Ruth is a researcher, inventor, educator and clinician with particular interests in neurological rehabilitation; innovative models of clinical service delivery for rural, remote and Indigenous communities; and building research capacity across Allied Health disciplines. Ruth supports, mentors and advises a raft of PhD students and clinician researchers across the health professions.

Ruth’s commitment to innovative service delivery in Northern Australia, particularly in the area of rehabilitation, includes a lead role in development of the following:

  • Northern Australian Research Network (NARN) – ‘Function Disability and Health’.
  • Rural Generalist Education Program, provided by JCU and QUT in partnership with the Allied Health Professionals Office of Queensland (AHPOQ).

Over the past decade, Ruth has attracted funding of more than $16 million to design, pilot, implement and evaluate community rehabilitation services in Townsville and Mt Isa with outreach services to surrounding communities. These services incorporate interprofessional, student-assisted service delivery models.

Ruth’s key research in the area of Neurological Rehabilitation is ‘Upper limb recovery after stroke’. She is the lead inventor on the SMART Arm, a training device to promote recovery, and the lead author of the Drive Your Own Recovery Program. To date, these initiatives have attracted more than $1 million in funding and resulted in the completion of six clinical trials, two PhDs and 16 publications in peer-reviewed journals.


PhD in Physiotherapy, Master of Arts in Aboriginal Studeis, Post Graduate Dimploma of Education, Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy.

  • • Neurorehabilitation • Community Rehabilitation • Services for rural, remote and Indigenous communities • Student-assisted, interprofessional models of service delivery
  • 2001 to present - Clinic Manager - Neurological Ageing and Balance Clinic, University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 2015 to 2017 - Associate Professor - Rehabilitation, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2003 to 2017 - Lead Inventor - SMART Arm, SMART Arm Pty Ltd
  • 2012 to 2015 - Clinical Leader - Community Rehab nQ, Northern Australia Primary Health Ltd (Townsville)
  • 2007 to 2011 - Senior Lecturer - Neurological Physiotherapy, James Cook University (Townsville)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 33+ research outputs authored by Dr Ruth Barker from 2003 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

NHMRC - Northern Australia Tropical Disease Collaborative Research Programme

HOT NORTH - Indigenous Development and Traning Grant

Indicative Funding
$24,936 (administered by Menzies School of Health Research)
Michelle Dougan will undertake the role of Aboriginal Allied Health Assistant/Co-researcher for our HOT North pilot project titled 'Talking after Stroke'. The Indigenous Development and Training grant will support Michelle by enabling her to undertake a Certificate IV Allied Health Assistant (Speech Pathology and Physiotherapy), providing both course fees and backfill for her position at Wuchopperen. The grant will also enable Michelle to attend a forum in Darwin for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander co-researchers, access face-to-face training for her role no the pilot project and to attend key conferences (IAHA and Lowitja) to share findings.
Michelle Dougan, Ruth Barker, Kylie Stothers, Robyn McDermott, Anita Seinen, Natasha Barlow and Natalie Ciccone (Wuchopperen Aboriginal Health Service, College of Healthcare Sciences, Indigenous Allied Health Australia, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and Edith Cowan University)
Indigenous; Rehabilitation; Allied Health; Speech Pathology; Stroke; Physiotherapy

NHMRC - Northern Australia Tropical Disease Collaborative Research Programme

HOT NORTH PILOT PROJECTS - RND 4 - Translation of a culturally responsive stroke rehabilitation service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into a real-world setting in northern Australia: a hybrid effectiveness implementation study

Indicative Funding
$35,290 (administered by Menzies School of Health Research)
An evidence-based communication intervention will be implemented in the real world setting at Wuchopperen Health Services (WHS) in Cairns. Eight stroke survivors will participate in 24 sessions across a 12-week period, delivered by a speech pathologist in partnership with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Allied Health Assistant (AHA). Individually tailored activities will be undertaken within a 'yarning' framework, with family involvement, and culturally relevant resources. Change in everyday communication and barriers and enablers to implementation will be assessed. This study will prepare for full-scale implementation of the service model and reduce health disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Ruth Barker, Kylie Stothers, Robyn McDermott, Natalie Ciccone, Jacqueline Mein, Anita Seinen, Michelle Dougan and Natasha Barlow in collaboration with Beth Armstrong, Deborah Hersh, Juli Coffin, Michael Adams, Anne Lowell, Elaine Maypilama, Renae Moore, Frances Cochrane and Lauren King Koi (College of Healthcare Sciences, Indigenous Allied Health Australia, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Wuchopperen Aboriginal Health Service and Charles Darwin University)
Rehabilitation; communication; Allied Health; Partnership; aboriginal and torres strait islander

Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation - Research Grant

How can models of referral and access to cardiac rehabilitation in rural and remote areas of Far North Queensland be improved?

