5 November 2008

Communities and Disability Services Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr yesterday opened Australia's first Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Support based at The University of Queensland's Ipswich campus.

"The best international and home-grown talent will head up this first centre which will lead the development of best practice models and help roll these out across Queensland to help improve quality care and the lives of Queenslanders with a disability," she said.

"I'm really pleased to be meeting some of the first cohort of experts, including interim Director and Brisbane academic Monica Cuskelly.

"Associate Professor Cuskelly is an experienced clinical psychologist in the disability field and takes the helm this week.

"She has a distinguished academic and research career, including her most recent role as a senior lecturer at The University of Queensland's School of Education, and she will lead the establishment and development of this ground-breaking research, policy and training facility.

"By consulting widely with Queensland service providers, national and international researchers, Associate Professor Cuskelly will play a fundamental role in shaping a world class centre which sets the benchmark for others."

Acting Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Professor Cindy Gallois, said a key element of the centre was its focus on training, professional development, and workforce development for the disability services sector.

“The Centre will have responsibility for developing and delivering statewide training, based on research, evaluation and policy for government and non-government service providers,” Professor Gallois said.

“It will also provide advice in the development and delivery of tertiary education and workforce training to improve skills and competencies within the disability sector required for behaviour analysis, active support models and positive behaviour support models.”

She said that by working closely with service providers, the Centre would be both responsive and proactive in ensuring services met the needs of clients at a grassroots level.

“The research to be undertaken will then provide the basis for innovative approaches to training for those who are in the critical front line of providing support to people with intellectual disabilities.

“Incorporating findings into undergraduate and postgraduates courses in the social sciences, and tailored postgraduate study with internship opportunities will also improve workforce skills and expertise.”

The centre is a key milestone in the Queensland Government's $113 million, four-year response to the Carter Report which is reshaping Queensland's disability services sector.

"Centre staff will work to build best practice models of care that support people with an intellectual or cognitive disability and challenging behaviours," Ms Nelson-Carr said.

"They'll also work closely and cooperatively with service providers across the State to ensure these quality practices are implemented on the ground where they are needed most."

The first round of staff recruits features 12 overseas appointees, including team leaders and principal clinicians from the United Kingdom and the United States.

Other senior appointments at the Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Support include: • Dr Kim Meyer (USA, currently Hawaii) who has a background in behaviour analysis and psychosocial rehabilitation. He has been appointed the Director of Research in Behaviour Support;

• Robert Heron, a former Director of Nursing, with extensive experience in Queensland Health services, and expertise in training development and delivery. He has been appointed Director of Learning and Development; and

• Clare Townsend-White, a social work clinician and mental health lecturer, who brings extensive experience in international and national research into the role as the centre's Director of Policy Research.

State Member for Ipswich Rachel Nolan said opening the new Centre of Excellence dedicated to the development of best care was an important leap forward for Queenslanders with a disability, their families and carers.

"By creating an important research and training focus like this, in partnership with the University of Queensland, we are signalling a new chapter for the old Challinor site," Ms Nolan said.

"It has been part of our past and now, in a new life, it can focus on delivering a better future for Queenslanders."

Media: Minister Nelson-Carr's office (07 3235 4280) or Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723, penny.robinson@uq.edu.au)

Senior staff backgrounds:

Interim Centre Director - Associate Professor Monica Cuskelly
Associate Professor Cuskelly is an experienced clinical psychologist in the disability field and a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland. She has led and participated in a number of research initiatives relating to disability, with a particular focus on early intervention.
She is widely-published in the areas of people with a developmental and intellectual disability, children with Down syndrome, children with autism, the perspectives of families of children with a disability and strategies to assist families.

Director of Research in Behaviour Support - Dr Kim Meyer
Dr Meyer is re-locating from his current position as Director of Rehabilitation at the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe. He is responsible for administration, as well as developing vocational and therapy programs for a large number of their clients with a dual diagnosis.
As Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, East Carolina University, Dr Meyer lectured in Research Methodology, as well as Psychology and Assessment. He has conducted a range of research projects in behaviour analysis and intervention.
Dr Meyer has most recently been a member of the academic staff of the Department of Psychology at the University of Hawaii and has maintained an active role as a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.

Director of Policy Research - Clare Townsend-White
Clare Townsend-White is an exper ienced social work clinician and has completed a doctoral thesis in mental health policy development issues in developing countries.
She is currently employed as Principal Mental Health Policy Analyst at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, where she has worked since 2000.
Among her achievements at the centre was to provide the policy research to inform the development of mental health plans, not only in Queensland but also in other states. She also lectures in mental health, teaching post-graduate students at the University of Queensland and at the University of Melbourne.
Ms Townsend-White has played a key research role at an international level, collaborating with agencies like Geneva Initiative, the World Health Organisation and World Bank. She has also conducted extensive policy research in collaboration with non-government organisations and researchers in the filed.

Director of Learning and Development - Robert Heron
Robert Heron ha s a Master of Nursing (Research) degree. Through his various roles in nursing, including stints as assistant director of nursing, nursing director and nurse educator, he has developed graduate nursing programs and developed strategies focusing on long-term retention.
He established a range of specialised nursing programs, providing support to experts and clinicians in their development and delivery.
Most recently, Mr Heron worked in the Queensland Health's Centre for Mental Health Learning, undertaking a review of mental health training and mental health literacy among frontline staff across all human services departments within government.