August 25, 2021

ACON and NDARC AOD PhD scholarship opportunity

The PhD will focus on alcohol and other drug use and mental health among trans and gender diverse people in Australia.

About the opportunity

ACON and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) are supporting a standard NDARC scholarship for a suitably qualified candidate. The scholarship will be awarded on the condition that the person is accepted into a UNSW Medicine PhD (or HDR i.e. Masters by Research).

The successful candidate will be supervised by NDARC researchers (and other external supervisors as agreed).  Additional research costs will be covered by ACON under this collaborative endeavour.

Trans candidates, binary and non-binary, will be highly regarded.

Applications close 15 October 2021.

Why is this research important?  

There is very little data exploring the intersections of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use, mental health and the trans experience in NSW and Australia. (1) For example, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey does not include adequate indicators to determine who among participants is trans or cis, it is generally presumed all participants are cis.

Two Australian population surveys, The First Australian National Trans Mental Health Study and The 2018 Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey, report some limited data around the use of AOD, (2) however, as this was not the primary research question associated with these studies, and the nature of prevalence data, these studies do not dive into questions around patterns of use, harms experienced or harm reduction approaches, mental health outcomes, and reasons and context for use.

In addition, trans people experience mental ill-health, psychological distress, and suicidality at higher rates compared with their cisgender peers. (3)

Specific and meaningful data on AOD use and associated mental health experiences among trans people in our communities are critical to informing appropriate health and social support programs and activities for these populations.


What is this PhD research project about?

A central research question and specific research aims, and objectives will be formulated by the candidate in liaison with ACON, NDARC and their PhD supervisors, at the outset of a higher degree research program.

It is anticipated that a mixed methods approach will be used. This is broadly anticipated to include:

  • A systematic review of existing studies on trans people, drug use and mental health;
  • A qualitative study to examine use of drugs, and mental health among trans people;
  • A survey of trans people that will assess:
    • Types of substances
    • Patterns of use
    • Context of use
    • Links between mental health and AOD use (including strengths-based aspects)
    • Experiences of barriers, harms and harm reduction
    • Social and health needs, including gender affirmation, relating to AOD use, and
    • Mental health and wellbeing.


Express your interest 

All interested applicants must complete this application form and submit to Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt (she/her) at

Your expression of interest will be reviewed and the selection committee will contact you further regarding progressing with your formal application.

Trans candidates, binary and non-binary, will be highly regarded.



(1) Dan Howard, Special Commission of Inquiry into Crystal Methamphetamine and Other Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: Volume 1b (Final Report, January 2020) 181–182.

(2) Zoë Hyde et al, The First Australian National Trans Mental Health Study: Summary of Results (Report, Curtin University, 2014); Denton Callander et al, The 2018 Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey: Report of Findings (Report, The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia, 2019).

(3) Adam O Hill et al, Private Lives 3: A National Survey of the Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQ People in Australia (Monograph No 122, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, 2020).