Multi-million dollar ARC grant success for UWS

UWS logo on building

The University of Western Sydney has been awarded over $2.3 million in Australian Research Council(opens in a new window)(ARC) funding to find solutions to some of our nation's biggest environmental, social, health and infrastructure challenges.

Diverse topics ranging from improving the health of one of our most beloved but endangered national icons, the koala, to implementing early-childhood language programs to help Indigenous children with hearing difficulties in remote northern Australia will be investigated over the next three years.

Researchers in the cognitive sciences, environmental science and management, civil engineering, zoology and psychology are involved in a total of seven projects to receive prestigious ARC Linkage funding, recently announced by the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne.

Many of the projects will be led by researchers from the University's world-class research institutes.

Importantly, the Linkage grants will also further the University's collaborations with research partners from across industry, business, as well as government and non-government organisations, and other universities.

UWS Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Research and Development), Professor Scott Holmes, says the outcomes of these grants will contribute to Australia's future productivity.

This funding announcement is testament to the dedication of our researchers and the quality of their work, and I congratulate them and our partner organisations on their success in securing what are highly-competitive research grants, says Professor Holmes.

The University has worked hard to nurture its highly-regarded fields of research expertise and has developed world-class facilities to deliver relevant research outcomes that make a positive impact on both our nations economic prosperity and our quality of life.

Grants administered by the University of Western of Sydney:

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Researchers Moore, Dr Benjamin D; Foley, Prof William J; Hugenholtz, Prof Philip; Sicheritz-Ponten, Prof Thomas; Moeller, Prof Birger L; Hansen, Dr Joergen; Lunney, Dr Daniel H; Pascoe, Dr Jack H

Total funding $355,000.00

Research partner organisations Evolva Biotech A/S, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and The Conservation Ecology Trust

Project summary This project aims to discover how the composition and function of koala gastrointestinal microbial communities differ in space and time in response to the varying nutritional quality and chemical composition of koala diets. Using detailed chemical analysis, cutting edge metagenomic and bioinformatic pipelines and powerful approaches to study enzyme functions in the koala's gut, the investigators aims to reveal the role of microbes in detoxification of plant toxins and degradation of recalcitrant fibre fractions. The outcomes aim to facilitate the use of faecal transplants to improve digestive function for translocated and rehabilitated koalas, enhancing options for koala management and conservation.

Institute for Infrastructure Engineering

Researchers Zhang, Dr Chunwei; Uy, Prof Brian; Kang, Dr Won-Hee; Huang, Prof Weibo; Lv, Prof Ping

Total funding $179,918.00

Research partner organisation Shandong Zhihua Construction Group Co. Ltd

Project summary This project aims to conduct theoretical, numerical and experimental investigations on the mechanism of surface sprayed viscoelastic materials for blast mitigation of structural members in critical and resource infrastructure. The project design is different from traditional designs and aims to achieve protection with a higher efficiency, in a flexible manner and at a lower cost. Therefore, it is worth exploring systemically the development of design methods which are not yet available. The project outcomes intend to be incorporated into design codes for the purposes of improving the civil infrastructure environment subjected to extreme events.

MARCS Institute

Researchers Jones, A/Prof Caroline; Escudero, Dr Paola; Mattock, Dr Karen; Sharma, Dr Mridula; Rosas, Mrs Lee; Everitt, Ms Penny; Taumoepeau, Dr Mele; Demuth, Prof Katherine; McMahon, A/Prof Catherine; Spiers, Dr Iain; Wing, Ms Raelene J; Demosthenous, Ms Suzanne

Total funding $183,000.00

Research partner organisations Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation and The Smith Family

Project summary Both the quality and quantity of language children hear, and adult understandings of child development, drive children's future outcomes. Understanding how to improve both is critical to the lifelong education, employment and social potential of children from low socioeconomic families, especially with hearing loss. This project aims to examine to what extent a parent-implemented early childhood language program designed to buffer against effects of childhood Otitis media can support indigenous children in remote northern Australia. Outcomes aim to be data on effects on children's language, attention, and school readiness, plus uptake of strategies and knowledge by parents and other adults, and evidence regarding best practice in such contexts.

School of Education

Researchers Craven, Prof Rhonda G; Marsh, Prof Herbert W; Morin, A/Prof Alexandre J; Vickers, Prof Margaret H; Kennedy, Dr Michael H; Parker, Dr Philip D; Birch, Mr Philip; Gallagher, Mr Peter; Huppert, Prof Felicia A; Meyer, Prof John P; Ryan, Prof Richard M

Total funding $510,000.00

Research partner organisation NSW Police

Project summary There is international emphasis on cultivating the well-being of police but there is little research explicating key psychosocial drivers. Fresh solutions are urgently needed to address complex issues underpinning unsustainable rates of New South Wales Police medical leave, retirement and psychological stress that adversely impact on well-being and capacity to safeguard Australians. Capitalising on powerful longitudinal design, gold standard statistics and cutting-edge interdisciplinary and multi-method theory/research, the project aims to explicate psychosocial drivers of New South Wales Police well-being, commitment, resilience and retention and critical characteristics of effective police command units to further fresh futures and enrich the international research agenda.  


