Long before it was recognised as one of Australia’s leading Indigenous and tropical health medical research institutes, Menzies began as a vision to understand and improve the difficult and complex health problems faced by Aboriginal communities in the north.
Talk about setting up a dedicated health research centre in the Northern Territory began in October 1980 at the inaugural national conference of the Menzies Foundation in Melbourne. Here the Foundation’s Northern Territory representative, Harry Giese AM MBE talked plainly and passionately about the significant and complex health problems in the NT.
Harry Giese’s energy enthused a key group of players who would throw their weight behind his call for a dedicated health research centre to be established in the Northern Territory.
With funding provided by the Northern Territory Government and The Menzies Foundation, and academic recognition from the University of Sydney, the Menzies School of Health Research was officially opened in June 1984 by the Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen with research commencing in January 1985.
The new brave, cooperative venture would appoint Professor John Mathews as its Foundation Director.
Professor Mathews would build and lead a multidisciplinary research team to provide new insights into the social and biological causes of ill-health in Aboriginal communities, and to advocate for improved health services, education and living conditions.
From its establishment, Menzies would work closely with Indigenous people to uphold community control over the research agenda; a foundation pillar which remains to this day.
Early areas of Menzies research and education would include heart disease, trachoma and Chlamydia, hepatitis B, alcohol related diseases, nutrition and infectious diseases.
Thirty years later, Menzies research continues to grow and diversify. Today Menzies is acknowledged as the nation’s leader in Indigenous health research and our diverse portfolio of research includes mental health, nutrition, substance abuse, child health and development, as well as chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney disease and heart disease.
Menzies also leads global research into life-threatening illnesses in the Asia-Pacific, such as malaria and tuberculosis.
Together we will shape the next chapters of the Menzies story, advancing access and health outcomes for generations to come.
More history is available on the Menzies website - www.menzies.edu.au/history