through research, awareness and education.

Our Mission

Our mission is to create better health for all Australians through improved education and advancements in knowledge through medical research. We support excellence in research in an effort to provide both preventative and curative solutions for a broad range of health conditions.

Our Vision

aboriginal communities

It is our vision to be a catalyst for projects that improve the quality of life for people who are least able to assist themselves.

Our History


In May 1981, Professor Alan Williams, a well known research and Chief Pathologist at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital,  was interviewed on a late-night commercial radio station. He discussed the dreaded phenomenon of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also known as ‘Cot Death’. A listener to that broadcast was Ian Scott, a member of the Rotary Club of Mornington, Victoria, who was so moved by the interview that he resolved to take action.

At the next meeting of his Rotary Club, Ian proposed the establishment of a national Rotary research foundation, with an aim of raising $2 million for research beginning in Cot Death. On … May, 1981, ‘The Australian Rotary Health Research Fund’ was established. In 1985, The Board allocated its first grant into the causes of SIDS. Parents around the world now know to place babies on their backs at night, greatly reducing the impact of SIDS.

As Australian Rotary Health grew, so did its broad vision of a healthier Australia through research, awareness and education. Supported by Rotarians Australian wide, Australian Rotary Health was soon in a position to sponsor research in a range of medical and health areas that do not readily attract funding.


Australian Rotary Health has provided over $33 million for funding into a broad range of research areas. The Board, in conjunction with the Research Committee, has prioritised cutting-edge research, which is relevant to the community. Topics in bold are major focus areas:

1986 to 1994 – Cot Death
1989-1995 – Environmental Health Problems of the Aged
1993-1996 – Adolescent Health
1996-1999 – Family Health
1998 – Bowelscan
1998-2000 – Ross River Virus
2000 – Malaria
1999 to 2001 – First Aid, Pre-hospital treatment, Emergency Care
2000  to 2011 – Mental Illness
2007 – Waist Disposal Project
2007 to 2010 – Evaluation of Mental Health Service Provision
2007 to 2009 – Evaluation of Rural Health Service Provision
2010 to 2011 – Bipolar Disorder, funded by the Bipolar Expedition Study
2011 to 2013 – Beyond Bushfires: Community, Recovery and Resilience
2012 onwards – Mental Health of Young Australians
2013 – Prevention of Mental Disorders


In 2000, the Indigenous Health Scholarship program was established. Indigenous Health Scholarships have encouraged Indigenous students to undertake tertiary training in nursing, physiotherapy, psychology, dentistry and other health related degrees at university. These scholarships help Indigenous students to overcome barriers to tertiary study and Close the Gap within health services.

The Indigenous Health Scholarship program sees a Rotary Club, Rotary District, business or individual, partner with the State and Commonwealth governments and Australian Rotary Health. Approximately 1 in 5 Indigenous Doctors in Australia have been supported by an Indigenous Health Scholarship.

In 2007, Rural Nursing and Medicine Scholarships were introduced to address staff shortages in rural healthcare services. Australian Rotary Health awards these scholarships to medical and nursing students who wish to undertake a year-long placement in a rural healthcare service and experience what these facilities have to offer.

Students get the chance to engage in more one on one time with supervisors and patients and experience a range of clinical problems that do not often present in urban communities. Rural Scholarships provide students with an opportunity to pursue a career in rural Australia when they have completed their studies.

Awareness and Education

Australian Rotary Health promotes findings to the community through awareness and education. ARH have been involved in a broad range of programs.

Mental Health Prevention Forums

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 was clear that Rotary could play an important role in conducting Forums and Workshops to inform communities of factors that can make a difference on one’s mental health and well-being. Rotary Clubs throughout Australia are invited to conduct community forums focusing on “Preventing Mental Health Problems in Our Community” as part of their contribution to community service. Their aims are threefold: improve mental health and knowledge about prevention activities, increase health and [...]

Hat Day

The second Friday in October each year is Hat Day, the national fundraising and awareness day where you wear a hat and make a donation to help shine a light on mental illness in Australia. 100% of money raised on the day goes to research into helping those affected by depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and many other illnesses. Hat Day is the largest fundraising initiative undertaken by Australian Rotary Health. Show your support for people suffering a mental illness and register your organisation at

Mental Health First Aid training courses

From July 2010 to June 2012, the Australian Government through the Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA) contracted Australian Rotary Health to undertake a two-year program to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses to Rotary Clubs and Districts across Australia. MHFA is an award winning course aimed at educating participants on how to recognise symptoms of mental illness and how to approach someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as an anxiety attack. The Australian Rotary Health Mental Health First Aid Program assisted approximately 1,000 people to better manage their own mental health and well being, and provided skills [...]

The Great Australian Bike Ride

The Great Australian Bike Ride was a nine-stage ride around the country that began in Melbourne on March 21st and finished there on October 10th. It was a healthy challenge raising funds for, and awareness of, the research into mental illness being supported by Australian Rotary Health.


On 23rd February, 2005 then Australian Minister for Health, John Hatzistergos, launched the ‘Rotary Health Safari. The Safari, led by a Winnebago Motor Home, travelled 24,000km around Australia and visited 400 Rotary Club. The triple aim was; to promote Australian Rotary Health, advance public awareness of mental illness, and encourage individual and corporate generosity. The event was cost neutral but saw donations to ARH rise to a record level of $1,764,701 the following year.


In partnerships with a number of mental health organisations, Australian Rotary Health provided funding and promotion of a school-based mental wellbeing initiative. KidsMatter is all about growing healthy minds and positive communities. It is a mental health framework for early childhood education and care services, as well as infant and primary schools. The KidsMatter program continues to be a unique partnership between education and health and is the first of its kind in Australia.

Mental Health Forums

From 1999 to 2010 over 500 forums were held in conjunction with Rotary Clubs in Australia to raise awareness of mental health issues. A simple format of a consumer, a carer and a clinician proved to be very successful, reaching an estimated audience of 50,000 in total. The forum initiative was funded by grants through the Commonwealth Department of Health.