Synapse email updates


What's in an update?

Synapse endeavours to keep you updated with the latest information and news. If you would like to receive our monthly E-newsletter, please fill out your information above and we can keep you in the know!


Support Services

Our Staff

Research and Development

Our Staff

Our staff and research partners have expertise in epidemiology, social sciences, mental health and clinical practice.   


Clare Townsend

Manager: Clare Townsend PhD. 

Clare is the Manager-Research and Development at Synapse and an Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University. She has a track record in the development and implementation of strategic research agendas which address the rights and needs of people with neurocognitive and other complex disabilities. The Synapse research agenda has specific focus on Indigenous Australians with complex neurocognitive disabilities, including FASD, living in rural and remote communities and the establishment of validated routine consumer outcomes for people with complex neurocognitive disabilities.


Clare is Chief Investigator of The Guddi Project. This project includes a point prevalence study to ascertain the level of neurocognitive disabilities amongst homeless people in Cairns. She is a Partner Investigator on ARC Linkage Grant (LP140100446), "Developing and testing a decision system for identifying housing options, mapping preferences and evaluating priorities in the disability market."


From 2009-2013 Clare was Associate Professor, Director Systems Research, Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Support, University of Queensland. She pursued research to inform policy and service reform and to address the human rights of people with intellectual disability and challenging behaviours. Clare also reported to government on the needs of Indigenous Queenslanders with disabilities. Clare has developed and maintained research partnerships in the areas of disability and mental health policy and service delivery at national and international levels.


From 2000 -2009 Clare undertook a lead role in the development of state, national and international mental health policies. She was the Australian Manager of the International Consortium for Mental Health Services, a project supported by the Australian, UK and USA governments, WHO and the World Bank. This work informed and supported mental health policy reformers and resulted in systematic policy and service reform. She has published in industry relevant journals in mental health and intellectual disability and presents Synapse research in academic and other fora. 



Aunty JanSenior Research Fellow: Janet Hammill PhD.

Jan leads the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders Research stream at Synapse. She is also the coordinator of the Collaboration for Alcohol Related Developmental Disorders (CARDD), formerly the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Research Network, at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and is a member of the National Indigenous Disability Researcher's Network. 


Having a shared ancestry with the Gomeroi people of the NSW Pilliga Scrub and of the first convicts into the area, Jan's primary interest is in Indigenous health outcomes and advocacy for children and adults invisible to early diagnosis and intervention. She is an ethnographer who weaves narratives of family history of health and wellbeing into a biological framework that better illustrates the epigenetic and developmental burden placed on families. Jan has a particular interest in the neurobiology of stress, teratogenic exposures especially of alcohol, and the transgenerational implications for children.


Janet's interests have evolved from eighteen years' experience in population health research which includes a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Tropical Health. Her doctoral study was undertaken with Cherbourg women in Queensland documenting stories of family violence and child sexual abuse.


She has presented papers on specific biological programming issues for Indigenous people at many forums including the 2nd International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Conference in British Columbia, Canada. In 2008 Janet was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (AM) for services to the community through health services for Indigenous women and children and research into the consequences of in utero exposure to alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.




Profesor Heidi Zeeman PhD.

HeidiProfessor Heidi Zeeman is Chair of Healthy Design and Associate Director, Recover, Griffith University. She has expertise in knowledge partnerships, wellbeing and healing after life-changing injury and illness. Her research is centered on the experience of survivors and families who have experienced a traumatic injury or chronic illness. Specifically, her work aims to investigate 'how people live in the world', including the broader rehabilitation context, health and healing pathways, and person-centered design of the built environment.

Professionally, Heidi has engaged in multi-year evaluations of major public health programs in Australia over the past decade and outcomes of these evaluations have included workforce training programs, predictive models of health, guidelines for practice and tools for assessment. She has received recognition for the high quality of her work including a post-doctoral Research Fellowship Award (2008), Churchill International Fellowship (2009), ProVice Chancellor Early Career Researcher Award (2010), Smart Futures Fellowship (DSITI) (2011), Endeavour Foundation Research Challenge Fund Award (2012) and GHI Research Excellence Award (2014). Heidi has been awarded the 2014 Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Business/Industry (Coral Sea) and will undertake further research in the US at Cornell University, New York, for a period of 3 months. She is widely published in peer reviewed journals and in 2013 co-edited a book (Praeger Press) on Traumatic Brain Injury and wellbeing (see Health and Healing after Traumatic Brain Injury, Muenchberger, Kendall and Wright, Prof Zeeman attended Texas A&M University, as a visiting scholar in October 2013 under Profs M Shepley and S Rodeik. In early 2015, she was based at the Centre for Human Ecology, Cornell University, with Professor Shepley during the Fulbright program.


Post Doctoral Research Fellow -  Courtney Wright.   

CourtneyCourtney Wright is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow, jointly appointed by Synapse and Griffith University (Menzies Health Institute Queensland). She completed her Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) degree through Griffith University in 2011.  She has recently completed her PhD degree. Her PhD research sought to understand what people with disability want from their homes and communities, so that housing can be better designed to meet people's needs. Courtney's PhD research has informed policy development around the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS) in Queensland, practice guidelines for inclusive housing, and two Commonwealth Government Inquiry submissions. Her work has been widely published in international journals, and presented at several national conferences. Courtney has been trained in both qualitative and quantitative research methods. She has a strong track record in knowledge translation (the implementation of research findings). Courtney is passionate about social justice and working with people who have a disability to enable them to live the life they want to live. She is thrilled to be working at Synapse, and thankful for the opportunity to learn about working 'proper way' with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Although an avid researcher, Courtney has also volunteered at several Queensland-based advocacy and support organisations for people with disability.


Research Support -  Michelle McIntyre PhD.

Michelle McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, in the school of human services and social work, Griffith University. Michelle's PhD study Understanding Families after Traumatic Brain Injury: Family processes and structures over the long-term was conferred in May 2016. In her research fellow role Michelle is working on a project in the area of mental health and addictions services for Indigenous consumers. Michelle has been with Synapse since June 2016 in a research support role. Whilst working as a research assistant over the past 6 years she has been involved in projects in a variety of contexts including health care complexity; disability and rehabilitation, and mental health.






Our partners