College of Healthcare Sciences Occupational Therapy Overview of Occupational Therapy Research at JCU

Apply now

Overview of Occupational Therapy Research at JCU

Over the last five years, as a result of the appointment of key research staff in Occupational Therapy, there has been a significant increase in the research productivity of the Occupational Therapy Discipline. Areas of current research include discipline specific studies, education focused research and inter-professional research programs. Graduates and occupational therapy clinicians can enrol in JCU post-graduate studies to engage in occupational therapy research which has a tropical, rural, remote and indigenous focus. Research is an important aspect of the undergraduate program which aims to educate well-rounded generalist practitioners. However, there has been a rapid growth in the number of Occupational Therapists who engage in postgraduate qualifications and collaborative research at JCU.

Research Areas include:

  • Curriculum Refresh

  • Occupational Therapy with Indigenous Clients

  • Rural and Remote Occupational Therapy Practice

  • Fieldwork and Practice Education

  • Outcomes and Evaluation Research

  • Other Research Areas

JCU Occupational Therapy Academic Staff Research Interests.



Key Relevant expertise

Key research interests

Prof Matthew Yau

Professor & Head of Occupational Therapy


Mental Health

Sexuality education, rehabilitation and sex therapy

Qualitative research

Sexuality & Disability

Community-based mental health practice

Culture & mental illness

Culture & Sexuality

Qualitative Research Methodology

A/Prof Marion Gray

Associate Professor/Postgraduate & Research Co-ordinator, Co-chair SPHTMRS

Mental Health

Public Health Research – Indigenous Health

Research and Evidence-based Practice Rehabilitation Studies

Allied Health Education

Indigenous Health

Cultural Safety

Rural and Remote Rehabilitation Outcomes

Prostate cancer

Ms Yvonne Thomas

Senior Lecturer/ Academic Advisor/ Program Coordinator

Acute Mental Health practice including PTSD, Maternal mental Health and Drug Addiction

Fieldwork Education and Supervision models

Homelessness, rural and remote practice, Mental health, Culturally appropriate practice, Fieldwork Education and Supervision

Dr Fiona Barnett

Senior Lecturer/Academic Advisor

Exercise physiology (athletes & general public), rehabilitation, corporate fitness manager.

Coordinator of Sydney Academy of Sport

Exercise behaviour

Postmenopausal period


Core stability

Movement analysis

Ms Marianne Bonassi


Mental Health and Psychotherapy


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Social enterprises

First Year Experience in Tertiary education

Student Retention

Mental Health of rural and remote youths

Mrs Kerry Garbutt


Fieldwork supervision and education

Models of fieldwork placements


Workplace rehabilitation

Cognitive rehabilitation


Occupational Health and Safety

Fieldwork education & learning

Fieldwork models

Fieldwork supervision

Injury management


Acquired Brain Injury

Quality in fieldwork

Ms Kate Horstmann



Behaviour Analysis & Support

Autism and ADHD

Transition to high-school

Occupation based assessments

Interventions in paediatrics

Positive behaviour support

Developmental and Health needs for Indigenous youth

Mrs Louise Myles



Workplace rehabilitation

Workplace training

Occupational Health & Safety

Risk assessment and risk management

Injury prevention and injury management


Workplace rehabilitation

Occupational health and safety

Health promotion

Safety training within the workplace

Mrs Karen Salata


Paediatrics; splinting/hand/therapy/assistive technology (but may be out of date)

Fieldwork education

Assistive Technology for Children

Ms Bronwyn Tanner


Environmental Design & Modification


Assistive Tech


Home environments

Practice-based evidence

Ms Lynne Zeldenryk


Community rehabilitation

Community Development

Public Health, Indigenous health, flexible delivery in tertiary education

Ms Jackie Bohem


Ergonomics Work


Workplace training


Curriculum Refresh

‘JCU Curriculum Refresh Grant for Occupational Therapy’:

Investigators: Matthew Yau, Yvonne Thomas, Bronwyn Tanner, Marion Gray, Fiona Barnett, Marianne Bonassi, Lynne Zeldenryk, Kerry Garbutt, Karen Salata, Gary Williams.

Funding: $65,250.00 (James Cook University)

The unique focus of Occupational Therapy at James Cook University is to provide Occupational Therapy graduates with suitable knowledge and skills to work in rural, remote and Indigenous communities in Australia. The University Strategic Intent: “a brighter future for life in the tropics worldwide” has been the impetus for a University wide project titled ‘Curriculum Refresh’.

In 2009, the Occupational Therapy program commenced its first major curriculum review in line with the James Cook University Strategic Intent. The curriculum review process is an opportunity for the staff to collectively envision a future focus for the program and to develop an innovative curriculum that will meet the anticipated needs of the profession and the tropical region. The process uses an anticipatory action learning/research approach, the central focus of which is the development of a learning community with the academic staff within the occupational therapy unit. It is planned that this new curriculum will be rolled out commencing in 2012.

Occupational Therapy with Indigenous Clients

Occupational Therapy with Indigenous Clients:

Investigators: Marion Gray, Yvonne Thomas, Jacinta Elston,

Funding: $5,582 (Occupational Therapists Board of Queensland)

An ongoing field of research at James Cook University, Occupational Therapy has been focussed on preparing graduates and clinicians to provide occupational therapy services to Indigenous clients. This research includes both educational practice and researching current practice and needs of indigenous clients. Several projects have been conducted by staff and students at JCU in this area.