Researchers Craven, Prof Rhonda G; Yeung, A/Prof Alexander S; Marsh, Prof Herbert W; Huppert, Prof Felicia A; Mooney, A/Prof Janet; Sherwood, Ms Juanita M; Seaton, Dr Marjorie; Dillon, Mr Anthony W; McCloughan, Mr Gerard E

Total funding $342,000.00

Researcher partner organisation NSW Department of Education and Communities

Project Summary Despite emphasis worldwide on enabling high-ability students to realise their potential, little is known about drivers that seed success in educational outcomes and wellbeing for high ability Aboriginal students who underachieve, are under identified and are underrepresented in selective settings. Capitalising on interdisciplinary theory and research, a powerful multi-method design and state-of-the-art statistics, the project aims to explicate psychosocial determinants of high-ability Aboriginal students' educational outcomes and wellbeing and test the efficacy of novel research-derived interventions. This aims to advance knowledge, policy and practice to enhance the provision of education to high-ability Aboriginal students ensuring they realise their full potential.


Researchers Marsh, Prof Herbert W; Ciarrochi, Prof Joseph; Parker, Dr Philip D; Huppert, Prof Felicia A; Kemp, Dr Travis

Total funding $300,000.00

Research partner organisation The Helmsman Project Limited

Project Summary This project aims to investigate how to keep able but disadvantaged youth engaged in school and give them the psychological tools they need to succeed. To meet this challenge, this project aims to propose a randomised control and extended baseline control test of a combined personal coaching and outdoor education (sailing experience) program designed to foster positive psychological outcomes by developing goal strategies, hope, resilience, and self-regulation. The study aims to be extensive and novel, capturing the experiences of not just the participants but their peers, parents, teachers, and alumni mentors of the program. Both traditional survey and experience sampling data will be collected.

School of Science and Health

Researchers Spencer, Dr Ricky-John; Thompson, Prof Michael B; Georges, Prof Arthur; Chessman, Dr Bruce C; Clemann, Mr Nicholas; Joachim, Mr Lee; Gibson, Mr Trent; Bradshaw, Mrs Susanna; Broster, Mr Tim; Saunders, Mr Michael

Total funding $435,280.00

Research partner organisations Winton Wetlands Committee of Management Incorporated, Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation, North Central Catchment Management Authority, Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, and Save Lake Bonney Group Inc.

Project summary Turtles are a major ecological component of the Murray-Darling, Australia's major river system. They are declining alarmingly with potential dire consequences for water quality, biodiversity, and river health. This project unites a world- class research team with diverse industry partners, indigenous groups, and non-government organisations from three states to address a problem of national significance. This project aims to identify and quantify causes of declines in turtles along the whole system, with the aim of developing practical management options to overcome it. This will be the first river-wide study of turtles, achieved by combining cutting-edge genetic and ecological techniques with a citizen science program.

Grants administered through other universities involving UWS researchers:

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Researchers Medlyn, A/Prof Belinda E; Beaumont, Dr Linda J; Tissue, Prof David T; Auld, Dr Tony D; Evans, Dr Bradley J; Duursma, Dr Remko A; Rymer, Dr Paul D; Tjoelker, Prof Mark G

Total funding $331,000.00

Research partner organisation NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Administering organisation Macquarie University

Project summary Trees define our landscapes and are crucial for ecosystem services including biodiversity, carbon sequestration and prevention of soil erosion. Drought is a major threat to tree survival across Australia and is being exacerbated by rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns due to climate change. This project aims to calculate the risk of drought mortality for key tree species across New South Wales in current and future climates. It aims to integrate four independent, complementary research streams to develop robust probabilistic risk profiles that account for variation in drought intensity and species resilience over landscapes. These risk profiles will be fundamental to conservation planning and land management across New South Wales.

School of Science and Health

Researchers Willcox, Prof Mark D; Blanksby, Prof Stephen J; Mitchell, A/Prof Todd W; Kelso, Dr Michael J; Millar, Prof Thomas J; Brown, Dr Simon H; Simmons, Dr Peter A; Vehige, Dr Joseph G

Total funding $450,000.00

Research partner organisation Allergan Inc

Administering organisation University of New South Wales

Project Summary The tear film lipid layer covers the eye, stabilises the tears and prevents their evaporation. Yet its structure, function and composition are yet to be fully elucidated. The aim of this project is to fully characterise the unique lipids in this layer, the long-chain omega-hydroxy fatty acids (not found elsewhere in the body), and to determine their role in its structure and function. The project is significant because the unique combination of skills including synthetic chemistry, mass spectrometry, lipidomics, biochemistry, biophysics which aim to result in a major shift in the understanding of this layer.

School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Researchers Priest, Dr Naomi; Dunn, Prof Kevin M; Paradies, A/Prof Yin C; Nelson, Dr Jacqueline K; Pedersen, A/Prof Anne; Curry, A/Prof Philip; Mouglalis, Ms Eveline; Stipanovic, Ms Marica; Thompson, Mr Christopher J; Nissim, Ms Rivkah

Total funding $520,000.00

Research partner organisations Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, NSW Department of Education and Communities, and the Australian Human Rights Commission

Administering organisation University of Melbourne

Project summary This project aims to substantially increase understandings of bystander responses (including their extent, nature, potential, merits, benefits, and constraints) as a means of countering racism and racial bullying among Australian school students. This aims to be achieved through examining experiences of, attitudes towards, and responses to, racism and racial bullying among school students; identifying health, wellbeing, education and social outcomes of racism and racial bullying for individuals, schools and communities; exploring the enablers and obstacles associated with bystander responses to racism and racial bullying; and by developing and piloting a school-based program to foster bystander responses to racism and racial bullying.

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