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Research Advisory Committee

Research Advisory Committee

Veteran Sport Australia supports all veterans and their families to improve their health and wellbeing through sport.  

To ensure that our program is evidence-led and as effective as it can be, Veteran Sport Australia formed a Research Advisory Committee. 

Our objectives 

The Research Advisory Committee: 

  1. Helps refine and endorse Veteran Sport Australia’s research strategy and research goals
  2. Helps collate and review relevant existing and ongoing research
  3. Shapes Veteran Sport Australia’s approach to collecting data and reporting 
  4. Identifies research opportunities 
  5. Drives quality research outcomes and application of research findings 

Kristi Heffernan  

Senior Clinical Specialist, Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Phoenix Australia 

Kristi Heffernan is a clinical psychologist and senior clinical specialist with Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health. Kristi works in the recently established Sydney office of Phoenix Australia and provides advice and support to individuals and organisations aiming to improve the lives of people exposed to trauma. A key component of this role is working to support current and ex-serving veterans. Prior to working with Phoenix Australia, Kristi spent many years working as a psychologist in the Australian Defence Force. She provided preventive and early interventions for military personnel as well as clinical interventions, particularly in the post-deployment context. Kristi has led and contributed to the development and delivery of education and training at Phoenix Australia and in Defence, and has contributed to the development of mental health policy and resilience training. She has led psychology teams on military operations overseas and has led several critical incident mental health responses in the aftermath of potentially traumatic events. Kristi has also led a research project with the Australian Defence Force investigating the psychological coping mechanisms amongst deployed military personnel. Kristi is committed to supporting organisations, individuals and their families to manage workplace stress and reduce the mental health impacts of trauma. Kristi continues to serve as a LTCOL in the Army reserve and is a veteran of operations in Afghanistan, the Middle East and East Timor. 

Dr Miranda Van Hooff  

Director of Research, Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, Adelaide University 

Dr Miranda Van Hooff is the Director of Research at The University of Adelaide's Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies. Over the course of her career, Dr Van Hooff has conducted several large-scale longitudinal studies of childhood survivors of the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfires, children hospitalised for a significant burn injury, children exposed to the neurotoxic effects of lead in childhood and adults exposed to the 2006 Black Tuesday Bushfires. Since 2009, her research has focused on the mental health of current and ex-serving Australian military and emergency service personnel, as the lead researcher on the 2015 Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme, the 2010 Military Health Outcomes Programme and the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service Health and Wellbeing Study. These studies were the first in Australia to ascertain the prevalence of ICD-10 Mental Disorder in current and ex-serving ADF members and South Australian Firefighters and have been strong drivers of change in relation to policy and service provision. Dr Van Hooff’s excellent history of NHMRC, Cat 2 and contract research funding has involved widespread and long-standing collaboration with numerous external stakeholders including DVA, the Department of Defence, the SA Metropolitan Fire Service, The Road Home, the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, The Royal Society for the Blind and Assistance Dogs Australia. Dr Van Hooff has authored 43 peer-reviewed journal articles, 1 book chapter and 31 commissioned reports for the Departments of Defence and Veterans Affairs. Dr Van Hooff has received research grant funding of over $9.1M since 2013. 

Dr Simon Rosenbaum  

Senior Research Fellow, School of Psychiatry and Director, Exercise Sports Science Australia, UNSW 

Associate Professor Dr Simon Rosenbaum is a Scientia Fellow in the School of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney and the Black Dog Institute. Simon has published over 170 peer-reviewed publications, including a textbook on the role of exercise in the treatment of mental illness. Simon serves as an elected national director of Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA), is the Vice-President of the Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress (ASTSS) and has worked with a variety of groups including emergency service workers, contemporary veterans and refugees.   

Julie Pert  

Director NSW/ACT, Open Arms 

Julie Pert is the NSW/ACT State Director of Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counseling. Julie is also a reservist with over 20 years in the Army and a clinically trained psychologist. She has also worked with embassy staff overseas and emergency services more recently as the Occupational Psychologist for FRNSW.  As a result of working with staff on the frontline, her areas of interest and specialty include: trauma management, training, counselling, assessment and selection.  

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly VVCS) is Australia’s leading provider of high-quality mental health assessment and clinical counselling services for Australian veterans and their families. Open Arms is focused on meeting client needs through a combination of proven clinical practices and new and emerging evidence-based approaches. 

Karen May  

Associate Director, Australian Centre of Excellence for PTS, The Road Home 

Karen May is the Associate Director, Australian Centre of Excellence for Post-Traumatic Stress, for The Road Home and also currently working on her PhD at Adelaide University focussing on a therapeutic model for children of a parent with service related post-traumatic stress. Karen’s background is psychotherapy, participatory action research and community development. The Road Home researchers also work closely with a service delivery arm engaging veterans, first responders and their families, addressing their support needs. Karen has worked with many communities who have experienced trauma in Australia and also in developing countries. Karen enjoys her current role in research to impact and improve the health and wellbeing of veteran and emergency service families. Karen and her veteran partner have four kids – Maddy, Ben, Evalyn and Huon –ranging 16 to 8 years old. 

Dr Lindsey Reece  

Senior Research Fellow, Prevention Research Collaboration, USYD  

Dr Lindsey Reece has extensive experience in applied research and evaluation, specialising in Physical Activity, Sport and Public Health.  Her primary interest is in reducing physical inactivity - a global problem leading to long term chronic disease, and support more people to become physically active to achieve positive health, wellbeing and economic outcomes. Within her current role as Research Fellow at the University of Sydney’s Prevention Research Collaboration, she is the Academic lead of the SPRINTER (Sport and Active Recreation Intervention & Epidemiology Research) group - an innovative research partnership with the Office of Sport, NSW government. Previously, Lindsey managed a broad range of research and evaluation initiatives with Public Health England and Sport England to implement their national physical activity and sport strategies. Her portfolio included evaluation work for: city-wide physical activity pathway for people affected by cancer; Child and Adolescent Obesity regional public health program; whole systems approach to obesity control; physical activity programme aimed at integrating physical activity within clinical care pathways. Lindsey also sits on the global research board for parkrun and is the Academic lead for parkrun au. 

Dr Anna Lewis 

Squadron Leader, Royal Australian Air Force Specialist Reserve, Principal Research Investigator ADF Adaptive Sports Program

Dr Anna Lewis is an RAAF Reserve Physiotherapist with a strong research and clinical background. Her research experience includes a doctoral research study investigating clinical pilates as a treatment for chronic low back pain in the Australian Defence Force. This work was recognised with the Sir Edward Weary Dunlop Award at the Australasian Military Medicine Association Conference in 2010. Anna has a strong focus on assisting people to improve function and pain through exercise. Currently Anna is leading a research study evaluating the effect of participating in exercise programs to improve physical and mental health for Wounded, Injured and Ill (WII) ADF members. In public health roles, Anna has led production and development of health system reports in areas of access, safety and quality and efficiency of health services. She has proven experience in leading a team through scoping, research and literature reviews and analysis of data to report on appropriate health system utilisation to assist clinical practice improvements. Recently Anna was seconded to the NSW Ministry of Health to support the COVID-19 response. Anna works as a physiotherapist at Sports Focus Physiotherapy maintaining her strong interest in clinical pilates and rehabilitation programs utilising exercise.