  1. Preparation of graduate Occupational Therapists to work with Indigenous clients

  2. Exploring how occupational therapists modify their practice with indigenous clients

  3. Exploring partnerships between Aboriginal Health Workers and Occupational Therapists

  4. Evaluating student and academic cultural sensitivity

Rural and Remote Occupational Therapy Practice

The rural location of James Cook University and the needs of local practitioners are reflected in this key area of research focus. In line with the JCU Occupational Therapy Mission statement, this research area explores both the educational methods to ensure graduates are equipped to work in rural and remote areas and the specific practice of rural and remote clinicians. A number of separate and related research projects focus on the provision of occupational therapy in rural and remote areas , specifically in northern Australia bit also in other rural and remote locations nationally and Internationally.

  • The role of Culture in Occupational Therapy Service Provision for Torres Strait Islander Communities in North Qld

Investigators: Lynne Zeldenryk, Adrian Miller, A/Prof Marion Gray

Funding: $9,500 (Faculty Administered Research Grant)

  • Investigating the Outcomes of Rehabilitation Home Programs for People in Rural and Remote Communities

Investigators: A/Prof Marion Gray, Yvonne Thomas, Dr Fiona Barnett, Bronwyn Tanner, Gail Kingston

Funding: $33,660 (JCU RIBG Funding)

  • Core Skills and Aptitudes of Very Rural and Remote Allied Health Professional

Investigator: Yvonne Thomas.

Funding: $20,000 (Mt Isa Local Research Grant)

  • Enhancing Community Rehabilitation in Undergraduate and Post Graduate Offerings at JCU

Investigators: Yvonne Thomas, David Lindsay, Lee Stewart, Joanne Tollefson, Robyn Andrews, Louise Brown.

Funding: $135,818 (Funded by Queensland Health CR Project)

  • Disability Measurement for Lymphatic Filariasis: Community Approaches

Investigators: Lynne Zeldenryk, A/Prof Marion Gray, Prof Rick Speare, A/Prof Sue Gordon, Prof Wayne Melrose

  • Traumatic Hand Injury in Rural and Remote Australia

Investigator: Bronwyn Tanner

Funding $14,960 (OT Board of Qld)

  • Traumatic Hand Injury in Rural and Remote Qld

Investigators: Gail Kingston, A/Prof Marion Gray, Bronwyn Tanner

Funding: $30,000 (Allied Health Community Rehabilitation Grant)

Fieldwork and Practice Education

Fieldwork and practice education is a separate research focus at James Cook University. Pursuing excellence in practice education opportunities and student supervision is a goal of the program. Academics have explored alternative and quality practice education opportunities through this research focus.

  • Gaining a Regional Perspective on the Practice Education Quality Framework for Occupation Therapy Practice Placements throughout Queensland

Investigators; Sylvia Rodger, Cate Fitzgerald, Wendy Davila, Frances Millar, Yvonne Thomas, Kerry Garbutt, Craig Greber.

Funding: $19,175 (Occupational Therapists Board of Qld)

  • An Evaluation of non-traditional Occupation Therapy Fieldwork Experiences

Investigators: Michelle Clarke, Yvonne Thomas.

Funding: $4,932 ( Occupational Therapy Board of Queensland)

  • Inter-professional Clinical Education

Investigators: Bronwyn Tanner, Kerry Garbutt

Funding: $9,723 (JCU)

  • Qld Health Clinical Education Qld funding for UPOTPENQ

Investigators: Kerry Garbutt

Funding: $872

Outcomes Evaluation Research

  • Home Environment Intervention Strategies to Facilitate Ageing-In-Place for People with Dementia

Investigators: Karen Pomfrett (LifeTec), Bronwyn Tanner

Funding: $6,346 (OT Board of Qld)

  • Evaluation of a Proposal of Social Firms in the Townsville Region

A research and evaluation project on the prospect of establishing a social firm in the Townsville region, with the intention of creating employment opportunities for people with a variety of mental health conditions)

Investigators: Marianne Bonassi, Prof Matthew Yau

Funding: $40,000

  • Cootharinga Society of North Queensland Staff and Service Users Satisfaction Survey

Investigators: Prof Matthew Yau, Dr Fiona Barnett

Funding: $17,788

Workforce Issues – Academic and Professional

  • An examination of the new graduate and recent migrant occupational therapists perspectives on work preparedness, professional development and work environment issues

Investigators: M.Clark, M.Gray, Y.Thomas, M.Penman, J.Trevan-Hawke

Funding: $80,739 (ANZ Council of Occupational Therapists Registration Boards)

  • In it for the long run: Factors contributing to workforce longevity in OT

Investigators: Michele Clark and Yvonne Thomas

Funding: $8,600 (Occupational Therapists Board of Queensland)

  • Flexible Learning and Teaching Grant (Best practice models and flexible scheduling in adverse academic enterprise)

Investigators: Dr Fiona Barnett, Warwick Spinks, Tom Mylne, Kelly Knez, Sue Devine, Sue Gordon

Funding: $15,000

  • Qld Health Consultancy (Provision of a literature review on workforce models for Allied Health Professionals)

Investigators: Michele Clark (QUT), Lorraine Sheppard (JCU), Dr Fiona Barnett (JCU), Susan Ahs (QUT), Kirsten McKenzie (QUT), Lloyd Reed (QUT)

Funding: $72,000

Other Research Projects

  • Occupational and Wellbeing in People Experiencing Homelessness in Townsville

Investigator: Yvonne Thomas.

Funding: $1,200 (JCU Graduate Research Scheme)

  • Study on attitudes on sexuality and sexual concerns of an adult person with a disability or chronic illness)

Investigator: Prof Matthew Yau

Funding: $25,000 (New Professional Establishment Grant)

  • Faculty Administered Internal Grant (Self-efficacy and effective response to acute exercise in older women)

Investigator: Dr Fiona Barnett

Funding: $7,175

  • RIBG Funding (self efficiency and effective response in older women)

Investigator: Dr Fiona Barnett

Funding: $2,723