Dr Robert Stirling

NCETA Advisory Board Chair
March 2024
In each Connections we ask someone from the alcohol and other drugs sector to share a little about their work and life. Let us introduce you to Dr Robert Stirling.

I'd originally planned to work... as an actor. You may have seen me in the background on A Country Practice and Police Rescue. In my late teens I missed out on auditions for Home and Away and to get into NIDA. But I ended up at NADA. I’m sure the skills and experiences from my roles in the theatre have been transferable to my current role in the AOD field.

I'm really terrible at... singing. I understand there is footage of Suzie Hudson and I signing a duet at the ACDAN conference last year. I fear it will resurface at an inopportune time.

If I had more time, I'd... write more papers from the data collected from my DrPH. Particularly the views and experiences of people with living/lived experience in accessing AOD treatment, that didn’t fit into the performance measurement research.

My goal for 2024 is... to have more work-life balance. It’s been a busy 5 years. I’m hoping the NSW Government will announce the date for Drug Summit so I can book a long holiday

Career wise, I’m most proud of... everything. I really do feel like every career move has contributed to building my skills for the role I’m in today. And being able to undertake a professional doctorate to progress a long-standing sector issue – we’re not there yet, but I’m hopeful we will. I think more universities should take up the DrPH (or similar) programs and promote it widely to the AOD sector.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is... stigma and discrimination. It impacts on people who use, or have used drugs, the workforce, as well as policy and funding decisions for the sector. Linked to this attracting, recruiting and retaining workers – particularly in the NGO sector where we struggle to compete with the salaries and employment status in the public sector. It would be great to have pay parity and transferrable employment conditions.