Associate Professor Robert Ali

Clinical Associate Professor in the Discipline of Pharmacology at Adelaide University
March 2017
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drug sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... be preparing for a meeting of the Australian National Advisory Council on Drugs to be held in Canberra next week.  It will be the first meeting of the council with the new Minister of Health the Honourable Greg Hunt MP.

I wish I'd never... lost my suitcase on a WHO visit to Nepal. Fortunately, Alex Wodak leant me some clothes while Singapore airlines were busy looking for it.

I'd originally planned to work... in country General Practice. While waiting for a position to open up I did a locum placement at Drug and Alcohol Services Council in South Australia. The rest is history.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... personal sacrifice and commitment to helping people who are socially marginalised and stigmatised.

I'll never forget… after years of advocacy the joy of hearing that Vietnam had finally agreed to introduce and scale up methadone treatment.

If I had more time, I' to work with colleagues in Myanmar to scale up effective evidence based treatments. Of the 9 countries who still use compulsory treatment they have the lowest capacity to transform and implement voluntary community based treatment.

I'm most scared of… the rise of popularist politics. The drug using population are at great risk that the good progress that has been made will be wound back by narrow-minded self-interest.

For my next holiday... I will stay at home. Frequently get complaints that I travel too much.

I can't get enough of... Australian comedy. I just love our sense of humour.

I'm really terrible at… time management. I tend to be always overcommitted. Truthfully, I much prefer that to being idle and bored.

Career wise, I’m most proud of… convincing John Cornwall, the then Minister of Health in South Australia, to introduce needle exchange programs. At the time, this went against Departmental advice.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... that we will cooperate as a sector to introduce routine treatment outcome monitoring that can track the treatment journey. We then have a chance to confirm with our political leaders that treatment works and identify the contribution of the components that enable that success.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is… adequate resourcing for sustainable development. This means there needs to be funding for ongoing workforce development to enable all of us to keep abreast of new treatment innovations.

Associate Professor Robert Ali

Associate. Professor Robert Ali 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 the Director of a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research into the Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Problems 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. Robert was the Asia Pacific Editor for Drug and Alcohol Review and a member of Drug and Alcohol Dependence Editorial board. Robert chaired the committee that revised and updated the Australian clinical guidelines for medicated treatment for opioid dependence.

Robert holds a number of university appointments, including visiting research fellow at the Australian National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Clinical Associate Professor in the Discipline of Pharmacology at Adelaide University and Senior Lecturer at the National Centre for Education and Training in Addiction at Flinders University.