The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

2020 Award Highlights

With the cancellation of this year's APSAD conference due to COVID-19 the annual APSAD Awards ceremony was held online.

APSAD President Professor Michael Farrell presented the 2020 APSAD Awards for Excellence in Science, Research and Practice at the special online ceremony. The six recipients of the APSAD Awards are recognised as having made an outstanding contribution to reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drug use in Australasia.


Senior scientist
Senior Scientist Award Robert Ali
 Mid Career Mentor Award winners
L to R: Mid Career Award
Suzanne Nielsen &
Mentor Award Paul Dietze
First Peoples winner Robert Assan photo
First Peoples Award 
Robert Assan 
Clinician Award winnerClinician Award 
Anthony Gill
Early career winner Cheneal PuljevicEarly Career Award
Cheneal Puljević

Senior Scientist Award A/Prof Robert Ali

Associate Professor Robert Ali ( MBBS FAFPHM, FAChAM DPH) is a public health physician and specialist in addiction medicine. Until October 2016 he was the clinical director of Drug & Alcohol Services South Australia; a role he held for 30 years. Currently he is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. Robert is a member of the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs, member of the Cochrane Alcohol and Drug Group editorial board and the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence and Alcohol Problems.

The Senior Scientist Award is for a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of substance use.

Mid Career Award A/Prof Suzanne Nielsen
Associate Professor Suzanne Nielsen (BPharmSc[Hons] PhD MPS) is the Deputy Director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre in Melbourne, and is a current NHMRC Career Development Fellow. Suzi has been a registered pharmacist for over 20 years with clinical experience in the treatment of substance use disorders includes in specialist drug treatment and community-based alcohol and drug treatment settings in Australia and the United Kingdom. She has published over 135 scientific publications and given over 170 national and international conference presentations on her research, which has led to a greater understanding of how to identify and respond to prescription and over-the-counter drug-related problems. Her recent work has a focus on reducing opioid-related harm and overdose prevention. Suzi has worked with Australian state and federal governments to reduce opioid-related and other drug harm.

The Mid Career Award is for significant contribution in the alcohol and other drug field.

Early Career Award Dr Cheneal Puljević

Dr Cheneal Puljev is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Services Research and the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland. At the Centre for Health Services Research she is the Program Manager for the Global Substance Use and Mental Health unit, where she conducts and manages a number of research projects related to substance use, including the Queensland evaluation of the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Policy (QUANTEM), and several projects using data from the Global Drug Survey. At the School of Public Health, she is the co-coordinator of the CARP smoking cessation trial, and contributes to projects promoting smoking cessation among priority populations. Her primary research interest is smoking cessation among disadvantaged populations, with her PhD (completed in 2018) and current UQ Early Career Researcher Grant focusing on this topic. (

The Early Career Award is for excellence in research relative to career opportunities.

Mentor Award Prof Paul Dietze

Professor Paul Dietze is one of Australia’s leading alcohol and other drug epidemiologists with a significant national, and emerging international profile. He is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and a past ARC Future Fellow and VicHealth Public Health Research Fellow. With more than 20 years’ experience and an outstanding track record, his work has established internationally innovative surveillance systems and applied research designs that break new ground in the public health research into alcohol and other drug use and related harms in Australia. He has produced more than 290 journal articles along with many other reports of significant impact that have changed practice in the area of alcohol and other drugs in this country. During the course of his research career he has received more than $20 million of research funding. (

The Mentor Award recognises an individual who has made an important contribution to mentoring and supporting the career development of clinicians, researchers or students.

First Peoples Award Robert Assan

I am both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. I was born in the Northern Territory, but my cultural background is from Thursday Island.

Training has been a big part of my work. And it gives me great satisfaction – working with health workers and seeing them come along in their ability to help individuals and families around alcohol and drugs. I have been able to offer training and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers around Australia, and to many other staff. The training helps them work with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people with alcohol or drug problems. I have also worked with individuals and communities, in the Northern Territory and in Queensland, to help them rethink their alcohol or drug use.

My current work involves both training and support of health workers, and one-to-one work with adolescents. This work is at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville. I like that sense of planting the seed that leads to change later on. You don’t always see the results straight away, but the seed is there. The young people are able to use that information that you’ve given them. I equip people with knowledge and skills and insight that can help them in life.

Recognises an individual that has made an important contribution to the advancement of the health of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori peoples.

Clinician Award Dr Anthony Gill

Dr Anthony (Tony) Gill is an Addiction Medicine Specialist who has worked in the Drug and Alcohol field for around 30 years. He has worked as a clinician and clinical leader primarily. He has held various Drug and Alcohol Clinical Director positions in NSW Local Health Districts and in the past in the NSW Ministry of Health. He is presently a Senior Staff Specialist in the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, and Chief Addiction Medicine Specialist in the NSW Ministry of Health. His interests in drug and alcohol include teaching and clinical service development and redesign, and he has worked extensively with general practitioners to enhance their activities in drug and alcohol.

Recognises excellence and leadership in clinical practice in the field of substance use in any discipline.