Matilda Centre launches at the University of Sydney

27 November 2019
Tackling mental health and substance use in young people, the Matilda Centre bridges the gaps between research, government and the community to address one of Australia's biggest health problems.
Unveiling of plaque at Matilda Centre launch event

Professor Duncan Ivison, Associate Professor Cath Chapman, Associate Professor Tim Slade, Associate Professor Nicola Newton, Professor Maree Teesson, The Hon. Scott Farlow MLC, Professor The Hon. Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, Associate Professor Katherine Mills, Mrs Lucinda Brogden AM and Mr Boe Rambaldini were among the international & national experts in attendance.

Led by Professor Maree Teesson, the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, which commenced operations at the University of Sydney in late 2018, has been declared officially open by Professor the Hon. Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO at a celebratory event in Sydney on November 25.

“The work has never been more critical, as it is considered that one in two Australians will experience poor mental health in their lifetime, and – tragically – eight people a day die by suicide," said Professor Bashir.

Also speaking at the launch was the Hon. Scott Farlow MLC, Chair, Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health, Mrs Lucinda Brogden AM, National Mental Health Commissioner and Professor Kevin Gournay CBE, Emeritus Professor, King’s College, United Kingdom, and all emphasised the national importance of the pioneering work at the Matilda Centre.

“No sector of society unfortunately is immune to mental illness or the risk of harm from alcohol and other drug use, but young people are particularly vulnerable” added the Hon. Scott Farlow, MLC.

“Nearly three quarters of mental illness emerges before the age of 24. Almost one in seven young people were assessed as having a mental disorder in the last 12 months. This is equivalent to 560,000 Australian children and adolescents.”

Bridge building research for the public good

The University of Sydney’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Duncan Ivison, said the Matilda Centre provides an extraordinary opportunity as the bridge builders between fundamental and clinical research, government, firms and the community.

“One of the really exciting things about having the Matilda Centre here at the University of Sydney is the opportunity to connect it with other like-minded communities of practice, scholarship and engagement across the institution.”

Professor Ivison said the University of Sydney remains committed to harnessing the extraordinary depth, richness and breadth of research at Sydney for the public good.

The work of Professor Teesson and her team will enable the University to continue that tradition and tackle the extraordinary challenges of mental health and substance use in new and exciting ways.

Since it commenced operations, the centre has already started working with the Brain and Mind Centre, the Charles Perkins Centre, the Poche Centre, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Medicine and Health, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, as well as over 100 other key collaborators who share the mission to find workable solutions to prevent and treat mental health and substance use disorders.

The Hon. Scott Farlow said: "The NSW Government is proud to be part of this story and proud to be working with the Matilda Centre now and into the future on improving the lives of people in NSW.”

Empowering youth across the globe

The Matilda Centre builds on the success of the 2013-2018 NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use.

Since 2013, researchers based at the Matilda Centre have published more than 941 peer-reviewed publications, been cited more than 11,300 times and have attracted more than $35 million in research funding.

However the Matilda Centre measures its impact on their ability to reach and empower at-risk youth across Australia and the globe.

At the core of the Matilda Centre’s work is lived experience and the voice of youth, and their mission is to ensure every student, parent, teacher and community member across Australia knows where they can access trusted evidence-based information, resources and prevention programs.

To date, their online school based prevention programs have been used by over 700 schools and 35,000 students across Australia and the UK.

Their online portals Cracks in the Ice and Positive Choices have been viewed over 2.3 million times and accessed by over 1 million unique users.

Over 26,000 hard copies of their Comorbidity Guidelines have been distributed alongside training 500 clinicians in implementing them.

These projects and many others at the Matilda Centre are helping to change the story of mental health and substance use disorders in Australia and around the world.

“That is why the work of the Matilda Centre here at the University of Sydney is so important - being able to bring the best of academic research and being able implement it on the ground and get it into the hands of young people throughout NSW," said the Hon. Scott Farlow.

“We’re very proud of where we have come from and we’re very proud of where we’re going," said Professor Maree Teesson, Director of the Matilda Centre and NHMRC Principal Research Fellow at the University of Sydney.

“We’re a synergy of leading prevention and early intervention and treatment researchers and we are here to tackle one of health’s greatest challenges."

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