Intensive rehabilitation for children with moderate to severe cerebral palsy to improve gross motor function, habitual physical activity and participation in physically active leisure.

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

In Australia, cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in children. Around 40% of children with cerebral palsy will have moderate to severe physical disability. Of these children, some may be able to walk small distances with the help of a walker or crutches, while some will mainly move around in a wheelchair. For these children, their mobility capacity is reached at around 6 to 7 years of age, but then declines later in childhood which can lead to them spending around 90% of their waking day sitting. This has long term consequences for their health and well-being.

This single-blind multi-site randomised controlled trial (RCT) will investigate whether school-age children with moderate to severe CP (Gross Motor Function Classification System GMFCS III and IV) who are randomised to an eight-week ACTIVE STRIDES-CP intervention, compared with care as usual (CAU), have improved gross motor function immediately post intervention. Secondary outcomes will be changes in Habitual Physical Activity ([HPA], less time spent sedentary, increased light and/or moderate to vigorous physical activity MVPA), cardiorespiratory fitness (Physiological Cost index HR/PCI), walking speed and distance, frequency/involvement of community participation, daily activities and mobility performance, attainment of gross motor goals, healthcare use and quality of life immediately post intervention and with retention of outcomes 6 months post baseline. Active Strides-CP comprises a package of rehabilitation of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycling, adapted cycling, partial body weight support treadmill training (PBWSTT), overground gait training and goal directed training with a total dose of direct therapy of 32 hours delivered over an eight-week period.

Within this large multi-site trial, there will be scope to develop a research program around the following top areas.

  1. Participant and intervention (e.g. dose and content) related factors associated with clinically significant improvements in gross motor function, habitual physical activity and participation in physically active leisure
  2. Fidelity of delivery of a manualized ACTIVE-STRIDES CP program across multiple sites and organisations.
  3. The relationship between capacity, participation, fitness and habitual physical activity in children with cerebral palsy.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Leanne Sakzewski

Faculty of Medicine


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of disability/ childhood interventions (including goal-directed training, active motor learning, exercise training and physical fitness) would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of physiotherapy or exercise science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of child health, cerebral palsy/disability, physical activity, fitness is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 3, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process