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Belinda Henwood
UNSW Corporate Communications

UNSW Sydney's Dr Lise Lafferty has been honoured with a 2023 Paul Bourke Award. The internationally renowned expert is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) in UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture and the Surveillance Evaluation and Research Program, The Kirby Institute.

The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia early career research award honours some of Australia’s best young social science researchers. Dr Lafferty's Paul Bourke Award recognises her “significant contributions to the field of infectious diseases, with a particular focus on hepatitis C in the challenging context of prison settings”.  

“I am honoured to be selected by the Academy for this award. As a researcher using qualitative methods to understand the complex contextual and social aspects of hepatitis C prevention, care and treatment in a prison setting, it is fantastic to see recognition of the health of people in prison at the forefront,” she said.

“I am indebted to the people in prison who openly discuss with me their hepatitis C care engagement, risk practices and concerns of reinfection in the absence of primary prevention strategies, such as prison needle syringe programs. It is a privilege to be entrusted with such crucial information regarding the health of people who are incarcerated.”

Dr Lafferty said she was grateful to Professors Carla Treloar and Andrew Lloyd at UNSW for their mentorship throughout her academic career, particularly in conducting prison-based research. She also thanked Professors Alison Ritter and Carla Treloar, Fellows of the Academy, for nominating her for the award.

Read more: Former prisoners tell what happens when support services fail

Academy President Professor Richard Holden extended his congratulations to the recipients, as well as the nominees, acknowledging their dedication to advancing knowledge through their social science research.

“The Academy takes great pride in nurturing the next generation of social scientists and highlighting their invaluable contributions. These awards recognise the most exceptional early and mid-career researchers in Australia,” he said.

Professor kylie valentine, CSRH Director, congratulated Dr Lafferty on the award.

“Lise is an exceptional early career researcher and an extremely worthy recipient of this prestigious award. She is an innovative and dedicated researcher who can communicate her findings to broad and diverse audiences. We are proud to have this emerging leader as our colleague.”

An internationally renowned researcher

Since completing her PhD, Dr Lafferty has established herself as a global leading expert on hepatitis C in the prison setting. Her work unpacks the social and behavioural risks of hepatitis C transmission in the prison environment as well as identifying ways to enhance care engagement among this population group.

Dr Lafferty has been a chief investigator on significant grants, including the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Commonwealth Department of Health and Canadian Institute of Health Research, totalling more than $15 million. She has authored 39 peer-reviewed publications and is first/senior author on 21, evidencing her strong leadership trajectory. She has contributed to 17 reports.

In 2022, Dr Lafferty received the Dean's Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Early Career Academic, UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, due to her ‘rising star’ status. She has been recognised for her contributions to prison health through an Honourable Mention of the Levinia Crooks Emerging Leader Award in Viral Hepatitis (Justice and Correctional Health Sector), Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine. Dr Lafferty is the first social scientist to receive recognition in the Viral Hepatitis award since its commencement in 2018. She was awarded Best Research Article (2020) and Highly Commended (2021), in the Early Career Publication Award, UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.