Dr Michelle Fitts

Michelle_FittsMichelle is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Based in Alice Springs, she has worked for over a decade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland and Northern Territory. Her research experience is largely on multi-site projects examining alcohol, traumatic brain injury, disability and drink driving. Michelle holds an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship (2021-2024), focused on understanding the daily lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have sustained a traumatic brain injury through family violence. This program of work with women living with traumatic brain injury, their families and the services who support them will seek to bridge the gap between research and practice and help inform the service delivery of disability, legal, health and family violence agencies.

Prior to Western Sydney University, Michelle worked in the Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Disease Division at Menzies School of Health Research and at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University. Michelle is an Adjunct Research Fellow at James Cook University. Her community and service provider partnerships have led to the creation of important outcomes including traumatic brain injury resources and a community drink driving program.


  • PhD, 2015, Queensland University of Technology
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Criminology, 2008, The University of Melbourne
  • Graduate Diploma in Criminology, 2007, The University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Science (Psychology), 2005, Deakin University

Research Focus

  • Alcohol
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Disability
  • Remote health
  • Road safety
  • Drink driving

Selected Awards and Recognition

  • 2015 - Peter Vulcan Award for Best Research Paper
  • 2013 - RACQ: Award: Drink Driving Rehabilitation and Artwork Camps
  • 2009 - Australian Institute of Criminology - CARRS-Q’s Under the Limit (UTL) drink driving education and rehabilitation program

Selected Publications

Soldatic, K. & Fitts, M. (2020). Sorting yourself out of the system: everyday processes of elusive social sorting in Australia’s disability social security regime for Indigenous Australians (opens in a new window). Disability and Society. 35(3), 347-365.

Fitts, M.S & Soldatic, K. (2020). Why extended time on Newstart is unsuitable for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with disability (opens in a new window). Australian Journal of Social Work. 73(2), 191–203.

Fitts, M.S & Soldatic, K. (2020). Who’s caring for whom? Disabled Indigenous carers experiences of Australia’s infrastructures of social protection (opens in a new window). Journal of Family Studies. 1-16.

Fitts, M.S., Bird, K., Gilroy, J., Fleming, J., Clough, A., Esterman, A., Maruff P., Fatima, Y. & Bohanna, I. (2019). The Transition Support Needs of Indigenous Australians Following Traumatic Brain Injury. Brain Impairment, 20 (2), 137-159.

Fitts, M.S., Condon, T., Gilroy, J., Bird, K., Bleakley, E., Matheson, L., Fleming, J., Clough, A.R., Esterman, A., Maruff, P. & Bohanna, I. (2019). Indigenous traumatic brain injury research: Responding to recruitment challenges in the hospital environment (opens in a new window). BMC Medical Research Methodology, 19(1), 172-172.

Bohanna, I., Fitts, M.S., Bird, K., Fleming, J., Gilroy, J., Clough, A., Esterman, A., Maruff P. & Potter, M. (2019). The Potential of a Narrative and Creative Arts Approach to Enhance Transition Outcomes for Indigenous Australians Following Traumatic Brain Injury (opens in a new window). Brain Impairment, 20(2), 1-11.

Esterman, A., Thompson, F., Fitts, M., Gilroy, J., Fleming, J., Maruff, P., Clough, A. & Bohanna, I. (2018). Incidence of emergency department presentations for traumatic brain injury in indigenous and non-indigenous residents aged 15–64 over the 9-year period 2007–2015 in north Queensland, Australia (opens in a new window). Injury Epidemiology, 5(1), 1-7.

Clough, A.R., Fitts, M.S., Muller, R., Ypinazar, V. & Margolis, S. (2018). A longitudinal observation study assessing changes in indicators of serious injury and violence with alcohol controls in four remote Indigenous Australian communities in far north Queensland (2000–2015) (opens in a new window). BMC Public Health, 18(1), 1-12.

West, C., Muller, R., Clough, A.R. & Fitts, M.S. (2018). Have Alcohol Management Plans reduced violence against women in Cape York, Australia? (opens in a new window), Violence against Women, 24 (14). 1658-1677.

Robertson, J.A., Fitts, M.S. & Clough, A.R. (2017). Unintended impacts of alcohol restrictions on alcohol and other drug use in Indigenous communities in Queensland (Australia) (opens in a new window). International Journal of Drug Policy, 41, 34-40.