An Outsider’s Perspective


A particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.

As a PhD candidate, my life is immersed in research; something I came to love throughout my undergraduate degree. Further, as a researcher in the field of psychology I am lucky enough to work in a space that involves people, both as our collaborators and participants. The connections and skills that I’ve developed through this work have been immeasurable already, at only one and half years into my candidature, and I am immensely grateful to know that there is more to come in the remainder of my studies.


For some context, the following is a brief overview of my PhD Research. 


Data for my PhD is being collected primarily from a large cluster-RCT (randomised control trial) with twelve community mental health services (six intervention; six control), across three Local Health Districts (LHDs) within NSW. Our broad aim within this research is to improve the physical health inequity experienced by people living with a mental health condition. We are testing a new approach to do this in our real-world trial. The six intervention sites have employed a new clinician role with the sole purpose of seeing clients for an appointment about their physical health–in particular, their lifestyle factors (tobacco smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol overconsumption, physical inactivity, and weight)–which have been linked to poorer health outcomes, including an increased risk of chronic diseases. In order to ensure this intervention suits services and their clients, extensive consultation was sought before commencement from staff and clients, and is continuing on throughout the project in various avenues. 


An aspect of this collaboration, often referred to as ‘co-development’, which has been of great interest to me is the uniquity of adaption that has come about to support and be inclusive for Indigenous clients of the services we are working with. We, as the research team, acknowledged the importance of including this group in the project due to their high rates of engagement with lifestyle factors as reported in existing research. Through initial co-development with LHDs, we realised some services see high numbers of Indigenous clients, and we would need to adapt our approach accordingly to ensure we appropriately reached this group to prompt their participation. The below describes some of the steps we took as a research team to do this:


  • Co-development meetings: Before we rolled out the research in each of the 3 LHDs, we conducted a series of co-development meetings to better understand the services we were working with. Group members included research team representatives, service managers, clinician champions and clients, and Indigenous voices where possible. During these meetings we were able to understand service structure, processes, and clients seen. It was during these meetings we became aware of services in which Indigenous client numbers were high, providing us with important context for how we present this initiative.


  • Resource development: As part of this project, we have developed numerous resources to support both clinicians and clients in the integration and uptake of these additional appointments. For clients, resources have included waiting room posters and flyers, brochures providing information about the lifestyle factors, a diary, and recipe book. However, we understood that the resources the team had developed for clients may not be suitable or engaging for Indigenous Australians. Thus, we set out to create more appropriate resources for these clients. This involved a process of immense consultation with staff, peer workers, and clients where possible, as well as consideration of existing materials for inspiration. 


  • Ongoing adaption: Real world research can be quite unpredictable and often involves on-the-go adaptions and amendments as things change in the real world. Covid, unsurprisingly, has had a major impact on the project; for example, in terms of commencement, recruitment, availability, and data collection. Similarly, there have been adaptions and considerations to accommodate changes for the Indigenous communities that seek support from these services, such as times of mourning and impacts of natural disasters, like flooding.


As a non-Indigenous Australian, this has been an incredibly valuable process for me, and one which I feel has furthered my personal growth and understanding, and developed me as a researcher. I look forward to seeing the impact that this research has in the coming years.

Tegan Stettaford

Tegan Stettaford

Hello! My name is Tegan and I joined the Opus team in 2021 as an outlet to escape my PhD writing. I am yet to find my niche category, but you can probably expect pieces about postgraduate life, creativity, psychology, literature and all things cute and fuzzy. Outside of Opus and my PhD, I am also a peer mentor, team leader, tutor, and sessional academic (so you might just see me in class sometime!).