Health literacy, resilience & desistence

Health literacy as a pathway to resilience and desistance

Degree type


Closing date

6 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Australia has been harshly criticised for its rising incarceration and remand rates (Productivity Commission, 2021; Justice Reform Initiative, 2020). At the same time the Tasmanian government decided to reimagine the youth detention centre in the North of the state, which warrants us to consider desistence mechanisms for youth at risk of engaging in delinquent behaviours.

A link between low literacy and incarceration in Australia was established in the 1980s, and research has found that 60% of adults and 85% of children in detention in Australia have 'low functionality literacy'. Numbers in Tasmania are likely to be higher, given that 48% of the general Tasmanian population have low functional literacy. A bidirectional relationship exists between Health Literacy (HL) and educational attainment (Cummings & Obel-Omia, 2016; Pérez-Rodrigo et al., 2001). And whilst education is an important social determinant, HL ('the personal characteristics and social resources needed for individuals and communities to access, understand, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health. Health literacy includes the capacity to communicate, assert and enact these decisions', Dodson et al. 2015) has been defined as a social determinant in its own right (Bröder et al., 2018). There is growing evidence that health literacy can be a significant factor in desistance from crime, and can redress inequities that exist in health and society (Batterham et al., 2014; Hadden et al., 2018; Paakkari & George, 2018).

Using the Ophelia principles (Batterham et al. 2014) and HealthLit4Kids as a program platform, this project seeks to develop and test an early intervention program for young people at risk of experiencing youth justice. The program will be designed to ensure disengaged youth acquire the skills necessary for desistence and resilience. This project aims at furthering the goals for all Tasmanians to live 'good healthy lives'.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • English language score must be at or above minimum entry requirements for this project

Applicants from the following disciplines are encouraged to apply:

  • Education, Criminology, Social Work, Public Health, etc

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Knowledge of qualitative or quantitative research

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Knowledge of evaluation research
  • Experience of education  or public health setting

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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