The Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Lung Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children is dedicated to improving the lung health of children, particularly Indigenous children.

Led by the Menzies School of Health Research, the CRE involves collaboration between researchers from several centres, including the Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, the University of Queensland and Wollongong University.

Lung conditions are the most common reason why Indigenous people see a doctor and the second most common reason for hospitalisation. It is increasingly appreciated that a lot of lung disease seen in adults starts in children, and many of these lung conditions can be prevented and/or treated if they are recognised and managed before irreversible lung damage sets in. 


The CRE in Respiratory Health is a five year program of research and capacity building funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) from 2012-2017.

Our emblem:

Our emblem is a reproduction of a painting by talented Indigenous artist and former Menzies employee, Chidanpee. This is Chidanpee's description of how the painting represents the lungs:

“When the earth was made, so were the first trees. They cleaned the air through their branches and leaves. The same is reflected in us with our lungs; they have branches like trees breathing in the air and cleaning our body and provide much needed oxygen. The butterflies represent a delicate balance; if something happens to the air, the butterflies will die. That's why we must look after our air, like we have to look after our lungs because they keep us alive. The red dots represent alveoli that are at the end of the branches.” 


The Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) Lung Health involves experts in the respiratory health of Indigenous children from around Australia and the world. The team includes clinicians, laboratory scientists and health service delivery experts, some of whom are Indigenous people.

The major respiratory problems in Indigenous people are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Asthma.

The CRE Lung Health aims to:

  • Generate new knowledge that leads to improved health outcomes
  • Ensure transfer of research outcomes into health policy and/or practice
  • Develop the health and medical research workforce, particularly of Indigenous researchers
  • Facilitate collaboration
  • Record research and translation achievements.

Indigenous infants in the Northern Territory (NT) suffer some of the highest rates of acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia, in the world.

Pneumonia is characterised by inflammation of the alveoli (small air sacs) in the lungs, resulting in poor movement of air due to a build up of mucous. This may result in breathing difficulties, cough, irritability and/or fever. Infants who experience poor hygiene and living conditions, poor nutrition, low birth weight and exposure to smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia.

Bronchiolitis is both the most common cause of preventable deaths of Indigenous infants in the NT and the most common reason for their hospitalisation.

Bronchiolitis occurs in the winter months in temperate climates or in the rainy season in the tropics. It is a clinically diagnosed illness in children aged 12-24 months starting with 2-3 days of an upper respiratory tract infection, cold-like symptoms and fever. This is then followed by rapid breathing and/or shortness of breath. Mucous in the lower airways leads to airway swelling and obstruction, causing over inflation and increased breathing effort.

Bronchiectasis / Chronic Suppurative Lung Disease
A large proportion of adults in the NT with Chronic Suppurative Lung Disease (CSLD) die by 40 years of age.

CSLD results from a variety of disorders that cause lung injury. Sufferers typically have prolonged and/or recurrent periods of wet or productive cough, with or without other features such as coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath on exercise, symptoms of asthma, fatigue, recurrent chest infections, growth failure, hyperinflation and chest wall deformity. It is diagnosed using radiology (CT scan of the chest) combined with clinical symptoms.

Effective management of CSLD, particularly in children, prevents further lung deterioration. This involves intensive treatment when exacerbations occur. Treatment consists of different approaches and the main ones are antibiotics and chest physiotherapy. People with CSLD should also be regularly reviewed in clinic. 

  1. Anderson-James, S., Marchant, J. M., Acworth, J. P., Turner, C., & Chang, A. B. (2013). Inhaled corticosteroids for subacute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2, CD008888.
  2. Hare, K. M., Marsh, R. L., Binks, M. J., Grimwood, K., Pizzutto, S. J., Leach, A. J., et al. (2013). Quantitative PCR confirms culture as the gold standard for detection of lower airway infection by nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae in Australian Indigenous children with bronchiectasis.  J Microbiol Methods, 92(3), 270-272.
  3. McDonald, E. L., Bailie, R., & Michel, T. (2013). Development and trialling of a tool to support a systems approach to improve social determinants of health in rural and remote Australian communities: the healthy community assessment tool. Int J Equity Health, 12(1), 15.
  4. Medlin, L. (2012). Twinkle, twinkle little star. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 36(2), 6-7.
  5. Morey, M. J., Cheng, A. C., McCallum, G. B., & Chang, A. B. (2013). Accuracy of cough reporting by carers of Indigenous children. J Paediatr Child Health, 49(3), E199-203.
  6. Pizzutto, S. J., Grimwood, K., Bauert, P., Schutz, K. L., Yerkovich, S. T., Upham, J. W., & Chang, A. B. (2013). Bronchoscopy contributes to the clinical management of indigenous children newly diagnosed with bronchiectasis. Pediatr Pulmonol, 48(1), 67-73.

The following resources are available on our resources page.

Paedeatric flipcharts:

  • Asthma (short wind in children)
  • Bronchiolitis (Lower respiratory tract infection)   
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic suppurative lung disease bronchiectasis (chronic lung sickness).

Paedeatric respiratory posters:

  • How to use a puffer with a spacer
  • Do you cough?
  • "Don’t share your germs: you can stop germs from spreading and making you sick"
  • "Smoking is no good: clean air grows healthy lungs".


  1. Menzies' lung and cancer programs win $5 million in 'research excellence' funding

    Menzies' lung and cancer programs win $5 million in 'research excellence' funding


    Two esteemed lung health and cancer research programs from the Menzies School of Health Research were today declared ‘Centres for Research Excellence’ and awarded funding of $2.5 million each over five years.

Chief Investigators:
  • Professor Anne Chang, Menzies School of Health Research and Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • Professor Ngaire Brown, University of Wollongong
  • Professor Kim Mulholland, Menzies School of Health Research and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Dr Kerry-Ann O’Grady, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • Professor Keith Grimwood, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • Associate Professor Peter Morris, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Associate Professor Amanda Leach, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Professor John Upham, University of Queensland
  • Professor Paul Torzillo, University of Sydney
  • Ms Heather D’Antoine, Menzies School of Health Research.
 Associate Investigators:
  • Professor Bart Currie, Menzies School of Health Research and Royal Darwin Hospital
  • Dr Catherine Byrnes, Department of Paediatrics, Child and Youth Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland; Pediatric Respiratory Department, Starship Children’s Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Dr Sue Crengle, Tomaiora Maori Health Research Centre, University of Auckland
  • Mr Kane Ellis, Danila Dilba Health Service
  • Associate Professor Lucas Hoffman, Seattle Children's Hospital
  • Ms Bilawara Lee, Elder, Larrakia Nation and Flinders University Northern Territory Clinical School
  • Dr Barbara Paterson, Northern Territory Department of Health
  • Dr Rosalyn Singleton, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
  • Dr Heidi Smith-Vaughan, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Dr Stephanie Yerkovich, Queensland Centre for Pulmonary Transplantation and Vascular Disease.
CRE Research Fellows and Scholars:
  • Dr Elizabeth McDonald, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Dr Noritta Morseu-Diop, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • Dr Helen Petsky, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute.
Our students:
  •  Linda Medlin, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute.

For any questions or further information you can contact our Business Manager Dr Deborah Holt.