Free Coulston receives the Dean’s Award for Excellence for her work on co-designing a circus-based paediatric intervention

Congratulations to Free Coulston on receiving the Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Research for her PhD research supervised by Prof Alicia Spittle, Dr Rachel Toovey and Dr Kath Sellick. This award, valued at $1000, recognises outstanding achievements by Graduate Researchers across the Faculty.

Free headshot

Free started her career as an international circus performer, transitioning to become a physiotherapist a decade later. Another 10 years on found Free combining these passions in her PhD, “The Circus Project: Co-designing a circus-based intervention to enhance physical activity participation for preschool-aged children born preterm.” She undertook five studies across four papers (a scoping review, a mixed-methods study, a co-design study, and a feasibility study.

Overall, this thesis developed and evaluated both a novel approach to co-designing paediatric interventions with key stakeholders, and a circus-based physical activity intervention. Findings from this thesis can be used to co-design future interventions, as well as provide a solid foundation for further development and testing of an intervention that may improve physical activity participation for preschool-aged children born preterm.

Now Free continues to work alongside people with lived experience in research, including expanding her work in co-design and stakeholder engagement. She also holds a lecturing position at the University of Melbourne where she teaches collaborative research practices to the next generation of physiotherapists.