History of the Spinal Research Institute

Why was the Spinal Research Institute founded?

When Associate Professor Doug Brown AM retired from the Directorship of the Victorian Spinal Cord Service, his passion for the field of spinal cord injury continued and in 2011 Doug founded the Spinal Research Institute, a charity dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of people with spinal cord injury. During Doug’s 30 years of spinal cord injury clinical care and research he recognised that research translation – from clinical trial to adoption in policy and clinical practice – was typically only achieved through multi-centre studies. Doug founded the Spinal Research Institute on the philosophy that collaborative research, spanning multiple centres, is necessary to bring about the translational research outcomes that will change healthcare policy and practice.

Our history

Centred around our vision to enhance the quality of life for people with spinal cord injury, we have made a tremendous impact in the field of spinal cord research by developing programs, curating events, and initiating national and international collaboration projects that have connected researchers, clinicians and consumers around the world.

Take a journey into the past with us and discover key moments from each year of our history.

A brief history of the Spinal Research Institute

Webinars, collaborations and more!

It’s early days, but this year we will launch our consumer engagement webinar series. We’re working with various collaborative research groups on the Spinal Cord Research Hub, and look forward to once again providing Travel Collaboration Grants for attendance at the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS) Annual Scientific Meeting. If you want to keep up to date with our activities, why not subscribe to Plexus, our quarterly newsletter?



Mentor program launched

In 2021, we launched the Mentor Program for Early Career Researchers. This program supports early career researchers through the process of research design, investigation and publication, and also provides fantastic collaboration opportunities.


2021 was the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was also our 10-year anniversary! We continued to offer Research Collaboration Grants, supporting 29 researchers to attend the virtual annual ISCoS meeting.



Consumer engagement focus

2020 was the year we really entered the Consumer Engagement space. We appointed our Community and Consumer Engagement Manager, and launched the Consumer Engagement in Research and In Conversation videos.


We also launched the Spinal Cord Injury Research Writing prize and related publication ‘Why Research Matters’ showcasing spinal cord injury research from around the world.


Organisationally, we learned to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic by working remotely, and many of our processes and procedures were streamlined as a result.



New faces and patron's program

In 2019 we secured funding from IOOF Foundation that paved the way for the Consumer Engagement work we did in 2020. Our new Chair, Fi Slaven, was appointed and we welcomed two new directors, Dr Mario D’Cruz and Nick Morris, who bring the perspective of lived experience.


In the second half of the year, Lady Southey AC launched our Patron’s Program of annual giving with a supporter event at Cranlana.


At the ISCoS Annual Scientific Meeting we co-presented a consumer engagement workshop and presented two posters.



Lady Southey becomes patron

We were delighted when Lady Southey AC was appointed as our Patron. We also gained a fantastic new CEO in Kristine Hendry.


This year, we launched the Spinal Cord Research Hub at the ISCoS/ANZSCoS combined conference held in Sydney. The event was attended by an audience of our supporters, members of the spinal cord injury community, and local and international researchers.



Travel Grants launched

The launch of the SCI Travel Collaboration grant enabled early career researchers to attend the International Spinal Cord Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting. Two grants were awarded in the inaugural year and many researchers have since been supported through this annual program.


Behind the scenes, development work commenced on the Spinal Cord Research Hub online platform.



Funding for development of SCoRH

The Spinal Research Institute received a multi-year grant from Ian Potter Foundation to support development of the Spinal Cord Research Hub, an online platform facilitating connection and collaboration between spinal cord researchers globally. This work was further progressed with a multi-year grant from IOOF Foundation in 2017.


We co-presented our first research collaboration workshop at the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS) Annual Scientific Meeting.



Long term funding received

In 2015, we were incredibly fortunate to receive two long-term funding pledges – the first from Shine On Foundation, and the second from Bordo International. We continue to be grateful to all of our supporters and partners.


As an organisation the Spinal Research Institute was growing, and we developed and published our first strategic plan.



Betty Amsden AO becomes patron

Betty Amsden AO is remembered by the Board and staff of the Spinal Research Institute as an endlessly generous woman who cared deeply for disadvantaged and marginalised members of the community. Her inspirational leadership saw the launch of the Spinal Research Institute’s Founding Donors’ Circle in 2016 at Cranlana, where she garnered the support of her wide circle of friends for a cause she deemed very worthy, yet very neglected.



Board of Directors Established

The Spinal Research Institute’s Board was established with Dr. Con Mylonas as Chair. This was a significant point in the evolution of the Spinal Research Institute as an organisation. Managing the organisation’s long term direction, furthering its objectives, and ensuring its accountability, the Board has strengthened the organisation and positioned it well for the future.



First full year of operation

Founded in the previous year, 2012 was the first full year of operation for the Spinal Research Institute. We continued to receive support and encouragement from Austin Health and we held the inaugural Spinal Cord Injury Research Forum.



Spinal Research Institute founded

The Spinal Research Institute was founded with capacity building funding from the Transport Accident Commission and the support of Austin Health.


Associate Professor Doug Brown AM founded the Spinal Research Institute to improve the lives of people with spinal cord injury through global research collaboration.



Messages for our 10-year anniversary

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