In 2010 Dr Ian Dicker AM and his family decided to honour Ian’s late wife Barbara Dicker in a truly remarkable way by establishing the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation (BDBSF).

The BDBSF supports research at Swinburne that focuses on enhancing the wellbeing of people affected by neurological and psychological disorders.

As a successful entrepreneur and former President of the Hawthorn Football Club, Ian’s passion for people and the community runs deep. Armed with a desire to invest in long-term change and help others facing similar battles as his late wife did, Ian turned to philanthropy to make the difference.

The Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation

'We were keen to look at supporting research in a meaningful way. After a discussion with several institutions, we felt that Swinburne was more innovative in their approach,' says Ian’s son and Chair of the BDBSF, Dr Tony Dicker.

'Since its inception, the Foundation has generously supported applied research in brain and psychological sciences, with a view to helping diagnose, treat and prevent depression and related mental health conditions, sleep disorders, and dementia,' says Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Linda Kristjanson AO.

'The ultimate goal is to find a cure, treatment or prevention for these conditions,' she says.

Approximately 20% of adults are affected by adverse mental health problems every year. With the added stress of the coronavirus outbreak, Swinburne is more committed than ever to delivering positive outcomes to individuals and communities affected by depression, dementia, and sleep disorders.

To facilitate the engagement of world-leaders in brain science research, an annual Barbara Dicker Oration is delivered at Swinburne, profiling inspiring work by leading mental health researchers and academics.

'Our partnership with the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation exemplifies a strong mutual commitment as we forge ahead together in a deliberate and concerted effort to find cures, treatments and preventions for these conditions,’ says Swinburne’s Director of the Iverson Health Innovation Institute, Professor Gavin Lambert.

  • "Our partnership with the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation exemplifies a strong mutual commitment as we forge ahead together in a deliberate and concerted effort to find cures, treatments and preventions for these conditions."

    Professor Gavin Lambert , Swinburne’s Director of the Iverson Health Innovation Institute

Showcasing the impact of grants from the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation

Nursing: The front line in holistic care

Professor Sunil Bhar has been the recipient of eight grants from the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation, from 2011 to 2016. Bhar’s research in aged care, clinical psychology and mood disorders includes ways to improve mental health services through those who often have the most contact time with patients. His research led to the development of a training programme for nurses within acute psychogeriatric units. The initial pilot training highlighted the benefits of training for nurses’ levels of confidence and competence in using psychotherapeutic skills. He is also co-director of Swinburne’s Wellbeing Clinic for Older Adults which has recently launched a free national telehealth counselling and support service to provide emotional support to older adults during the coronavirus situation.

Addressing the loneliness problem

Dr Michelle Lim is a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and leads the Social Health and Wellbeing (SHAW) Laboratory. For many years, her research into loneliness and how it can negatively impact social functioning and exacerbate mental health symptoms such as social anxiety, depression, and paranoia has been greatly accelerated thanks to critical seed funding from the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation. Since the awarding of her first research grant in 2014, she has gone on to develop multiple evidence-based solutions to address the loneliness problem. Dr Lim is also the Scientific Chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness, which guides government agencies and not-for-profit organisations to deliver evidence-based community messaging and interventions in loneliness. 

Understanding more about hearing voices

Dr Wei Lin Toh is leading studies which she hopes will increase our knowledge and reduce stigma around the experiences of hearing voices among those with mood-related disorders such as bipolar disorder and severe depression. Dr Toh’s funding from the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation enabled her to conduct a large-scale study involving 170 participants who shared their own stories in the hope that their sharing will help reduce the stigma associated with voice-hearing.

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