Vulnerable Groups

Improving outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations

The vulnerable populations research at UWA aims to improve the health and social outcomes of some of society’s most disadvantaged groups, through evidence-based best practice. The groups we work with include:

  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
  • Individuals experiencing incarceration
  • Refugee and migrant populations
  • Veterans
  • Victims of family and domestic violence
  • ‘At-risk’ or socially disengaged adolescents

The School of Population and Global Health research examines behaviours and issues linked to socioeconomic status and their impact on health.

As the School has a strong focus on strengthening the evidence base for public policy and interventions to reduce health and social inequalities, we collaborate with policymakers, community organisations, government departments and health and human services. 

We are proactive in involving people from these vulnerable population groups in our research through contributions.

Current projects

Find a selection of our current research projects around vulnerable population groups below.

We invite you to discuss other research project ideas with us. Students can contact the Graduate Research Coordinator at the School of Population and Global Health for more information at [email protected].

Homeless Healthcare and Royal Perth Hospital Homeless Team Evaluation

The Homeless Healthcare and Royal Perth Hospital Homeless Team Evaluation project investigates health services usage and health outcomes in response to Homeless Healthcare and the Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) Homeless Team services.

Industry partners

  • Western Australian East Metropolitan Health Service
  • Homeless Healthcare
  • The Beacon, Salvation Army
  • Royal Perth Hospital Homeless Team

Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information on [email protected] or +61 8 6488 4376

Evaluation of 50 Lives 50 Homes

This research looks at the impact of the 50 Lives 50 Homes initiative on Perth’s most vulnerable homeless people.

Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information.

Red Cross Tenancy Support Programs' Evaluation

The Red Cross Tenancy Support Programs Evaluation is a mixed method study using both qualitative and quantitative data to carry out an economic evaluation and explore the perspectives and experiences of both case workers and clients. 

The two programs being evaluated are the Private Tenancy Support Service and the Assistance with Care and Housing program. 

Identifying the impact of these Red Cross programs is necessary to increase service effectiveness and to identify any barriers to tenancy support program effectiveness. 

The core elements we are looking at within the programs relate to the impacts on client housing, linked service usage, tenancy loss risk factors and client health and wellbeing. 

Industry partners

Contact Dr Karen Martin for more information.

Brief Evaluation of the Ruah Belmont SafeGuarding Families Advocacy Service

This research explores how Ruah's SafeGuarding Families program impacts individuals and families affected by domestic violence within the City of Belmont.

We are looking at the impact of the program on client confidence in child protection services, planning for their own safety, reporting risks, and applying for a violence restraining orders.  We are also examining safety in accommodation and access to support. 

Through interviews, our evaluation will also explore perceptions of the program's impact as well as barriers and facilitators to program success. We will talk to police, response teams, City of Belmont staff and those involved in the program. 

The aim of this project is to support families and individuals impacted by domestic violence, promote safety and increase perpetrator accountability. 

Industry partners

Contact Dr Karen Martin for more information.

Best Practice Principles for Refugee Family and Domestic Violence Perpetrator Interventions

The Best Practice Principles for Refugee Family and Domestic Violence Perpetrator Interventions project looks at what constitutes best practice in family and domestic violence perpetrator interventions for those from a refugee background.

Industry partner

  • Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS)

Contact Professor Colleen Fisher for more information.

Evaluation of the Aboriginal Heart Health program

This research project uses the participatory action research method of photovoice to determine the motivators, enablers and barriers to participation in the Heart Health program.

Industry partners

  • Heart Foundation
  • Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service
  • Royal Perth Hospital
  • Healthway
Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information.
Identifying Predictors and Patterns of Illness in the Period After Release from Prison

This study involves the collection of cross-sectional survey and longitudinal administrative data from a cohort of 2500 ex-prisoners in two Australia jurisdictions that together hold 44 per cent of Australia’s Indigenous prisoners.

Data for this project has been collected on socio-economic, physical and mental health circumstances.

