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A First Nations Cancer Cohort Study (CanCo)

Project summary

Research area
Health sciences, Indigenous studies

Project description

The NHMRC has funded a project to establish a prospective population-based cohort of First Nations individuals diagnosed with cancer and their Caregivers in Queensland Australia. This project includes many components, and the student would select parts of the work, or methodological issues to focus on. This includes the opportunity for either or both quantitative and qualitative research and data collection. Below is a brief description of the overall study background, aims and methods.

First Nations Australians have higher overall cancer incidence (1.4 times) and cancer mortality rates (4.5 times), and lower 5-year cancer survival compared to other Australians. Despite extensive research and "close-the-gap" policies, the gap in cancer mortality continues to widen. To provide equitable and best-practice cancer care for First Nations cancer patients, understanding their unique physical, psychological, cultural and social contexts is crucial. While administrative data sources and data linkage studies have been valuable, they do not capture the holistic perspective needed to drive meaningful change.

Specific aims of this larger project are: 1) Map the cancer care pathways for First Nations individuals from pre-diagnosis through treatment and beyond. Investigate the structural, service/professional, and individual factors, including psychosocial factors, associated with both optimal and sub-optimal cancer care;2) Create a mechanism to routinely code additional data, including cancer stage, for First Nations cancer patients; 3) Investigate the reciprocal impact of chronic diseases on the diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of cancer among First Nations peoples and vice versa; 4) Evaluate the efficacy, cost and financial impact of various treatment approaches/options and episodic care among First Nations cancer patients.

The study will employ a mixed-method study design utilising an indigenous research methodology approach. It integrates comprehensive data linkage, longitudinal patient-reported measures, and qualitative data collected using Yarning methods to amplify the voices of First Nations patients and their caregivers, providing a deeper understanding of their unique perspectives. The conduct of the study and the collection, storage and use of the data will be governed by Indigenous data governance policy.

In collaboration with Cancer Alliance Queensland, this study will span over 5 years to comprehensively investigate and address the critical health disparities faced by First Nations Australians in cancer care, ultimately saving more lives and enhancing wellbeing.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are encouraged to apply. The successful student will be passionate about health equity and/or improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer care and outcomes. The successful student will be motivated, have some experience in project coordinator or management and quantitative and/or qualitative research. Specifically, an understanding of longitudinal study designs, patient report measures, cancer survivorship and health equity is ideal.


This is an Earmarked scholarship project that aligns with a recently awarded Australian Government grant.

The scholarship includes:

  • living stipend of $35,000 per annum tax free (2024 rate), indexed annually
  • your tuition fees covered
  • single overseas student health cover (OSHC).

Learn more about the Earmarked scholarship.


You must contact the principal supervisor for this project to discuss your interest. You should only complete the online application after you have reached agreement on supervision.

Always make sure you are approaching your potential supervisor in a professional way. We have provided some guidelines for you on how to contact a supervisor.

Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your:

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of health equity, Indigenous health, and cancer care disparities would be beneficial for this project. Specifically, an understanding of longitudinal study designs, patient report measures, cancer survivorship, and health equity is ideal.

How to apply

This project requires candidates to commence no later than Research Quarter 1, 2027. To allow time for your application to be processed, we recommend applying no later than 30 September, 2026 30 June, 2026.

You can start in an earlier research quarter. See application dates.

Before you apply

  1. Check your eligibility for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
  2. Prepare your documentation.
  3. Contact Professor Gail Garvey ( to discuss your interest and suitability.

When you apply

You apply for this scholarship when you submit an application for a PhD. You don’t need to submit a separate scholarship application.

In your application ensure that under the ‘Scholarships and collaborative study’ section you select:

  • My higher degree is not collaborative
  • I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship
  • UQ Earmarked Scholarship type.

Apply now