Research projects

Centre staff engage in high quality and innovative research, obtaining internal and external research funding, and promoting national and international research collaborations. Set out below is a list of current and recently completed research projects undertaken by Centre staff.

Health Governance

Governing Health in the 21st Century: Socio-Legal Perspectives

Law is a key mechanism of governance in the field of health in the 21st century: determining access, influencing equity, promoting behavioural change and facilitating political legitimacy. The use of law runs the gamut from ‘soft’ mechanisms, such as guidance, through to ‘hard’ forms, such as legislation, and it does not operate in isolation from social, political, institutional and economic contexts. There is a need to better understand how law in context interacts with health, alongside scientific and technological developments that promote therapeutic outcomes at both individual and population levels. Such understanding will also be vital if key challenges posed by biomedical translational activities are to be addressed, as identified in the Australian government’s national innovation and science agenda. This project brings academic staff together from the Centre for Health Law and Society (CHLS) and the Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society (ARCSHS) to examine key questions relevant to understanding the social context in which law is designed and implemented, as well as what its future role is likely to be in the 21st century.

LTU Investigators: Professor Anne-Maree Farrell, Professor Patrick Keyzer, Associate Professor Fiona Kelly, Dr Laura Griffin, Mr Marc Trabsky, Ms Hannah Robert (CHLS) and Professor Gary Dowsett, Dr Jennifer Power (ARCSHS)

Funding Scheme: La Trobe University Funding Scheme

Amount: $200,000.00

Dates: 2016-2018

Gender and Sexuality

Fertility decision-making among lesbian and single women in the wake of equal access to clinical services

Little is known about how members of the GLBT communities make decisions about parenting, particularly in the wake of increased access to fertility services. This project asks: (i) How LGBT individuals form families with children in the wake of legal reforms that enabled access to fertility services and clarified the legality of home insemination; (ii) What informs their decision-making about clinical and non-clinical routes to parenthood and what are the perceived legal implications of clinical as opposed to non-clinical pathways to parenthood? (ii) What are prospective parents’ main sources of legal information regarding family formation and how does the information they have access to influence family formation decisions? Data will be gathered via an online survey of GLBT parents and prospective parents (adults aged 18+).

LTU Investigators: Associate Professor Fiona Kelly, Dr Jennifer Power

Funding Scheme: La Trobe Law School Small Grant Scheme

Amount: $5,880.00

Dates: 2016

Relative strangers: what motivates donor conceived people and donors to make contact

The Victorian Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2008 (Vic) permits donor-conceived people to request their sperm and/or egg donor’s identity. Applications for identifying information can also be made by recipient parents and donors. This process is referred to as “donor linking”. When an application for identifying information is made, the applicant must complete a Statement of Reasons in which they explain their motivation for seeking information. The Statement of Reasons is then forwarded to the party whose information is being requested. This project will critically analyse the Statement of Reasons submitted since June 2015 (when legislation first enabled retrospective access to donor records in Victoria), to identify the key motivations and expectations of the applicants. It will be conducted in collaboration with the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), which manages the Statement of Reasons process and collects the Statements.

LTU Investigator: Associate Professor Fiona Kelly

Funding Scheme: La Trobe Law School Strategic Grant Scheme

Amount: $12,918.00

Dates: 2016

The medicalisation of queer kinship: fertility decision making in the GLBT communities

Parenting within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities is not a new phenomenon. Planned queer parenthood emerged in the context of the women’s health movement of the 1960s and 70s and historically existed in opposition to mainstream medicine, which was perceived as male dominated and deeply heterosexist. However, the recent removal of legal barriers to lesbian couples and single women accessing fertility clinic services, the increased availability of overseas commercial surrogacy for gay men, and the lucrative market the LGBT communities represent to fertility clinics, have had a significant impact on fertility practices amongst LGBT Australians. This project examines how the combined forces of law and medicine have transformed planned parenting within Australia’s LGBT communities, focusing in particular on the role of fertility clinics in this process. It considers the extent to which advances in law and medicine have converged to produce a notion of queer parenthood that is increasingly medicalised, geneticised, and nuclear in its assumptions about family relationships.

LTU Investigators: Associate Professor Fiona Kelly, Dr Jennifer Power and Professor Jayne Lucke

Funding Scheme: La Trobe University Research Focus Area: Transforming Human Societies Seed Grant Scheme

Amount: $19,932.00

Dates: 2015-2016

Human Body

Regulating human body parts: Principles, institutions and politics

Advances in scientific research and technological innovation have led to a huge growth in the use of human body parts in research and medicine, whether on their own or as part of a range of technologies. Adopting a predominantly legal analysis, this project considers whether a common approach to regulating across a range of human body parts is desirable for the purposes of managing risk, promoting innovation and enhancing legitimacy. In line with such purposes, new regulatory models and strategies will be formulated which will make a significant contribution to theoretical development on the topic in health law and regulation, as well as Australian and international policy and practice in the field.

