Current projects

  • Collaboration partner: Griffith University
    Commenced: 1 November 2021
    Project duration: extended to July 31, 2023

    Project Leads: Professor Louise Gustafsson, School of Health Sciences and Social Work, Menzies Health Institute of Queensland and The Hopkins Centre, Griffith University.

    The project aims to support capability development and guide the provision of assistive technology based on the needs and experiences of both service providers and end-users.

    This project will use multiple methods including interviews, surveys, an audit of publicly available documents and solution building workshop to understand the different types of need related to assistive technology provision and interpret this information to inform future actions. Focus will be on the needs of people who use assistive technology, service providers/ health professionals and care and support scheme representatives.

    The project is uniquely positioned within and builds on current expertise and learnings from the pilot HabITec service, a collaboration initiative between the Hopkins Centre and Metro South Health.

    Collaboration and engagement
    Consumers will be actively engaged in the design and implementation of the project across all stages, including on the reference group and partnering with researchers to undertake project activities. Involvement of other stakeholders such as peak bodies, service providers and care and support scheme agencies is also embedded within the project.

    The NIISQ Agency has had input into the project design to maximise positive impacts for NIISQ participants and the Scheme.

    The NIISQ Agency considers the project will produce real benefits for NIISQ participants and the Scheme including:

    • An essential building block to build provider capacity across Qld in assistive technology prescription
    • The facilitation of assistive technology provision that is sustainable, effective and efficient through understanding of assistive technology needs within Queensland, and
    • The potential to increase participants’ independence, community participation and quality of life through appropriately prescribed assistive technology.

    Total budget $104,087


    Article published on : Establishing the normative and comparative needs of assistive technology provision in Queensland from the agency and funding scheme perspective | Brain Impairment | Cambridge Core


    Background and Aims:

    Assistive technology services and devices support the participation and inclusion of people living with disability. In Australia, the regulatory bodies, agencies and schemes that manage assistive technology provision are governed by national and / or state-based Acts and Legislation. This study examined the assistive technology sector from the perspective of the regulatory bodies, agencies and schemes.

    Design and Methods:

    Regulatory bodies, agencies and schemes that manage funding for assistive technology in Australia were identified by the research team. A website audit reviewed publicly available documents and information. Semi-structured interviews with representatives from the agencies and schemes were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.


    The audit found that the range and level of information publicly available was variable. The availability of assistive technology for driving and transport, design and building for access and safety, and mobility was most often promoted. The qualitative findings indicated variability and challenges within four themes: operationalising the legislation; internal assistive technology processes; reasonable and necessary; and risks in the assistive technology pathway.


    Regulatory bodies, agencies and schemes are critical to the effectiveness of the sector. The findings identified opportunities for the organisations to review how internal processes are communicated publicly, and for the sector to address the perceived risks related to health professional availability, knowledge and skills, and limited accessibility to trial assistive technology. Subsequent studies explored the perspectives of the assistive technology advisors and suppliers and the recipients of assistive technology services and devices.

    Dissemination documents will be used to develop partnerships, and lobby for change.

    The project is anticipated to be completed by July 2023.

  • Collaboration partner: Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association
    Commenced: 31 August 2021
    Project duration: 2 years

    Project Leads: David Bartholomaeus and Jacqueline Kelly (Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association)

    The project aims to improve the health outcomes for inpatients with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries through participation in sport and active recreation activities during their inpatient stay. It will also provide opportunities for linkages to community sport and recreation activities for patients following their post-hospital stay.

    The project builds on and enhances a previous program developed and run by the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association through the Princess Alexandra Hospital brain and spinal cord injury services. An evaluation framework has been embedded in the project design.

    Collaboration and engagement
    The project includes collaboration with experts from the Princess Alexandra Hospital brain and spinal cord injury services, sporting body representatives and researchers from the Hopkins Centre.

    Feedback from people with spinal cord injury and brain injury undertaking the program will be integral to the program design reviews, adjustment and implementation.

    The NIISQ Agency has had input into the project design to maximise positive impacts for NIISQ participants and the Scheme, producing real benefits including:

    • The potential for improved participant health outcomes and increased ability for participants to achieve functional and community participation goals
    • Empowering participants to link into local sport and recreation opportunities within their community following discharge from hospital, and
    • Sustainable continuation of the program via the inclusion of an evaluation framework capturing key outcomes data.

    Total budget $81,200

    The project is anticipated to be completed by August 2023.

  • Collaboration partner: Metro North Hospital and Health Service
    Commenced: 1 July 2021
    Project duration: 12 months, extended to end 2023

    Project Leads: Dr David Forrestal (Chief Investigator – Research), Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Slattery (Chief Investigator – Clinical)

    Project Leads: Dr David Forrestal (Chief Investigator – Research), Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Slattery (Chief Investigator – Clinical)

    The project aims to develop an advanced manufacturing process consisting of 3D scanning, 3D printing, and 3D modelling to create custom wheelchair cushions optimised to the needs of an individual in terms of pressure management and postural support.

    The project builds upon previously completed work (funded by the Jamieson Trauma Institute) where 3D printed soft foams were developed. The NIISQ Agency support enables continuation of this work to develop 3D printed full sized wheelchair cushions, investigate cushion robustness and develop access pathway and production workflows. Outcomes of this project will be used to plan and justify a clinical trial.