Indicative Funding
To investigate how to improve referral and access models of cardiac rehabilitation services for people living independently in rural and remote areas of North Queensland. Mixed method research will be used to develop an evidence base including descriptive epidemiological data of people hospitalised with heart disease, a hospital case study of referral and discharge processes, and participatory action research involving health professionals and people living independently in rural and remote areas, following hospitalisation for heart disease. Based on the findings, propose model(s) aimed to improve referral and access models of cardiac rehabilitation in the target population.
Patricia Field, Richard Franklin, Ruth Barker, Peter Leggat and Ian Ring (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, College of Healthcare Sciences and Division of Tropical Health & Medicine)
cardiac rehabilitation; Rural; Remote Areas; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; Barriers; Pathways

Lowitja Institute-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health CRC - Research Activity Funding

Developing a physical activity program for Aboriginal families with Machado Joseph Disease (MJD) living in the Top End of Australia

Indicative Funding
$114,076 over 2 years
Worldwide, no research has been conducted to investigate the impact of physical activity on individuals with MJD. MJD is 100 times more prevalent in Aboriginal communities in the Top End than anywhere else in the world. This project will develop a physical activity program derived from the voices of the Warnindilyakwa people with MJD, scientific literature and strengthened using a modified Delphi consensus approach. The program is expected to: ? Reduce the impact of MJD and keep families `stronger for longer?. ? Be transferrable to other communities ? Build capacity of community research partners ? Develop resources for health services to improve care for MJD families in Australia.
Ruth Barker and Jennifer Carr in collaboration with Anne Lowell, Alan Clough, Libby Massey, Joyce Lalara, Gayangwa Lalara and Gloria O'Hare (College of Healthcare Sciences, Charles Darwin University, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and MJD Foundation)
Machado Joseph Disease; Physical Activity; Rehabilitation; Spinocerebellar ataxia 3; Physiotherapy

QLD Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation - Advance Queensland Knowledge Transfer Partnerships - Contract Research

Integrated online platform for delivery of digital health services by a multi-disciplinary team of allied health professionals

Indicative Funding
This project aims to create an integrated online platform for multi-disciplinary allied health professionals to provide evidence-based digital health support and services to communities, organisations and clients, especially those in rural and remote communities, vulnerable groups and/or those who would otherwise not be able to access quality health services within Queensland, Australia and other countries. This project provides solutions to challenges associated with a sustainable design for service delivery compared to current models that involve significant funding in order to access these populations. This project has the potential to reach these geographically dispersed communities while reducing costs through decreased travel.
Ruth Barker, Lisa Simmons and Glen McIntyre (College of Healthcare Sciences and Agapeflows Pty Ltd)
Student-led; Allied health; Rural and remote; Telehealth; Industry partnership

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Review of Communication and Support Systems for People From Rural and Remote N. Queensland who have been Recently Hospitalised with Cardiac Disease and Development, Piloting and Evaluation of a Revised Model of Care (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Optimisation of neurorehabilitation through administration of fluoxetine to stroke survivors using SMART Arm therapy to improve deficits in their upper limb function (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Measuring Person-Centred Healthcare (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Impact of a physical activity program on 'walking and moving about' for individuals with Machado Joseph Disease (MJD) living in the Top End of Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Enhancing Stroke Survivors' Ability to Persevere with Practice in the Home Environment using Assisted-Living Technology (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Can Plyometric/Ballistic Exercise Improve High-Level Mobility for Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis? (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Use of Technology to Enhance Rehabilitation Services for Stroke Survivors in Rural and Remote Areas (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Feasibility of implementing upper limb training early after stroke in an Australian inpatient rehabilitation unit using the SMART Arm (Masters , Primary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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