The Centre for Youth AOD Research and Practices take great pride in their partnerships, working together ensure better outcomes and opportunities for young people dealing with substance use issues.

Strategic Partners:

The Centre for Youth AOD has partnered with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and Orygen for the next three years. Together with MRCI and Orygen we endeavour to understand how substance use impacts young people's social, mental and physical development.

 Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has worked tirelessly over the past 33 years to ensure it is one of the world’s top three research institutes. Its aim is to take what is being experienced in hospitals by young people and staff through to research to in turn help develop new, up-to-date and practical treatments to be taken back to hospitals. 

Professor Stuart Kinner is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and leads a program of research on the health of marginalised and justice-involved people. His work is distinguished by methodological rigour, ethical research practice, and meaningful research translation. He is Head of the Justice Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, and Group Leader, Justice Health in the Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. He also holds Honorary appointments at Monash University, University of Queensland, Griffith University, University of British Columbia, and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement.

Stuart is experienced in longitudinal studies, multi-sectoral data linkage, randomised controlled trials, program evaluation, policy analysis, systematic review, and meta-analysis. He has produced >200 publications and attracted >$24 million in research and consulting funds, mostly from nationally competitive schemes. Stuart Chairs Australia’s National Youth Justice Health Advisory Group, and the WHO Health in Prisons Programme Technical Expert Group.

He Co-Chairs the Research Committee in the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, and co-convenes the Justice Health Special Interest Group in the Public Health Association of Australia. He serves on the Steering Committee for the Worldwide Prison Health Research & Engagement Network (WEPHREN), is a member of the WHO Steering Group on Prisons Health, and leads the Health Theme in the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

Melissa Willoughby  is a PhD candidate in the Justice Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Melissa also holds a research assistant position in the Centre for Adolescent Health at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Her research interests centre around the health of marginalised populations and violence prevention. Her current research examines violence-related death and morbidity among adults and young people exposed to the criminal justice system. She was awarded First Class Honours in Justice and Criminology from RMIT University. 


   Orygen’s belief that young people deserve to grow into adulthood with optimal mental health resonates strongly with YSAS. Orygen has been working with young people for 35 years, initially offering them highly developed inpatient psychosocial recovery programs. The organisation has grown immensely since then, including the national reform that became headspace.  

Dr Gillinder Bedi is a Senior Research Fellow (Addiction and Youth Mental Health) at the Centre for Youth Mental Health, the University of Melbourne, and Head of the Substance Use Research Group and Early intervention clinic (SURGE) at Orygen.

She completed doctoral training in clinical psychology at Monash University, studying cognitive problems and psychiatric symptoms in people who use ecstasy and cannabis.

Gill then moved to the United States, completing two years of postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago, where she focused on better understanding the effects of MDMA (the main active drug in ‘ecstasy’). From 2009 until 2017, she was a faculty member in the Division on Substance Use Disorders at Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute in NYC. Gill returned to Melbourne in 2017 to lead the development of a youth-focused clinical drug and alcohol research program at Orygen.

Gill’s research group SURGE focuses on early intervention for substance use problems in young people between 12 and 25 years old, testing new treatments for substance use issues in young people with and without other mental health issues. The group is testing a range of approaches, including opportunistic psychological early interventions, behavioural treatments, and new medications to reduce substance use and related harms in young people. A major focus is on protecting the developmental trajectory so that young people who use substances can achieve their full potential as they move into adulthood. Gill also has a continuing program of research at Columbia in NYC which is focusing on understanding the mechanisms of substance use problems. Her research uses a range of methods, including clinical trials, human behavioural pharmacology, and neuroimaging.  

Dr Katrina Witt is an NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow based at Orygen and the Centre for Youth Mental Health at The University of Melbourne, Australia. She completed her Doctorate degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where she continues to have an ongoing honorary appointment with the Centre for Suicide Research, University of Oxford, UK.

Her interests and expertise represent multiple areas, including improving statistical methods for the evaluation of effective suicide prevention and self-harm intervention programs across settings, including in youth mental health, alcohol and other drug treatment settings, and primary care settings.

Katrina is also a Senior Methods Editor for the Cochrane Collaboration Suicide and Self-Harm and the Youth Mental Health Groups and, in this role, regularly produces Cochrane Collaboration systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the current status of effective treatments for suicide prevention, self-harm, and youth mental health which are used to inform clinical practice guidelines both in Australia and internationally. For example, she received commissions from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to co-lead on the development of authoritative clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of all suicidal persons presenting to Victorian emergency departments.

Katrina has received numerous commendations and awards for her work, including most recently from the Victorian Young Achiever’s Foundation (2017), the BUPA Foundation (2018), and in 2019 she received the Andrej Marušiĉ Early Career Researcher Award from the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

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