Careers and Study

Drinking and alcohol issues and problems are entwined in Australian daily life. Our team currently work on a wide range of exciting projects, collaborating with a wide network of researchers both in Australia and around the world. We are a world class research institute that produces research that impacts policy and attracts attention globally. This research is often multi-disciplinary, as alcohol research is a neglected area of academia, we are often at the cutting edge in a range of areas.

We are always willing to talk to our students about assisting on research projects. Our strong research capabilities and capacity for research allow us to excel in both qualitative and quantitative research.

We are eager to work with Honours, Masters or PhD students interested in any topic related to alcohol consumption and harms, policy or drinking cultures. We can work with people working in a wide range of disciplines including; Anthropology, Criminology, Economics, Epidemiology, Psychology, Public Health, Sociology, and Statistics.

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Current PhD projects

Attitude towards non-drinkers in Australia and the relationship to problematic alcohol use

Christopher Cheers, supervised by Sarah Callinan & Amy Pennay

With more and more Australians choosing not to drink, Christopher’s PhD is the first study of its kind to examine attitudes towards non-drinkers in an Australian population. The studies which form his PhD aim to examine and define drinker’s attitudes towards non-drinkers in Australia, and create and validate a new measure of these attitudes in a large sample. He will also examine how these attitudes may relate to problematic alcohol consumption. As the negative appraisal of non-drinkers is suggested as a barrier to reducing alcohol consumption, it is proposed that an understanding of these attitudes may allow the development of health promotion strategies that aim to create a more supportive space for moderate drinking in our community.

Megan Cook, supervised by Dr Sandra Kuntsche, Dr Amy Pennay & Professor Emmanuel Kuntsche

There has been a long history of interest in what children know about alcohol, and how they come to know it. However, investigation of children’s alcohol-related cognitions has stalled over the past couple of decades and there remains large gaps in our understanding, including how children’s knowledge of alcohol develops over time, and whether and how alcohol-related cognitions differ by sex or gender. Megan’s thesis addresses these gaps so as to advance knowledge of the development of children’s alcohol-related cognitions in contemporary times. Adopting an interdisciplinary sociological and psychological approach to knowledge acquisition, her thesis presents findings from five studies, which aimed to explore children’s alcohol expectancies, beverage-specific, situation-specific, and person-specific norms.

Understanding the short and long term impacts of COVID-19 on alcohol consumption

Yvette Mojica Perez, supervised by Sarah Callinan, Amy Pennay & Michael Livingston

To contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Australian government introduced restrictions on public gathering which led to the closure of many non-essential businesses (such as licensed premises). The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 can elicit many different responses and experiences (stress, loneliness and boredom) for people which may lead to changes in alcohol consumption and other unhealthy coping behaviours. Yvette’s PhD project will provide insights into how people’s alcohol consumption and drinking patterns changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and as restrictions were eased throughout the country. The relationship between mental health and alcohol consumption during the pandemic will also be explored.

Alexander Torney, supervised by Sarah Callinan & Robin Room

The relationship between population levels of drinking and alcohol-related harm is already well-established. However, recent trends in Australia have identified diverging patterns whereby consumption levels are decreasing while alcohol-related harms are on the rise. While no reason has been isolated to explain this change, it has occurred alongside the unprecedented growth of alcohol sales outlets. Given this, Alex’s PhD will explore the ways in which the increasing availability of low-cost alcohol beverages mediates harmful drinking. The investigation of cheap alcoholic beverages and how price impacts consumption trends will allow for the potential identification of effective policy strategies to aid in the reduction of alcohol-related harms

Associations of alcohol, tobacco, gambling expenditure with socioeconomic inequalities

Rowan Dowling, supervised by Heng (Jason) Jiang, Anne-Marie Laslett & Charles Livingstone

The past 30 years have seen vast changes in government regulation of alcohol, tobacco and gambling products as well as the development of novel forms such as internet gambling.

Rowan Dowling’s PhD project aims to examine trends in the expenditure of Australian households on alcohol, tobacco and gambling products over the past 30 years. The project will also explore contribution of alcohol, tobacco and gambling expenditure to households’ social inequality and financial difficulties. This will include investigating whether spending trends differ depending on a household's socioeconomic disadvantage, as well as whether expenditure on alcohol, tobacco and gambling influences a household's expenditure on essential living goods and services, and their experience of housing affordability and financial difficulties.

