Research and Advocacy Program

Research carried out by the Kirby Centre has a strong translational focus, and aims to influence policies and programmes so that the fulfilment of human rights is regarded as an integral component of good public health practice. Projects include

HeLP Patient Legal ClinicThis project involves the establishment of pro bono legal clinics in metropolitan and regional public and private hospitals. Through the provision of on-site pro bono legal assistance, the HeLP Patient Legal Clinic provides legal advice to hospital patients who experience health-related legal problems. The second phase of this project will involve an evaluation of the clinic’s impact on patient health and wellbeing.

Restorative Justice for Survivor-Victims of Sexual Violence
The Kirby Centre together with other critical groups is developing a “restorative justice” pilot intended to meet the needs of survivor-victims of sexual violence. Survivor-victims who will benefit from a restorative justice option outside of the criminal justice system include: those whose cases do not meet stringent legal evidentiary burdens; those who fear the re-traumatising effects of a court case; family violence cases where the survivor-victim does not want (or is unable) to prosecute or leave an abusive partner or relative; and those who have experienced historic sexual abuse. The focus of restorative justice is repairing the harm done to survivor-victims by engaging offenders and others complicit in enabling the harm to make good the damage they have caused.

Cross-Cultural Ethics
The Kirby Centre is interested in understanding the practical relevance of the Universal ethical principles for clinical medicine in countries that differ from the West culturally as well as in terms of resource availability and distribution. We aim to investigate the extent to which these principles provide useful guidance to practitioners faced with ethical dilemmas that may differ from those experienced by doctors working in Australia or other Western countries, and who practice in an environment with very different challenges. By considering the local context and values and conducting research to understand what ethical practice looks like in a given country, we aim to assist local collaborators in modifying the ethics curriculum for medical students to provide them with a more culturally appropriate foundation for practicing medicine ethically. We are currently working with collaborators in India to understand the pressures and ethical dilemmas faced by doctors working within the Indian medical system. Our work aims to contribute to efforts to devise an ethics curriculum that is more relevant to the unique Indian healthcare context.

Dual Loyalties – Project now complete

This project examined the ethics, human rights and practical implications of Australian law and policy on the day-to-day treatment of asylum seekers in detention - in particular the ability for health care practitioners to practice ethical care in this setting.

Privacy in Epidemiological Research

Laws and ethical guidelines concerning privacy in research are based upon a set of presumptions about what the public thinks. Using mixed methods, this project examines what people really do think about privacy in research and the extent and manner to which it should be protected.

Regulating to Prevent Obesity

Addressing widespread obesity requires the creation of sustained multi-pronged and large scale interventions to systematically address the complex and interconnected mix of determinants from behaviours to social, physical, political and economic environments.

Sex work
We posit that lack of recognition of sex workers as persons before the law in low resource settings may be a key driver of sex workers’ social and economic marginalisation and limit the potential efficacy of health and welfare programmes.

Evaluation of mentorship in international research ethics training schemes


This research investigates the models, process, and theoretical underpinnings of mentoring in past and current programmes that have received National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for training in international research ethics.

Linking international clinical research to justice in global health

The ‘research for health justice’ framework identifies the obligations of justice owed by external research actors from high-income countries (e.g., national governments, funders, sponsors, and researchers) to trial participants and host communities. This case study research shows that the ethical requirements identified by the ‘research for health justice’ framework can be achieved in practice.


Children’s rights relating to pain-management (Coming soon)

Empowering parents in caring for children with chronic conditions requiring regular hospital attendance.

Futile care (Coming soon)

An exploration of the provision of care that is futile beginning in the emergency setting.