Date published: 
21 May 2020
Intended audience: 
General public
Bushfire smoke

On 15 January 2020 the Australian Government announced that it is investing $5 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) in research on the health effects of the recent bushfires.

The MRFF’s Emerging Priorities and Consumer-Driven Research initiative is funding 2 research streams:

  1. Physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure
  2. Mental health impacts of bushfires on affected communities

The 2019–20 bushfire events highlighted the impacts of exposure to toxic ash and pollutants on human health, including mental health. We saw the stress that bushfires place on:

  • first responders
  • their families
  • those who had to evacuate their communities
  • those who lost loved ones, homes or businesses

This research will link researchers, institutions, policy makers and professional associations together to form a comprehensive snapshot of the health effects of the 2019–20 bushfires on Australians.

The data collected through this research will be used to:

  • inform future preparedness, response and recovery efforts
  • provide accurate and practical public health advice
  • provide mental health services during bushfire and medium-term smoke events

The MRFF provides grants to support health and medical research and innovation to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians. Read more about the MRFF.

This funding complements the Government’s other funding for Australians affected by the bushfires:

See below for a list of successful applicants for the MRFF 2020 Bushfire Impact Research grants.

Stream 1: Physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure

Funded Institution

Project Name

Chief Investigator

Total Funding

Newcastle University

Bushfire Impact on Vulnerable Groups: the respiratory burden and effective community solutions

Professor Peter Gibson


University of Technology Sydney

Defining and treating the physiological effects of bushfire smoke exposure

Professor Philip Hansbro


University of New South Wales

A randomised controlled trial of mask use in control of respiratory outcomes during bushfire season

Professor Raina MacIntyre


Monash University

Physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure on first responders and outdoor workers

Professor Malcolm Sim


Stream 2: Mental health impacts of bushfires on affected communities

Funded Institution

Project Name

Chief Investigator

Total Funding

Australian National University

The short and long term impacts of bushfires on children and their caregivers mental health: Using the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to understand the economic, family and community protective factors

Associate Professor Benjamin Edwards


University of Western Australia

Supporting the ongoing wellbeing and resilience of Australia's first responders following the 2019/20 bushfires

Associate Professor David Lawrence


University of Canberra

Supporting mental health through building resilience during and after bushfires: lessons from the 2019-20 bushfires in southern NSW and the ACT

Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer


University of New England

Enhancing social and emotional wellbeing healing through arts-based storytelling for Aboriginal communities of Northern Inland NSW bushfire affected areas

Professor Kim Usher


Australian National University

Building community resilience to promote mental health in bushfire-affected communities

Professor Iain Walker