NDARC's Professor Maree Teesson appointed Companion of the Order of Australia

Image - NDARC's Professor Maree Teesson appointed Companion of the Order of Australia
Date Published:
26 Jan 2018

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney, congratulates Professor Maree Teesson on her appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day 2018 Honours List.

Professor Teesson is the Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), which was established in 2012 and brings together more than 70 multi-disciplinary academic and clinical researchers spanning seven national and international universities.

Professor Teesson received her award for “eminent service to medicine, particularly to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, as a researcher and author, to innovate mental health policy development, to education and as a role model for young researchers.”

The Companion of the Order is the highest honour, awarded for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or humanity at large. Only 16 Australians were named Companions in the Australia Day 2018 Honours List.

Professor Teesson said she was honoured to receive the award in recognition of her and her team’s work addressing issues with the potential to debilitate the lives of millions of Australians and their families.

“My team’s research is at the forefront of prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders, having led to numerous ‘firsts’ in the field and drawing attention to the vital areas of mental health and drug and alcohol research,’ Professor Teesson said.

“We have pioneered innovative e-health programs focusing on the prevention of alcohol and drug related harms using internet delivered school-based technologies for students in Australia, the UK and the US.  

“Investment in research and services is an investment in the future of Australia and clearly valued by the Australian community, yet we spend only five percent of the health budget on mental health and less than two percent on prevention. We need to invest more.” 

NDARC Director Professor Michael Farrell said Professor Teesson was highly deserving of the award.

“Professor Teesson has had a huge impact in the field, particularly through her leadership of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS),” Professor Farrell said.

“As well as her contribution to public health and mental health research, Maree has been recognised for her role as a mentor to young researchers developing careers and creating the next generation of mental health and drug and alcohol researchers.”

Federal Health Minister the Hon Greg Hunt tweeted: “Great to see mental health recognised with the Australia Day Honour to Maree Teesson. A wonderful life of service to others.”

Former Australian of the Year Pat McGorry tweeted: “Congratulations to Maree Teesson on the award of AC for lifetime of inspiring research and advocacy for progress in mental health and addictions. Great to see her recognised.” 

The first in her family to go to university, Professor Teesson studied Psychology at UNSW Sydney where she developed a passion for finding ways to prevent and cure mental disorders.

Her research began at the age of 22 when she became aware of the number of people in inner city Sydney who were both homeless and experiencing schizophrenia.

Professor Teesson joined NDARC in 1997, expanding her drug and alcohol knowledge and taking a lead role as a mentor to young researchers. In 2014, she was awarded the Australian Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Scientists.

“I recognised early that there was little formal, structural support for young researchers, including young women and those with children,” Professor Teesson said.

“In my team and in medical research in general I am always looking for ways to deliberately address this deficit.”

More than four million Australians will experience a mental disorder this year, with young people impacted most significantly. Three in four substance use or mental disorders are developed before leaving school.

“Critically, substance use disorders, depression, suicide, anxiety, and psychosis frequently co-occur, share common risk factors, and interact,” Professor Teesson said.

“Every year substance and mental disorders conservatively cost the Australian community over $40 billion.

“Effective prevention and early intervention can significantly reduce disease burden by halting, delaying, and interrupting the onset and progression of disorders.”

Media contacts:
Marion Downey P: (02) 9385 0333| 0401 713 850 | m.downey@unsw.edu.au
Morgaine Wallace-Steele P: (02) 9385 0124| 0432 894 776 | m.wallace-steele@unsw.edu.au    

Professor Maree Teesson AC is the director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), NHMRC Principal Research Fellow at UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Professorial Fellow Black Dog Institute, Fellow of the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and Fellow Australian Academy Social Sciences.

She is the recipient of prestigious awards including:

  • Australian Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Scientists (2014)
  • AFR/Westpac 100 Women of Influence (2016)
  • Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and Drugs Senior Scientist Award (2015)
  • Society for Mental Health Research Oration (2015) Prize and Foundation Medal (2017)