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Southern Cross University awarded almost $2 million for innovative research


Jessica Nelson
11 January 2022

Southern Cross University has welcomed more than $1.94 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding in the latest rounds, achieving a sector-leading success rate in the Discovery round.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Mary Spongberg said researchers from Southern Cross University were beginning the year on a high note, leading three successful Discovery Projects and one Linkage Project from the latest round of federal government funding.

“This is a stunning result for Southern Cross University with a 27 per cent success rate for Discovery Projects, compared to the sector average of 19 per cent,” Professor Spongberg said.

First-time ARC recipient Associate Professor Lynne McPherson from the Faculty of Health has been awarded a Linkage Project grant for her project ‘Strengthening relationships for young people in residential care’ (project number LP210100177), along with renowned Southern Cross University researcher Professor Anne Graham, and Dr Kathomi Gatwiri who received the University’s Early Career Researcher of the Year in 2019.

The ARC will provide $429,569 to fund the project. Associate Professor McPherson is also the Director of Research at the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care, a division of the Australian Childhood Foundation, with that Centre contributing $109,500 in cash and $336,505 in-kind. Other partners include Charles Sturt University, University of South Australia (UniSA), Trinity College Dublin.

This project will provide policy-makers and therapeutic care providers the information required to help improve approaches to therapeutic care and enable participation of young people in care in matters that may change their life trajectory on exiting care.

In the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Bradley Eyre has achieved the rare feat of securing two Discovery Project grants as first named researcher in the same round, worth a total of $893,000, for ground-breaking research to better understand the global carbon cycle; the biogeochemical exchange of carbon between the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and fossil fuels.

Professor Eyre’s projects ‘Shallow water carbonate sediment dissolution in the global carbon cycle’ ($437,000, DP220100918), and ‘Resolving the role of dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle’ ($456,000, DP220101263) top off an impressive three years of ARC success for Professor Eyre. These are the fourth and fifth successful ARC grants awarded to teams led by Professor Eyre in that period (projects LP200200910, LP190100271 and LE200100155), and he also partnered on a sixth successful ARC application (LE200100156).

Associate Professor Renaud Joannes-Boyau, also of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, was granted $368,118 for ‘Decoding the geochemical record of early human fossils’ (DP220100195) in the Discovery Project 2022 funding round. Associate Professor Joannes-Boyau will conduct geochemical analysis on fossilised teeth of early hominins to shed light on the adaptive strategies that allowed our human ancestors to outcompete the other species.

He also achieved success on a Griffith University-led Discovery Project in this round. Both projects leverage the use of cutting-edge tandem trace element and isotopes facility equipment established at the University's Lismore campus in 2020 and 2021, funded by the ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant secured by the Associate Professor in 2020 (LE200100022).

The ARC’s Linkage Program supports academics to work with industry, government and community organisation partners to tackle complex problems and fast-track solutions, while the Discovery Program supports excellent basic and applied research, as well as national and international research collaboration to expand the knowledge base and research capacity in Australia; and the create economic, commercial, environmental, social and cultural benefits for Australia.


Details of Southern Cross University’s successful Linkage Project:

Strengthening relationships for young people in residential care, Associate Professor Lynne McPherson, Round 1 Linkage Grant, awarded $429,569 (LP210100177)

Young people in residential care face major challenges in forming positive relationships, with many having a negative views of adults, seeing them as a threat rather than a source of safety.

Associate Professor Lynne McPherson’s research team aims to find out what practices within this care model might enhance young people’s identity formation, positive social connections, safety and wellbeing, to inform policy and practice frameworks and ultimately give young people in residential care a better life experience.

“There are very substantial social benefits of an improved life trajectory for young people, many of whom may otherwise ‘graduate’ from residential care into the criminal justice or mental health systems and a life dominated by homelessness, unemployment and substance addiction as shown in our previous research,” Associate Professor McPherson said.

“Our research is deeply respectful and highly sensitive, as we will hear from and speak directly with very vulnerable young people, aged 12 – 17, who often live in residential care as they cannot be placed in kinship care or foster care.

“It is such an honour to lead this ARC Linkage Project with such a stellar team of cross-discipline, cross institution, cross-country and international leading scholars from Australia and Ireland.”

Dr Joe Tucci and Adjunct Associate Professor Janise Mitchell, CEO and Deputy CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation (industry partner) and Southern Cross University have worked closely together in recent years to establish the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care. They combine their experience and expertise with that of Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP).

“Together we make a strong team and have further developed best practice for working ethically with young people, building on decades of collaborative research by CCYP’s Director Professor Anne Graham,” Associate Professor McPherson said.

“Our research will cover the whole of NSW, focussing on nine sites that deliver therapeutic residential care, and we hope these unique insights will directly influence state government policy with implications for out-of-home care Australia-wide.”

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Mary Spongberg said she was thrilled with the research team’s success.

“This not only demonstrates their excellence as researchers and the international significance of their work, but this is such an important project supporting some the most vulnerable members of our community. It is also pleasing to see our strategy for building research capacity in the Faculty of Health is bearing fruit, as is our growing success in the Linkage scheme, which reflects Southern Cross University’s commitment to working with community and industry,” Professor Spongberg said.


Southern Cross University · Associate Professor Lynne McPherson discusses being awarded ARC Grant


Overview of Southern Cross University’s successful Discovery Projects:

  • Shallow water carbonate sediment dissolution in the global carbon cycle, Professor Bradley Eyre, Discovery Grant, awarded $437,000 (DP220101263)
  • Resolving the role of dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle, Professor Bradley Eyre, Discovery Grant, awarded $456,000 (DP220100918)
  • Decoding the geochemical record of early human fossils, Associate Professor Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Discovery Grant, awarded $368,118 (DP220100195)
  • Southern Cross University is also a project partner on Griffith University’s Discovery Project ‘Early art culture and occupation along the northern route to Australia’ (DP220100462), with Associate Professor Joannes-Boyau a collaborator. Southern Cross is expected to receive around 30 per cent of the project funding.


More information on these Discovery projects coming soon.