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Australia’s largest-ever parent and children study, Generation Victoria (GenV), promises to transform the health and wellbeing of Australians over the coming decades.

The project, led by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) at the Melbourne Children’s Campus, is one of the largest longitudinal studies in the world, with over 115,000 participants, including 46,000 children across Australia’s geographic, cultural and social spectrum.

Professor Sharon Goldfeld, the Deputy Director of Equity and Knowledge Translation at GenV, says the project could transform areas such as chronic disease, mental health, learning and development, inequity across society, obesity, climate change, and COVID-19.

“GenV arose from the opportunity to consider what might be needed if we're going to do research at the scale and speed necessary to solve the complex problems for children and their parents for the next generation to come,” she says.

The project collects a wide range of information from parents as well as blood and saliva samples which are stored in one of the world’s biggest pregnancy and childhood biobanks.

The information collected by GenV, linked to existing administrative data, will facilitate insights into what happens to families over time, while a proposed intervention hub will enable real-time trials to test how best to improve child and parent wellbeing.

“That's everything from clinical trials, community-based trials, and place-based trials, and there can be more than one trial taking place at any one time.”

Multiple studies already using GenV

Collaborating researchers have already been awarded over $32 million of funding for research only possible through GenV. This includes projects that are developing new technology such as diagnosing congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), a pregnancy related virus which is associated with infant deafness and intellectual disability.

“This project is looking to see whether these mothers have the virus because if you treat it early, the baby is less likely to have those ongoing problems.”

Other studies currently underway using GenV data, include projects looking at hip dysplasia to reduce the risk of pain and disability in later life, and a project looking at children who show signs of neurodevelopmental regression (that is, their development seems to go backwards in early childhood).

“Right now, we don’t understand why that happens,” Professor Goldfeld says. “And those are often the children we pick up with autism, so this study will follow all our GenV kids to see which children lose certain skills to help understand why.”

But the potential of GenV stretches much further, Professor Goldfeld says.

For example, small trials have suggested that brief messages can help parents to set an earlier bedtime for children, leading to more sleep time for preschoolers. GenV could test whether this simple approach works at a large scale, and whether longer sleep translates into lower rates of overweight and obesity, for example.

GenV could also help determine whether the Victorian government’s rollout of free kindergarten support to four year-olds improves social, cognitive and physical skills by school entry, and model its lifetime costs and benefits to the nation. If the evidence shows the scheme works, it will provide an incentive for government to continue the program and encourage other states and even countries to adopt similar schemes.

“Look at the playground we’re opening up for researchers and policymakers,” she says.

The Victorian Government and philanthropists have together invested about $80 million in building the foundations for the project. MCRI is supported by a number of Equity Trustees’ managed trusts managed by Equity Trustees.

“We’ve completed phase one of foundational work – we're now looking to our accelerator phase. We're trying to build out the components of GenV that are needed to really be impactful at scale.”


Engaged philanthropists have a unique opportunity to amplify the power and value of the existing GenV research asset and help solve the complex health, wellbeing and social issues affecting Australia’s children and families. To find out more, please contact solutionsgenv@mcri.edu.au.

GenV supporters and partners include Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), The University of Melbourne, Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF), Victorian Government and the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.