Mandy Wilson

Research Fellow and Program Leader, Justice Health, NDRI
May 2018
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drugs sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... be heading down to the Revealed WA Aboriginal art market. The talent is phenomenal and I love the challenge and excitement of lifting up canvas after canvas of colourful paintings waiting for the one (or five) that implores me to take it (them) home.

I wish I'd never... agreed to let my daughter have rats. I should have learnt my lesson after the guinea pigs, the chickens, the dog …

I'd originally planned to work... as a novelist. I thought I was destined to write fiction. That was before I stepped into the lurid Hawaiian shirt clad Professor Bob Tonkinson’s first year Anthropology lecture on ‘tradition’ in Melanesia. I was sold.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... their tenaciousness to see past wrongs recognised and righted, their commitment to ethical research processes, their ability to keep on trying when the grant application doesn’t bear fruit, their ideas and passion, and their continued dedication to the field despite the obstacles (gatekeepers, tenuous contracts, funding uncertainty).

I'll never forget... my wonderful, creative, music-loving mum who passed away in January, the time I held a piece of the moon in my hand and Lara Richardson who beat me to the bright purple Emu marionette puppet at our primary school swap meet in 1979.  

If I had more time, I'd... practice mindfulness, go out dancing more often, research my family tree, make a leadlight window, finish the creative writing course I started last year and spend more time with family and friends.

I'm most scared of... becoming a hoarder. At the moment I adamantly declare that I’m a collector, but really, how many retro animal milk jugs, 1970s cat figurines and shop mannequins does one gal need?

For my next holiday... I will be heading to Japan. Cherry blossoms, snow, cat islands, Takarazuka, Harajuku Street fashion. Need I say more?

I can't get enough of... Etsy. It’s an enchanting universe curse! 

I'm really terrible at... resisting the lure of an op shop or car boot sale. I’m also really terrible at stopping at one retro animal milk jug, one 1970s cat figurine, one shop mannequin…

Career wise, I’m most proud of... surviving – sometimes by the skin of my teeth – in an uncertain research world and finding an area of need through which the research we do can potentially make positive and real differences in the lives of young girls and women. As a qualitative researcher, being able to honour the voices of research participants and ensure their stories are at the front and centre, has been particularly rewarding.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... that increasing attention be paid to groups that have been historically neglected (or silenced) in research and policy initiatives. I also hope to see more funding committed to community-based, holistic AOD services for under-served groups.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is... shifting attitudes that support punitive approaches towards those who use alcohol and other drugs. These responses disproportionately impact the marginalised and vulnerable, and fill up our prisons. Oh, and funding. Short-term funding cycles, not enough funding and not always well-targeted.

Dr Mandy Wilson

Mandy Wilson is a Research Fellow and Program Leader of the Justice Health research program at the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University. An anthropologist, she occupies a full-time research position in the area of Aboriginal and offender health. She is currently a chief investigator on a variety of projects that reflect her passions. In particular, her current research involvement includes projects exploring justice, substance use issues and violence/fighting, with a particular focus on the experiences of Aboriginal girls and incarcerated women.