    Collaboration and engagement
    The project includes collaboration with experts from the Queensland Spinal Cord Injury Service (Metro South Health), Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service and the Medical Aids Subsidy Scheme, Qld Health who will provide valuable clinical and implementation advice.

    An important aspect of the project is incorporation of findings from co-design sessions planned with people who use pressure relieving cushions and service providers.

    The NIISQ Agency considers the project will produce real benefits for NIISQ participants and the Scheme including:

    • Facilitating improved pressure injury prevention and postural stability for people using wheelchairs resulting in positive impacts for independence, function and community participation
    • Potential to increase access to pressure injury prevention and management solutions for NIISQ participants across Queensland
    • The opportunity to support a Queensland team researching an innovative solution to a complex problem
    • The opportunity to provide pilot data and lay the groundwork for a clinical trial and subsequent possible commercial production

    Total budget $55,540


    Scale-up of the 3D printed foams has been successful with a series of full-sized wheelchair cushions designed, manufactured, and tested. Testing was based on international standard tests for foam performance, and results of the 3D printed cushions were compared against tests on the established polyurethan foams currently used to manufacture custom-cushions.

    The cushions are cost effective to produce and a regulatory compliant pathway for cushion supply has been established. Laboratory testing identified one remaining challenge prior to testing in a clinical setting; the 3D printed gyroid foam structure is more flammable than traditional cushion material (PU foams). The next steps in the project are to resolve this issue, when this is completed, the project can move to user testing prior to rollout of the technology through the STARS Rehabilitation Engineering Centre.

    Ongoing Work- Progress to date:

    • Advanced computational modelling techniques to improve cushion pressure distribution. Successfully created a workflow to automatically create a smooth transition of gyroid structure between difference unit cell size. This avoids stress concentrations within the cushions to improve pressure distribution performance and durability.
    • Automatic design and optimisation of personalised cushions using computational simulation of user pressure while seated. A workflow has been created that automatically creates the custom cushion design based on the individual pressure map of the cushion user.

    The project is anticipated to be completed by late 2023.

  • Expanding a NSW initiative to involve Queensland.

    Collaboration partner: Metro South Health

    Commenced: March 2021

    Key personnel:  Emilie Gollan (Queensland Project Lead) and Brooke Wadsworth (Queensland delegate), Physiotherapists at Metro South Health.

    The project aims to improve the care of people with spinal cord injuries by standardising physiotherapy management of people with spinal cord injuries.


    1. Develop clinical practice guidelines for physiotherapists and people with spinal cord injury across Australia.
    2. Translate the clinical practice guidelines into physiotherapy clinical practice across Queensland.

    To develop the guidelines, the Queensland team is working with Professor Lisa Harvey (Project Lead) and Associate Professor Joanne Glinsky (Project Coordinator) in NSW, icare (Insurance and Care NSW) and other inter-state representatives, Queensland clinicians, and people with spinal cord injury.

    The Queensland team will lead the guideline translation across Queensland.

    The NIISQ Agency considers the project will produce real benefits for NIISQ participants and the Scheme including:

    • Facilitation of evidence-based intervention and improved health outcomes for NIISQ participants
    • Building provider capability and capacity across Queensland in managing people with spinal cord injury
    • Facilitating NIISQ participants’ health literacy and empowering participants to make informed treatment choices through the creation of the consumer companion to the guideline

    The Agency has contributed $75,325 to the project, which is anticipated to be completed by March 2024.


    The Guidelines are available on

    The objective of this guideline is to provide clear guidance on the physiotherapy management of adults with spinal cord injury (SCI) across the continuum of care. It contains evidence recommendations and consensus-based opinion statements for over 100 questions related to the physiotherapy management of people with SCI. The questions addressed in this guideline are presented in the PICO format, namely, Participant, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome.

    The Guidelines will be presented at the World Congress of Physiotherapy, at the International Spinal Cord Society meeting (presentation and workshop) in October and at the Australian and New Zealand Spinal Cord Injury Conference in November 2023.

  • Project 1: Mixed methods RCT of telehealth Program for the Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) for teens: Co-designed

    Project 2: Mixed methods RCT of PEERS® for Primary School

    Collaboration partner: University of Queensland

    Commenced: 05 January 2023

    Project duration: 3.5 years

    Project lead: Associate Professor Leanne Sakzewski. PhD, Bachelor of Occupational Therapy

    The project aims to test the effectiveness, acceptability and feasibility of a telehealth delivered social skills program, called PEERS® to high school aged youth with brain injuries and face-to-face group delivered PEERS® for primary school in two pilot randomised controlled trials to:

    1. Achieve social participation goals
    2. Improve emotions, relationships and socialisation
    3. Improve social skills
    4. Increase social skills knowledge
    5. Decrease peer victimisation
    6. Improve quality of life

    Anticipated outcomes and impact of project for NIISQ participants and NIISQ Agency: children and youth with brain injuries (including NIISQ participants) who complete PEERS® will have improved confidence in social situations, develop skills to make and keep friends with overarching positive impact on quality of life. Importantly, is anticipate that caregivers will develop the skills to coach their child in challenging social situations, and these skills will enable sustainability of outcomes of this intervention in the longer term.

    Is anticipate that the new evidence generated by these projects will:

    (1) enable flexible delivery options of PEERS® for youth with brain injuries (face-to-face or telehealth);

    (2) give clinicians evidence of an effective program to improve social functioning of primary school aged children with brain injuries.

    Total budget: $269,057.00

Last updated: August 2023