In a new initiative aimed at developing a strong collaborative relationship, South West Sydney Local Health District Drug Health Services (DHS) has commissioned SSAC to conduct four research projects. The first project is a scoping study designed to identify and pursue large-scale opportunities for research collaboration, the second will examine the various kinds of stigma experienced by DHS clients, the third will explore the phenomenology of heavy alcohol consumption in South West Sydney, and the fourth will look at DHS’s nascent assertive youth outreach initiative. Together these projects constitute a novel program of collaboration that will combine cutting edge conceptual tools and analytical processes with thoroughly grounded empirical research leading to practical applied outcomes.
According to SSAC program leader Professor Suzanne Fraser,
This program of research is exciting and challenging. SSAC’s work is known to be relatively theoretically driven, but it has always aimed to make a difference in practice. Combining our theoretical interests and initiatives with the work of South West Sydney’s Drug Health Services creates a really special opportunity to bring together high concepts and practical service activities and procedures.
At a recent consultation workshop led by Professor Suzanne Fraser and UNSW-based colleague Professor Carla Treloar, DHS staff were invited to share their thoughts on South West Sydney alcohol and other drug research priority topics, and ideas for effective collaborative processes. As Suzanne explains,
Effective collaboration involves creating early opportunities for dialogue among the research partners and developing strategy from there. This consultation was a first step in developing an understanding of clinical staff views on what research needs doing, and how staff can be meaningfully involved in the research.
Consultation with and direct involvement by consumers and the broader South West Sydney community are also central to the research process, and the team are currently thinking through the most effective means of establishing and maintaining these activities. Novel approaches may be required, Suzanne observes, to achieve a process that is thoroughly inclusive.
The new relationship being developed between SSAC and SWSLHD Drug Health Services adds a new dimension to the SSAC program which, while it has always sought and benefited from stakeholder involvement in its projects, has not previously collaborated so closely with non-academic partners. As Suzanne notes,
The opportunities this relationship offers for implementing research findings based on SSAC’s trademark conceptually driven research are very exciting – possibly even unprecedented in the Australian alcohol and other drug context.