An important aim of the Centre for Research Excellence in Aboriginal Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses (CRE-ASH) is to build research capacity among Professional Research Persons (PRPs) affiliated with the CRE in conducting sexual health related research in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care setting.

A secondary aim is to build capacity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers in conducting research and utilising research findings.

The main focus of capacity building for CRE-ASH will be to foster a pool of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health researchers and talented early and mid-career researchers and health professionals who will be co-located with the five CRE clinical networks. Of the 14 Professional Research Persons, 6 (43%) are Indigenous.

Each PRP will work with a specific CI or AI who has relevant expertise. Members of the CRE have a long track record in postgraduate research supervision in clinical and community settings. We have a mix of scholars at Masters, Doctorates of Public Health, and Post Doctorate levels, who will be involved in research within the CRE.

Our aim is to support all scholars to graduate in their chosen courses. Support is provided to Post-Doctoral scholars without fellowships and research support in the first years of the CRE, with a transition to externally funded fellowships and scholarships in the latter years of the CRE. Each scholar will receive part-funding, with a commitment to supplement existing salaries and roles to ensure graduation in their chosen studies.

Meet our PRPs


Stephen Harfield, South Australian Health
and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)

Stephen is an Aboriginal man of Narungga and Ngarrindjeri heritage. Stephen completed the Master of Philosophy in Applied Epidemiology at the Australian National University in 2019 and is currently based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). Prior to undertaking the MAE, Stephen was a Research Fellow with Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Unit, SAHMRI, on an NHMRC funded Centre of Research Excellence in Aboriginal Chronic Disease Knowledge Translation and Exchange (CREATE).


Dr Belinda Hengel, Postdoctoral Fellow

Belinda was awarded a Masters of Public Health in 2011 and completed a PhD in epidemiology in 2016. She previously worked as a sexual health nurse. Belinda’s research focuses on improving the sexual health of Aboriginal people, particularly those living in remote areas of Australia. She has worked across multiple NHMRC funded studies which have had led to improvements in the delivery of STI care in Aboriginal communities and increased the understanding of the burden of STIs across regions where data was previously lacking.


Amanda Sibosado, Curtin University WA

Amanda Sibosado is a proud Bard Wardandi woman who is dedicated to working towards better sexual health and mental health outcomes for Aboriginal people. Amanda is currently a Research Associate at Curtin University and is enrolled at Charles Darwin University completing her Masters in Public Health.


The CRE-ASH Capacity Building Action Plan includes the following Objectives:

  1. To develop the health and medical research workforce in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health by providing opportunities to advance training of new researchers, particularly those with a capacity for independent research and future leadership roles
  2. To create a high caliber, connected national research workforce with the expertise, experience and capacity to provide national leadership in this neglected area of Aboriginal health
  3. To support PRPs in their efforts to be highly competitive for ongoing research funding. Sustainable research will be critical to avoid ongoing Aboriginal disadvantage.

Strategies for capacity development

We have adopted a set of specific strategies to generate new researcher capability using a multi-layered approach that encourages career development and leadership.

a. Aboriginal leadership and creation of research pathways
The CRE will play a central role in the development of a group of Aboriginal research scholars. Currently half of the named early career research scholars are Aboriginal people who are keen to complete further research studies relevant to their workplaces all of which involves the delivery of STI and blood-borne virus services. This will be led and facilitated by the Aboriginal Chief Investigators with support from other CIs and AIs.

b. Role models
CRE-ASH CIs and AIs and Aboriginal Professional Research Persons provide outstanding examples of Aboriginal academic success and clinical excellence and will promote greater involvement of Aboriginal people in research. Mentoring in career development will be provided for each PRP.

c. PhD scholarships
The CRE will fund at least five Higher Degree Researchers who will apply for NHMRC or other scholarships after the first 12-18 months of their candidature.

d. Assignment of mentors
Each early career researcher will be assigned a CI or AI as mentor. The role of the mentor will be to act as an advocate for the early career researcher, ensuring that their research training needs and career aspirations are being met through the CRE collaboration and importantly post CRE.

e. Access to postgraduate education
Scholars will be offered places in short courses delivered by the Kirby Institute, UNSW. These courses include infectious diseases epidemiology, applied biostatistics, program evaluation, mixed-methods research and working with vulnerable populations.

f. Creating a stimulating, rewarding and culturally secure academic setting
The CRE research environment will foster development of hypotheses and novel approaches to clinical questions.

g. HDR meetings, conference presentations, participation in professional networks
CRE members will meet regularly with peers and professionals – formally and informally, nationally and internationally.

h. Cultural security
All collaborating institutions have specific cultural safety policies.

i. A focus on capacity building among AHPs
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner role has been nationally registered since 1 July 2012 under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professionals. Aboriginal Health Practitioners are the mainstay of the workforce in environments where there are high turnover of nursing and medical staff. We have engaged with the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia to provide an existing “Introduction to research” course in conjunction with James Cook University, to develop a staged approach to developing research skills. The aim is to strengthen Aboriginal Health Practitioners’ understanding of evidence as a basis for practice, and to identify those interested in further study and research pathways. CRE-ASH will also develop a short course in clinical research, with a specific focus on sexual health that can be made available to Aboriginal Health Providers on an annual basis over two days, through the clinical hub in Adelaide. The CRE will support the participation of around 10-12 participants each year, and maintain contact with them subsequently through the projects conducted under the CRE.