HDR Scholarship - Promoting Healthy Eating and Active Play from the Start of Life for Victorian Aboriginal Families

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Promoting Healthy Eating and Active Play from the Start of Life for Victorian Aboriginal Families'.

Project Supervisor

To be determined


Melbourne Burwood Campus OR Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

Deakin University and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) have joined forces to undertake this research project focused on promoting healthy eating and active play from the start of life.

The successful candidate will work with a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal public health researchers and practitioners from the:

  • Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)
  • National Indigenous Knowledge Education Research Innovation (NIKERI) Institute, Deakin University
  • Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University

Inequity between nutrition-related outcomes for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children has been observed for many decades across Australia. Early cessation of breastfeeding, prolonged bottle-feeding and untimely introduction of solid foods in infancy, over-reliance on bottles, sweet drinks, ‘junk’ or takeaway foods, poor oral health and overweight have been identified as issues for Victorian Aboriginal children1. Targeted health promotion and illness prevention in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are central to reducing health inequalities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, however, access to mainstream Maternal and Child Health services is lower than for non-Aboriginal families and has been identified as a barrier to the provision of nutrition and physical activity information for Aboriginal communities1. A nutrition needs assessment conducted in Victoria, in 2011, identified the need for a culturally responsive systems approach to providing support for breastfeeding and child nutrition advice and support for Aboriginal families, including capacity building for staff and culturally relevant, accessible evidence-based child health information1.

This postgraduate research project will enable the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) to continue to assess and address the needs of Aboriginal communities around how they wish to be supported to promote healthy eating and active play in the early years of life. Importantly this research will assist in translating research into practice by exploring how evidence-based infant feeding information and best practice parenting programs can be culturally tailored to the needs of Victorian Aboriginal families.

1. Thorpe, S., Browne, J. & Myers, J. 2012. Aboriginal Early Years Nutrition & Physical Activity Needs Assessment Report. Melbourne: Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Project aim

This research project provides opportunities to explore the health information needs of Victorian Aboriginal families and to develop and pilot test evidence-based, culturally appropriate health promotion materials around infant nutrition and active play.

The successful candidate will co-design and undertake qualitative research in partnership with VACCHO’s Koori Maternity Services operating within its Member Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), respecting a Community-led research approach.

Project Aim: To develop culturally appropriate, evidence-based health promotion resources, if appropriate, based on the existing Infant Program materials and mobile application.

Research Questions:

  • What information and resources do Victorian Aboriginal families and carers need to support infant feeding and active play for their children during the first 18 months of life?
  • What modes of delivery of early childhood infant feeding and active play information/ resources are most likely to ensure initial and ongoing engagement for Victorian Aboriginal families and carers?
  • To what extent is the Infant Program and/or a mobile application a viable approach for providing support to Victorian Aboriginal families around infant feeding and active play?
  • What adaptations would need to be made to the Infant Program and/or mobile application to ensure that they are engaging and culturally relevant for Victorian Aboriginal families and carers?
  • What elements of the research approach and findings are generalisable to other Indigenous communities in Australia?

Important dates

Applications will remain open until asuitable candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,092 per annum tax exempt (2020 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate or overseas

This three-year position (or equivalent part time) offers:

  • Mentoring and supervision from a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal public health researchers and practitioners
  • Networking opportunities with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through the NIKERI Institute at Deakin University

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate (domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship).
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling either Full or Part time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

Learn more about submitting a successful application on the How to apply page


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Jennifer Browne

Dr Jennifer Browne
Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Email Jennifer Browne
+61 3 924 68151