PhD students wishing to be involved in this project should have the following:
  • quantitative research skills – a sound understanding of biostatistics is essential
  • experience working with administrative linked data is an advantage
  • sound knowledge of epidemiology and epidemiological study designs is essential.
Contact Craig Cumming for more information.
100 Families WA

This 100 Families project will investigate what stops people moving out of poverty and where the system is failing disadvantaged families.

Contact Professor Colleen Fisher for more information.

Evaluation of DRUMBEAT for Young Veterans

The Holyoake DRUMBEAT program uses a combination of drumming and cognitive behavioural therapy to promote social understanding, connection and healthy relationships. 

Associate Professor Lisa Wood and Dr Karen Martin have conducted previous DRUMBEAT evaluations in prisons and in schools, which have demonstrated the program is effective at improving the mental wellbeing and decreasing psychological distress of participants. 

Holyoake is currently developing and implementing a pilot DRUMBEAT program, specifically designed for young veterans who have been discharged from Australian Defence Force post-1999, which we will be evaluating.

Industry partners

Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information.

Mountain Biking as a Means of Engaging At-Risk and Disengaged Youth

This project investigates the potential benefits of mountain biking programs for disengaged adolescents, on a participant level and within schools and community groups.

Industry partners

  • Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
  • Rock and Roll Mountain Biking
  • Dismantle
  • Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support

Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information.

Evaluation of Safe as Houses Program

Safe as Houses (SasH) provides integrated and holistic legal and support services to untangle complex issues, with the program aimed at preventing homelessness, keeping women and children safe, and improving health and wellbeing. 

Our evaluation will capture types of assistance provided, referral pathways and changes in client circumstances post-program. Identifying critical success factors and barriers/gaps in program design or delivery will be important for refining the program. 

The main aims of our evaluation are to:

  • document the demographic profile, legal needs and housing issues of individuals who receive support from SasH
  • determine the impact of SasH case management on client outcomes (such as resolution of legal issues, legal literacy, housing security, and social networks)
  • explore client perspectives on the successes, barriers and potential for future service delivery to be strengthened, and
  • make recommendations to strengthen future service delivery.

SasH is a collaboration between Tenancy WA, Women’s Law Centre and Street Law.

Industry partners

Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information.

Improving outcomes for children of incarcerated mothers

The Improving the lives of children with incarcerated mothers project investigates the impact of maternal incarceration on life trajectories, health and social outcomes for Australian children, with the research aiming to disrupt intergenerational patterns of disadvantage.

Industry partners

  • Centre for Population Health Research, University of South Australia
  • Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • Griffith Criminology Institute

Contact Professor David Preen for more information.

Migration, Ethnicity, Healthcare and Reproduction (MEHR)

The Migration, Ethnicity, Healthcare and Reproduction (MEHR) project explores pregnancy-related health, healthcare services and outcomes within the WA population, with a focus on migrants.

Industry partners

  • Red Nose (Formerly SIDS and Kids)
  • Women & Infants Research Foundation

Contact Dr Maryam Mozooni for more information.

Reducing the Availability of Tobacco in Australia

The work in tobacco control is not yet done, and much more remains to be achieved to further reduce smoking rates in WA. The Reducing the Availability of Tobacco in Australia project looks at the effects smoking has on vulnerable groups in our society.

Industry partners

  • Cancer Council Make Smoking History
PhD opportunity

PhD students will research project opportunities available for investigating health inequalities among vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, such as:

  • barriers and enablers to smoking cessation in vulnerable population groups
  • the health and economic impact of smoking among people who are homeless
Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood for more information.


Sex offender recidivism in Australia

The Sex offender recidivism in Australia project contributes to the reduction of overall sexual offence recidivism in Australia. 

Contact Adjunct Professor Frank Morgan for more information. 


Interested in collaborating with us?

The impact of research around vulnerable population groups is elevated by close relationships with industry, philanthropic and community partners.

If you have an issue that requires specialised research and development expertise, or you would like to develop a joint research arrangement with UWA, the Office of Research Enterprise can help.

Contact Office of Research Enterprise

Contact Associate Professor Lisa Wood