About us

Established in 1981, we are Australia’s foremost national twin research institute and recognised as a world leader in this field.

Twins are special to research as they help us to tease apart the effects of nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) on our health.

Based at the University of Melbourne, we undertake and support twin research in institutes and hospitals across Australia and globally.

Our research has impacted the lives of millions. We have advanced diagnosis, prevention and treatment for some of the most challenging health issues of our times including cancer, diabetes, obesity, dementia and epilepsy.

We also seek to improve the lives of multiple-birth families by undertaking research of particular relevance to them, nurturing community connection, providing evidence-based resources, and advocating on their behalf. 

Twins and their families make our research possible by volunteering to join studies. Today, nearly 75,000 twins are TRA members, or around 11 percent of Australia’s entire twin population, making us one of the largest volunteer twin research registers in the world.

What we do

While twins and research are at the heart of our organisation, you may be surprised by the scope of our programs.

Our programs

1. We are researchers. We undertake research to improve health for everyone.

2. We enable research. We grow and maintain a register of twins; foster their interest in joining in research for the greater good; seek to provide positive experiences; and advocate for twins. 

3. We are experts in twin research methods. We advise researchers on designing twin study models, provide access to historical data, and to recruit and facilitate twin participation.

4. We are entrepreneurs and innovators. We not only identify opportunities to grow knowledge, but we also pioneer new ways to undertake research for improved returns on research investment and to accelerate health knowledge.

5. We are collaborators. It is fundamental to the way we do business. We go beyond just undertaking a collaborative study. We collaborate to better connect the twin research community across the globe. With the best minds working together, we have the best chance for discovery.

6. We share knowledge. We translate study findings into practice, policy, and evidence-based resources available to our communities.

Vision and mission

Our vision is for a vibrant and unified global twin research community to improve health and medical knowledge for the benefit of all humankind.

Our mission is to generate twin research that demonstrates how new knowledge can improve health and prevent disease. 

Our values are:


We will be accountable to our members, our researchers, our supporters and each other.


We will always act honestly and ethically in the way that we conduct ourselves.


We use our expertise, energy and resources to deliver best-practice, sustainable results.


We facilitate connections within the twin, research and wider community to more effectively advance health and wellbeing.


We find resourceful and inventive solutions to advance people’s health and well-being.

Our history

While established in 1981, the origins of Twins Research Australia go back even earlier.


It began with a 1973 meeting held in Miami, Florida, attended by two researchers, Richard Lovell of the University of Melbourne and Michael Hobbs of the University of Western Australia.

The two were introduced to a study with twins looking at the impact of smoking on mortality. Inspired by this research, the Australians returned home believing that the establishment of an Australian twin registry would provide a vital research tool for medical science here.

Over the coming few years, several state registries were established, including the Victorian Twin Registry at the University of Melbourne by researcher, Professor John Mathews.

But it wasn’t until 1981 that the state-based registries joined forces to establish the Australian NHMRC Twin Registry funded by the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council.

Based at the University of Melbourne under Director John Mathews, the new registry’s first major initiative was a questionnaire sent to 4000 twins gathering demographic and general health information. The responses received have since formed the basis of a large number of registry-based projects.

  • Find our major milestones from 1981 until today at this timeline
  • HRH Crown Princess Mary’s video message for TRA’s 40th birthdayview here
Our evolving name and logo

Did you know – our name and logo have undergone several transformations across our 40-year history? 

Formed in 1981, our institute was originally called the Australian NHMRC Twin Registry in recognition of its funding by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Our name evolved to the Australian Twin Registry in 1999, then to Twins Research Australia in 2017.

Our name today distinguishes our unique contribution to Australian medical research.

Our logo has changed too, but our proud heritage continues to shine through – our blue and yellow signature colours used across 40 years. The ‘entwined’ twins form a heart, representing health and the twin bond that makes our research possible.