Isabelle Schaefer


Ms Isabelle Schaefer

2022 Jeff Cheverton Memorial Scholar

Project Officer and PhD Candidate, National Palliative Care in Prisons Project

IMPACCT, University of Technology Sydney


In February of 2022, I was lucky to take part in the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research scholarship program, as a Jeff Cheverton Memorial Scholar. The scholarship is designed to provide PhD candidates and early career researchers with an opportunity to build policy-writing skills, network with policy-makers, and develop an issues brief on a topic of interest that aims to provide a concise, easy to read summary of current evidence and recommendations about a policy issue.

I am in the second year of my PhD at the University of Technology Sydney, working on a gap analysis of palliative care in NSW prisons. The need for palliative care in Australia’s prisons is increasing because the population of older people in prison is rising disproportionately to other age groups of the prison population. There is a growing body of international literature describing the barriers to providing palliative care in prisons, but very little information about this in the Australian context.

There is currently no data about the need for palliative care in Australian prisons, which is a crucial foundation to understand what palliative care services are required, and advocate for service development. In my issues brief, I describe this gap in evidence, and call for the collection of data related to palliative care need and utilisation in Australia’s prisons using the existing Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Survey.

This scholarship supported me to think critically about the main policy issues around providing best practice palliative care in Australian prisons, and to consider these issues through a policy-focused lens rather than an academic perspective. Doing so has given me an insight into how to begin the process of research translation by choosing a priority issue, developing an evidence-based foundation, and providing concrete recommendations in a clear and concise form.

The opportunity to engage with policymakers who have direct knowledge about my chosen issue, develop my communication skills by presenting my issue, justification and recommendations, and receive feedback from key stakeholders has been an invaluable experience. Through this scholarship, I have had the chance to explore an aspect of my PhD topic that I would otherwise not have been able to, with ongoing mentorship and professional development.

I would highly recommend this program to other PhD candidates and early career researchers. I am grateful to AHHA, the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research and A/Prof Rebecca Haddock for this experience.