Paul Dietze

Professor and Head of NDRI Melbourne, Director of Burnet’s Behaviours and Health Risks Program
March 2021
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 driving back to Melbourne from Lake Eildon, which is about 150km or two hours away. I have to go home for the weekend but this is a nice place to work at the moment while there is a ‘work from home’ directive.

I wish I'd never... decided to support the Carlton Football Club, given how tragic they’ve been in the 2000s. Back then, you either supported Collingwood, Essendon or Carlton and I grew up with a whole lot of Carlton supporters, so it was just a natural thing to support the Blues.

I'd originally planned to work... at the University of Melbourne. I finished my PhD and I expected to come back and take up a position with the University of Melbourne but then a position at Turning Point came up and I haven’t looked back since.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... trustworthiness and respect, and intelligence. My experience in the sector has been that people are understanding and what I admire most is their commitment, which leads to that trustworthiness. The respectful way they work with you is fantastic.

I'll never forget... crossing the Alps by bike in Europe in 2017. A colleague of mine from Munich convinced a group of us to ride with him across the Alps. We finished in Lago di Garda in Italy and it was one of the most amazing experiences. We subsequently took road bikes across the Pyrenees, which was fantastic as well.

If I had more time, I'd... spend more time cycling. I’m pretty lucky that there is some amazing cycling around where I am at the moment. It certainly helped keep me sane during the intense lockdown.

I'm most scared of... another full lockdown in Melbourne.

For my next holiday... I’ll be at Lake Eildon enjoying the heat and the warm water.

I can't get enough of... riding my bike. Cycling is a bit of an obsession for me. 

I'm really terrible at... so many things. I have a terrible fear of heights so I’m terrible at anything to do with heights. I did make it across the Alps, but I was terrified at times.

Career wise, I’m most proud of... the students I have supervised, who have gone on to amazing careers. Most of them still work in the sector and all of them continue in some kind of research capacity.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... that we keep kicking goals in relation to changing policies to reflect the evidence that we’ve been generating over the years.

The sector’s biggest challenge going forward is... getting a strong enough voice to generate evidence-informed policy change. I think we have to try innovative new strategies, like what some people are employing at the moment, and making sure our communications are really effective and clear. I think that’s important.

Professor Paul Dietze joined NDRI in mid-2020 to lead the Melbourne Office in a dual role with the Burnet Institute. He is one of Australia’s leading alcohol and other drug epidemiologists with a significant national and international profile. Building on more than 20 years’ experience and an outstanding track record in obtaining competitive grants, Paul has established a substantial body of work focused on key drug related issues such as opioid overdose, risky alcohol use and methamphetamine use and harms. He leads the largest and only active cohort studies of people who inject drugs and people who smoke methamphetamine in Australia.