Australian Unity’s antecedent organisations received a number of bequests from members for the purposes of supporting education initiatives of the organisations’ members.

Recognising this heritage, in 2010, the Australian Unity Foundation launched the Heritage Fellowship grant program to assist members undertaking post-graduate research. The grants are usually in the order of $50,000 (inc GST), and funds research that seeks to find solutions to the challenges facing Australia’s ageing population and the rise of chronic disease, or investigate ways to improve community wellbeing.

Applications for the 2015 Australian Unity Heritage Fellowship closed at 5pm Friday 28th August 2015. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by 30 October 2015.


The 2014 recipient

Ms Meredith Gresham - The clinical utility of the electronic bidet for Australian aged care residents and staff
 Loss of continence and the ability to independently toilet has profound and negative impacts for the person who experiences such loss; their family and professional carers; health and aged care systems; and the economy.

Over 316,500 Australians experience severe incontinence, with women and older people disproportionately represented. Incontinence costs the Australian economy over $1.6 billion per year. Despite the magnitude of the problem, management in aged care has changed little over the last few decades.

This practical study aims to test the clinical utility of the novel electronic toilet-top bidet to provide dignified and effective cleaning after voiding. This study will investigate the acceptability of the bidet for aged care residents through observation and monitoring of behaviours of concern during toileting; determine effectiveness of the bidet to clean and dry after voiding; measure effect of bidet use on bacterial growth in urine and urinary tract infection rates; effect on skin excoriation; change in use of incontinence pads and use of aperients. Changes in staff work practice, including time spent in toileting activities, staff strain and injury will also be explored.

The study outcomes are readily implementable and may provide significant benefits in residential and community care settings over current, usual care practices.

The 2013 recipient

Dr Jennifer McGinley – Living an active life with Parkinson’s disease

Regular physical activity is vital for wellbeing, providing a wide range of recognised health and social benefits. Staying active is particularly challenging for people with disabling chronic health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Over 65,000 Australians have PD, a common neurological disorder causing progressive difficulty with walking and everyday activities, often leading to reduced quality of life. New knowledge is needed to enable people with PD to stay physically active.

The aim of this study is to examine and understand physical activity behaviours of Australians living with PD.

A large scale nationwide survey will investigate physical activity levels and knowledge and perception of activity recommendations. A wide range of factors potentially associated with activity levels will be explored, such as level of disability, type of movement symptoms, self-efficacy, and symptoms such as depression, fatigue or apathy. Specific issues that form barriers or enablers to regular activity will also be identified. Focus groups will explore how people with PD view physical activity and what factors make it easier or more difficult to stay active. The outcomes will provide new knowledge to enable health professionals to develop tailored physical activity programs to better meet the needs of people with PD.

The 2012 recipient

Associate Professor Caroline Marshall – Improving antibiotic use in residential aged care facilities

Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to modern medicine.  The use of antibiotics is the main driver for this.  Importantly, there is a great burden of infection in residential aged care facilities (RACFs).  RACFs serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistant bacteria, which incur significant morbidity, mortality and cost.  Whilst appropriate antibiotic use is a priority in acute care facilities, little is known about antibiotic use in RACFs. 

This study aims to examine the antibiotic prescribing workflow and behaviour in RACFs.  Observation of workflow will be performed to delineate how decisions are made about the presence of infection and whether to prescribe antibiotics as well as to follow the pathway for obtaining antibiotics once this decision has been made. 

Interviews will be conducted with stakeholders, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists, residents and their families.  Barriers and enablers for improving antibiotic prescribing will be determined and a model of the best way to do this will be developed.  The outcome will facilitate development of strategies to improve antibiotic use in RACFs, minimise drug toxicity, and avert hospital admission.  The community and patients will benefit from optimal use of antibiotics and reduction in development of resistance.

The 2011 recipients

Dr Sue Fletcher and research partner, Dr Helen McBurney - Client decision-making on attending cardiac rehabilitation programs

Cardiac disease remains the number one cause of mortality in the Australian population. There is evidence that attendance at cardiac rehabilitation programs is effective in reducing long term mortality, but these programs are underutilised. Patients who do not attend the program can have poor knowledge of risk factors and don’t understand the impact of depression and social isolation on cardiac disease. Dr Susan Fletcher’s study aims to understand the decision drivers behind a patient’s choice to attend a cardiac rehabilitation program. The intended outcome is to facilitate further participation from clients.      

Dr Carolyn McIntyre - Whole body vibration treatment in prostate cancer survivors on Androgen Suppression Therapy

More than 2,000 men in Australia commence ongoing androgen suppression therapy (AST) for prostate cancer each year. AST leads to many toxicities including reduced bone density and increased skeletal fractures. Whole-body vibration training is a relatively new form of therapy that has been shown in certain populations to improve bone density. Dr Carolyn McIntyre’s study aims to examine the effect of vibration training on bone health for survivors of prostate cancer that are currently undergoing AST.