The Northern Australia Research Network: Building evidence-informed services for Functioning, Disability and Health in northern Australia.

Mrs Kylie Stothers2, A/Prof. Ruth Barker1, Mr Andrew McGraw3, Mrs Jennifer Chamberlain-Salaun1, Ms Jennifer Carr1, Ms Renae Moore4

1James Cook University, Smithfield, Australia, 2Indigenous Allied Health Australia, Katherine, Australia, 3WA Country PHN, Broome, Australia, 4Top End Health Service, Darwin, Australia


The Northern Australia Research Network (NARN) was established in 2016 to conduct collaborative research in the area of Functioning, Disability and Health, to inform delivery of rehabilitation and lifestyle services in regional, rural and remote Northern Australia. Recognising the cultural and diverse needs, beliefs, practices and authority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in northern Australia, in 2017 NARN partnered with Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

NARN is a small cross-jurisdictional collaborative network of researchers, clinicians, health managers, Primary Health Network managers and consumers from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. Allied health professionals form the majority of the NARN membership with a range of other members who contribute to delivery of rehabilitation and lifestyle services. A Leadership Group and an Expert Research Advisory Group guide the following five Research Working Groups:
• Community engagement
• People-centred health care
• Skilled and responsive workforce
• Evidence-informed practice
• Evidence-informed investment
The objectives of NARN are to:
• Build an evidence base for services in the area of Functioning, Disability and Health in northern Australia.
• Respond to the needs of Northern Australians, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
• Build research capacity – community research partners, clinicians, student and early career researchers.
• Embed allied health professionals into the broader health research arena.
• Work with stakeholders across the health sector to identify needs, partnerships and resources.

This presentation will consist of an overview of NARN within the changing landscape of northern Australia and of the Disability sector.


Kylie Stothers and Ruth Barker are the co-chairs of the Northern Australia Research Network.

Kylie Stothers is a Jawoyn woman, born and raised in Katherine within a large extended family with strong ties in Katherine and surrounding communities. She is a Social Worker and Workforce Development Manager for Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), the national peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health professionals and students. Kylie has a central role in training allied health professionals on the IAHA Cultural Responsiveness Framework.

Ruth Barker is a physiotherapist and researcher with expertise in stroke rehabilitation and innovative models of service delivery for rural, remote and Indigenous communities of northern Australia. Over the past decade, Ruth has attracted funding of more than $16 million to design, pilot, implement and evaluate community rehabilitation services in Townsville and Mt Isa with outreach services to surrounding communities. In her current position, Ruth is focused on building research capacity across Allied Health disciplines by supporting, mentoring and advising a raft of PhD students and clinician researchers across the health professions.

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