Professor of Psychology and Public Health
Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences
In 2011, Professor Max Abbott celebrated two decades at the helm of AUT’s Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences. In addition to being the Dean of the Faculty, he is also Pro Vice-Chancellor (North Campus), Co-director of the National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research. He also directs two of the institute's centres.
Prior to becoming Dean in 1991, Professor Abbott was the founding National Director (CEO) of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, a position he held for ten years. During his presidency of the World Federation for Mental Health (1991 – 1993) he also co-chaired the first World Mental Health Day.
His pioneering research and advocacy in mental and public health, and significant contributions in gambling, addictions and migrant health research have helped shape policy and positively impact New Zealand communities. Described by former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley as being a ‘champion New Zealander’, Professor Abbott has made a profound difference to the lives of those with mental disability and mental health disorders. His work has been recognised by awards such as the New Zealand Psychological Society biennial award ‘Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest’ and the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal.
Under his tutelage, the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences has become the country’s largest and most diverse health and science education provider, with over 7000 students (more than 1200 postgraduate), five dedicated schools, research institutes and a broad range of disciplines.
Throughout his 22 years as Dean, he has contributed to and witnessed considerable transformation across the faculty and AUT as a whole. The most significant changes include the changing face and diversity of research and expansion of postgraduate programmes.
“The research landscape has evolved rapidly and is being driven by both established research leaders and a new generation of emerging researchers. In terms of performance, outputs and income there is clear evidence our research is expanding and delivering results. The past decade has seen the creation of numerous research institutes and centres across the faculty dedicated to advancing knowledge, raising further questions for investigation, generating new products and technologies and enhancing policy-making and professional practice," Professor Abbott says.
Professor Abbott is also a board member and past Deputy Chair of the Waitemata District Health Board, an advisor to Health Workforce New Zealand, senior consultant to the World Federation for Mental Health and a member of the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship. His areas of expertise include mental health, problem gambling and addictions, public health, Pacific Island health and development, and psychiatric epidemiology.