Volunteering to support research

Headshot of Dr Loretta Poerio

Dr Loretta Poerio
Senior Mental Health Adviser
Department of Veterans’ Affairs

One of the greatest challenges for researchers when it comes to developing high‑quality, evidence-based programs for veterans and their families is recruiting participants to their studies. Volunteer participation enables researchers to determine what works, and for whom.

Participating in a research trial to evaluate an intervention is one way that we can make a difference to the lives of others. So, if you are eligible, it would be a valuable gift to your community. DVA funds a range of research. One study currently in its final phase is an evaluation of assistance dogs in managing symptoms of post-traumatic stress in veterans. The research has been instrumental in the development and launch of DVA’s highly successful assistance dog program.

In light of the benefit research can bring, I thought I would let you know about two trials that are currently seeking participants — one is applicable to the general population, while the other is specific to veteran families.


MindOnLIne is a mindfulness program for people with breast, bowel or prostate cancer.

More than one million Australians are cancer survivors, and this is expected to increase substantially over the next 20 years. Three-quarters of cancer survivors experience fear of cancer recurrence and 49% experience moderate to high levels of fear, as well as high levels of depression and anxiety.

There is an urgent need to address this issue and early psychosocial support is critical to preventing this problem from becoming a chronic condition. Early psychosocial support, via mindfulness-based programs, has shown some promise in reducing distress for cancer survivors.

This study will determine the impact of a 9-week online mindfulness intervention compared to usual care, among cancer survivors. If successful, the program will be rolled out as part of care and community support through health services.

Anyone who has completed treatment for prostate, breast or bowel cancer is eligible. You will also need to be over the age of 18, speak and read English, have finished treatment within the last five years and have access to the Internet. Men living with local or locally advanced prostate cancer or those under active surveillance (watch and wait) are also eligible.

The project involves a participant being randomised to the intervention group where you will receive access to the 9-week MindOnLine program, or to the control group where you will receive your usual care from your healthcare service provider. You will be asked to complete surveys at the beginning of the study, around 9 weeks later and again 6 months later.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr Natalie Heynsbergh on (03) 9246 8225, 0419 263 117 or via n.heynsbergh [at] deakin.edu.au (n[dot]heynsbergh[at]deakin[dot]edu[dot]au). For more information, please visit the MindOnLine website.

Family carer wellbeing

A study is underway into the emotional and practical support needs of family care-partners of veterans for reducing depression and promoting wellbeing.

We know that family carers often put their own needs behind the needs of those they care for, and they also tend not to seek help for their own health concerns. This puts them at increased risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes. There has been limited research in this area to understand the impacts on carers’ psychological and physical wellbeing and the practical and emotional supports required by family carers of veterans.

Anyone who self-identifies as a family carer for a veteran, anywhere in Australia, is eligible to participate in this study. There are two parts to the project:

  • Part 1 is an online questionnaire. You may complete this questionnaire anonymously.
  • Part 2 will involve a recorded interview, using Zoom, of a group of people who indicated, in the online questionnaire, that they consent to be contacted. For those completing the interview, a $50 gift card will be mailed to you, in appreciation of your time.

This research is being conducted through the University of South Australia. Please contact Dr Dannielle Post if you would like to discuss the project: dannielle.post [at] unisa.edu.au (dannielle[dot]post[at]unisa[dot]edu[dot]au) or 08 8302 1831. For more information, please visit the University of South Australia website.