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Scholarship details

2024 RTP round - Determining the impact of improved affordability on Opioid Dependence Treatment Program outcomes among people who inject drugs.

Status: Closed

Applications open: 7/07/2023
Applications close: 25/08/2023

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

A major transformation in the delivery of Australia’s Opioid Dependence Treatment Program (ODTP) is underway.  Reforms commencing in the second half of 2023 will dramatically reduce the costs of treatment. In collaboration with the Burnet Institute, this project will use data from Australia’s largest and longest running prospective study of people who inject drugs to determine the impact of these changes on treatment access and related outcomes. 

Opioid dependence affects more than 100,000 Australians each year, and is associated with significant personal, social and economic harms. Opioid agonist treatment, delivered via Australia's ODTP is the frontline treatment for opioid dependence in Australia and involves prescription of methadone or buprenorphine to mitigate opioid withdrawal and cravings. Opioid agonist treatment improves health, social and criminal justice outcomes, but currently comes at a large costs to clients, typically $5-8AUD per day. These costs are a major barrier to treatment uptake and retention. In May 2023, the Australian Government announced reforms to bring these fees in line with other medications listed on Australia’s PBS – a move that will dramatically reduce the cost to clients. 

This project will evaluate the impact of these changes in cost on ODTP uptake, retention, and health and substance use-related outcomes among a cohort of people who inject drugs in Melbourne, Australia. The candidate will work with a team of other PhD candidates studying at National Drug Research Institute and the Burnet Institute across a diverse range of topics. Candidature would be full time and analyses will draw upon the disciplines of public health, epidemiology and health economics. 

This project will examine the impact of changes to client fees payable to access treatment for opioid dependence via Australia’s ODTP. It will quantify the impact of fundings changes on treatment accessibility and efficacy, as well as broader impacts on patterns of opioid use and related morbidity, mortality, and health service use. 

Specific project objectives may include determining the impact of ODTP fee changes on 1) initiation of opioid agonist treatment, 2) duration of treatment episodes, 3) frequency of opioid use, 4) incidence of drug-related harms (e.g., opioid overdose), 5) contact with health services (e.g., primary healthcare and emergency departments), or 6) contact with the criminal justice system. 

People who use opioids experience much of the health, social and criminal justice burden of drug use in Australia and elsewhere. Results from this project will provide important evidence of the impact of improving affordability of Australia’s ODTP on improving treatment uptake, retention and other key treatment outcomes and reducing opioid-related harms. Results from this project will inform policy and practice and fill gaps in our understanding of the extent to which the ODTP achieves intended aims. It is also expected that results from this project will identify additional opportunities to improve the delivery of Australia’s ODTP. 

An internship opportunity is available. There is likely scope for the candidate to undertake research in Melbourne's Supervised Injecting Room and or primary healthcare services who specialise in meeting the health needs of people who use drugs and people participating in Australia's Opioid Dependence Treatment Program. 

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • International Student
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships at the 2023 RTP rate valued at $32,250 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3 years, with a possible 6 month completion scholarship. Applicants are determined via a competitive selection process and will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2023. 

For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate willing to learn new skills and undertake statistical analyses using a variety of datasets. People within Australia with a relevant Honours or Masters (e.g Public Health, Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Psychology) or equivalent, interested in a quantitative or mixed methods PhD are encouraged to apply. Ideally the candidate should have quantitative research skills and some experience with the use of statistical packages such as R or Stata. Experience with longitudinal data, and clinical and administrative datasets would be an advantage, but is not essential. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form. ahead of the closing date. Please note you should apply as soon as possible, as once a suitable candidate has been identified this opportunity will no longer be available to receive an EOI.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2024.

Recipients must complete their milestone 1 within 6 month of enrolment and remain enrolled on a full-time basis for the duration of the scholarship.


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Mr Michael Curtis via the EOI form above.

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