LTU Investigator: Professor Anne-Maree Farrell

Funding Scheme: ARC Future Fellowship

Amount: $720,066.20

Dates: 2014-2018

Regulating the afterlife

The legal regulation of the dead – their bodies, parts and tissue – is one of the most important ethical, social, environmental and economic problems of the twenty-first century. In an era of unprecedented population growth, technological enhancements and accumulation of capital, the dead have emerged as a spatial and ecological problem, a source for creating and extending life, and a site of tension between monetary, ethical and religious demands. This project aims to investigate the role that law plays in regulating three different aspects of our relationship with the dead: disposal, procurement and repatriation. The objective in doing so is to better understand and critique the role of law in and across these three domains, with a view to identifying areas of potential reform.

LTU Investigators: Professor Anne-Maree Farrell and Mr Marc Trabsky

Funding Scheme: La Trobe Law School Strategic Grant Scheme

Amount: $13,286.00

Dates: 2016-2017

A legal history of the register: birth and deaths

The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is an important legal, governmental and administrative institution that affects many different aspects of everyday life. The office is important for understanding the institutionalisation and bureaucratisation of the recognition of birth and death in the twenty first century. Our project explores the idea of the Victorian Register as a legal technology and the Registrar as a legal officer, and considers how the State deploys this device, craft or technique to create persons, monitor birth and death rates, and manage populations. Attending to techniques of registering, and the practices and artefact of the Register, will in turn illuminate ways in which the State itself has historically been instituted in Victoria, in both its colonial and modern forms.

LTU Investigators: Dr Laura Griffin and Mr Marc Trabsky

Funding Scheme: La Trobe Law School Small Grant Scheme

Amount: $5,567.00

Dates: 2016-2017

Use of Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs by Fitness Facility Users: Are The Risks Known and Understood?

The use of performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) is not restricted to professional cycling or bodybuilding, but occurs in a wide variety of physical activity environments. A general population survey of non-medical use of steroids in Australia found that 0.3% of Australians over the age of 14 had used steroids for non-medical purposes. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) produces annual data on PIED use, however it has been speculated that the data is likely to be inaccurate for a number of reasons: underreporting, stigmatisation, and self-classification of PIEDs as recreational, and therefore not illicit drugs.

The key research question to be addressed in the project is what do fitness facility users know about PIED use, and the risks associated with that activity? The project will provide insights about how to make exercise safer, particularly by enhancing understanding of the risks of PIED use; assist the development of informed policy on PIED use; improve the knowledge of fitness service providers about PIEDs; and provide research which may assist in dealing with the social problem of illicit drug use.

LTU Investigators: Professor Patrick Keyzer, Professor Anne-Maree Farrell and Professor Gary Dowsett

Funding Scheme: La Trobe UniversitySports Exercise and Rehabilitation (SER) Research Focus Area (RFA) Small Grant Scheme

Amount: $25,000.00

Dates: 2016-2017

Mental Health and Disability

Supervision and release of people found not guilty by reason of mental impairment

People found not guilty of an offence by reason of mental impairment are typically placed under custodial or non-custodial supervision orders of an indefinite length. Courts or tribunals determine their supervision conditions and when, if at all, they will be released, according to criteria in forensic mental health/disability legislation. This research examines legal decision-making about the supervision and release of this group of forensic patients in several Australian jurisdictions.

LTU Investigator: Dr Fleur Beaupert

Funding Scheme: La Trobe Law School Small Grant Scheme

Amount: $4,500.00

Dates: 2016-2017

Public Health

International trade agreements and pharmaceutical policy and regulation in China

This project will investigate the potential implications of two mega-regional trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region for pharmaceutical policy and regulation in China, focusing primarily on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). A policy analysis study will be undertaken examining potential impacts of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement for China’s health system and generic medicines industry. Senior Chinese health policy makers, health service managers and academics will be engaged in exploring the impacts of these trade agreements on China’s health system, and developing methods and baseline measures for future impact assessment of the RCEP.

LTU Investigators: Dr Deborah Gleeson, Associate Professor George Liu, Professor Anne-Maree Farrell

Funding Scheme: La Trobe University China Studies Research Centre Seed Funding Scheme and La Trobe University Social Research Assistance Scheme

Amount: $17,669.00

Dates: 2016-2017

Global health network: Asia-Pacific region

This project aims to develop a cross-disciplinary research network of scholars with research interests in global health governance. The creation of the Global Health Network in the Asia-Pacific (GHN-AP) will establish one of the first multidisciplinary academic partnerships in this field, with a focus dedicated to three distinct research streams: (1) global health law and policy; (2) global political economy of health; and (3) global health security and risk. In doing so, the aim is to foster collaboration and to develop evidence-based research on the impact and progress of global health governance institutions and arrangement in the Asia-Pacific region.

LTU Investigators: Professor Anne-Maree Farrell, Dr Deborah Gleeson

Funding Scheme: La Trobe Law School Strategic Grant Scheme

Amount: $20,000.00

Dates: 2016-2017