$3.8 million to help Northern Rivers community heal after 2022 floods

Researchers at Southern Cross University have been awarded more than $3.8 million to help Northern Rivers locals affected by the devastating 2022 floods.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

Media event date:
Date published:
Media type:
Media release
General public

RESEARCHERS at Southern Cross University have been awarded more than $3.8 million to help Northern Rivers locals affected by the devastating 2022 floods.
In a world-first approach, the researchers will implement a stepped care model to support over 200 people left with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the floods.
To date, there have been very few clinical trials focused on recovery from disaster-related PTSD. None have focused on a stepped care model.
Stepped care is an evidence-based system for treating mental health, involving a hierarchy of treatments, from least to most intensive.
The stepped care treatments in this clinical trial will include an arts-based group compassion program and group-based MDMA-assisted therapy. It is hoped the findings will provide additional treatment options for those impacted by future disasters.
People can register their interest in participating in the clinical trial by emailing compassiontrial@scu.edu.au
The Albanese Government is providing these funds as part of the 2022 Clinical Trials Grant Activity, with funding commencing from March 2024.
Grants totalling $62 million were awarded to 26 recipients as part of the grant opportunity. 
The Albanese Government has committed a total of $750 million for the Clinical Trials Activity Initiative over ten years.
Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler MP:
“Supporting the mental health of Australians is a key priority for the Albanese Government.
“In a country often ravaged by bushfires, floods and cyclones, the world-first research by Southern Cross University will look for new and innovative ways to help communities recover following natural disasters.
“We hope that this research project will help the Northern Rivers community to recover following the flood tragedy.
“Our Government is proud to support this groundbreaking research through the Medical Research Future Fund.”
Quotes attributable to NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery and State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin MP:
“This project not only offers innovative evidence-based practices for trauma relief, but also means something positive can come out of our local experience. This research will add to the body of knowledge around trauma and post-traumatic growth.
“James Bennett-Levy has an international reputation for innovative mental health approaches and a commitment to the wellbeing or rural Australians, particularly the residents of the Northern Rivers Region. That’s why I was happy to throw my support behind this project.”
Quotes attributable to Lead Researcher, Professor James Bennett-Levy, of Southern Cross University:
“I thank the Minister for funding this world-first clinical trial of a stepped care model in a post-disaster context.
“In 2022, northern New South Wales, and Lismore in particular, experienced Australia's most devastating floods. People are still suffering from disaster-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Our research after the 2017 floods showed that mental health problems were compounded if people were self-critical and blamed themselves. We have therefore designed a stepped care program with a self-compassion focus. Step 1 will evaluate a five-session arts-based program which engages participants in creating compassion-focussed artworks. If participants still have PTSD, they may be eligible for Step 2, MDMA-assisted therapy. Prior research has shown that MDMA-assisted therapy is an effective evidence-based treatment for PTSD and enhances self-compassion.”
Quotes attributable to Vice-Chancellor and President, Southern Cross University Professor Tyrone Carlin:
“Under Professor Bennett-Levy’s leadership and expertise, this novel trial will broaden our knowledge about the effectiveness of therapeutic treatments for addressing serious trauma following a natural disaster.
“Lismore is the most flood-prone city in Australia. We know that many in the Northern Rivers community remain traumatised by the 2022 back-to-back flood disasters. Lismore is also the birthplace of Southern Cross University, and with our roots deeply embedded in the community it is appropriate we lead this project.
“We congratulate Professor Bennett Levy for being awarded the MRFF grant. It represents the largest block MRFF funding received by Southern Cross University to date and illustrates the excellence and impact of critical research conducted by the University in our region.”

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.