Opportunities for, and barriers to, community participation in alcohol licensing in Australia and the UK

Filip Djordjevic, supervised by Dr Robyn Dwyer (La Trobe), Dr Claire Wilkinson (UNSW), Dr Joanna Reynolds (Sheffield Hallam), Paul Hickman (Sheffield Hallam)

Filip’s PhD project is exploring community engagement in the alcohol licensing process in Australia and the UK. He will be using a qualitative case study approach to explore the issue using examples across Australia and the UK. Filip’s PhD is also part of the joint PhD program with Sheffield Hallam University in the UK and he will be conducting fieldwork while based at Sheffield Hallam in the second half of 2022.

Mothers' Little Helper: Alcohol use in working mothers

Maree Patsouras, supervised by Sandra Kuntsche, Cassandra Wright, Emmanuel Kuntsche and Gabriel Caluzzi

Maree's project uses mixed methods, focusing on alcohol use among working mothers. Maree's project will include a qualitative component using semi-structured interviews and a quantitative component, which will include a longitudinal ecological momentary assessment of alcohol use and daily hassles.

Cassandra Hopkins, supervised by Dr Anne-Marie Laslett, Dr Sandra Kuntsche and Dr Robyn Dwyer

Cass’s PhD uses mixed methods to identify the prevalence of harm from others drinking to children. Survey data is used to quantify harm while qualitative interviews are used to identify the harm context. Finally, this project will analyse Victorian public policy to identify if children are adequately protected from alcohol-related harm from others drinking.

Recently completed PhD projects

Teenagers are drinking less: An examination of the factors shaping recent developments in youth drinking cultures (qualitative component)

Gabriel Caluzzi, supervised by Amy Pennay, Michael Livingston & Sarah MacLean

This PhD project is part of a broader ARC-funded grant to try to understand the drivers behind the sharp declines in youth drinking in Australia since the early 2000s. Nowadays young Australians are drinking less than previous generations at the same age. A development mirrored in other countries. To better understand these trends, Gabriel Caluzzi’s PhD project has involved 50 interviews with young Victorian’s aged 16-19 in order to develop a nuanced understanding of the changing role of alcohol in young adults’ lives.

Transdermal alcohol measurement technology validation

Kelly van Egmond, supervised by Emmanuel Kuntsche, Cassandra Wright & Michael Livingston
Most alcohol research relies on self-reports and breath alcohol concentration, which has limitations in accuracy and participant burden. Transdermal alcohol monitors are devised to provide data on consumption with precision and no response burden. The aim of Kelly’s PhD project is to test the accuracy of measuring alcohol consumption using transdermal alcohol measurement devices. The project will consist of a systematic review and empirical studies testing the transdermal alcohol measurement technology against self-report and breath alcohol measurements, comparing across genders, ages, BMI, ethnicity, individual and family drinking history, drinking rate and consumed amount of food.

Alcohol consumption and the role of interpersonal and household influences within Australian households

Geoffrey Leggat, supervised by Sarah Callinan, Michael Livingston & Sandra Kuntsche

An individual’s alcohol consumption is shaped by many factors. In particular, the drinking habits of others we are close to can have a large effect on our perceptions and ideas regarding alcohol. Given this, Geoffrey’s PhD project aims to identify and describe the influences within relationships and households contributing to changes in alcohol consumption. The role of relationship and household factors and events will be assessed to evaluate, not only the effect they have on an individual’s alcohol consumption, but also how they interact with the influence that is exerted by the alcohol consumption of partners or family.

Teenagers are drinking less: An examination of the factors shaping recent developments in youth drinking cultures (quantitative component)

Rakhi Vashishtha, supervised by Michael Livingston, Amy Pennay & Paul Dietze

Rakhi’s PhD project is part of a broader ARC-funded grant to try to understand the drivers of recent declines in adolescent drinking in Australia. To do this, she is conducting a range of studies – a systematic review of existing analyses that have looked at this question globally, an exploration of trends in other risk and protective factors and a series of empirical analyses of existing survey data to test specific theories, including changes in parenting practices, changes in leisure time activities and major policy changes. The findings of this work will complement the qualitative work that Gabriel Caluzzi is conducting for his PhD and will provide critical new insights into this major generational shift in drinking practices.