PhD Graduation and Thesis publication

After a solid 18 months of writing, my PhD thesis was passed in early October 2018. Graduation was held at Western Sydney University’s historic Parramatta Campus, on 18 December 2018.

I was delighted my partner, architect Emilis Prelgauskas, could accompany me on this occasion. My primary supervisor, Dr Mel Taylor represented my supervisors, and WSU Thesis Writing Group leader Dr Susan Mowbray also attended.

Twelve PhD’s graduated from the School of Medicine at WSU, and one from the School of Law. It was a grand and moving ceremony, as we entered (and left) as part of the academic procession to Verdi’s Triumphal March from Aida. The PhD’s were presented first, and remained on stage throughout the ceremony for Medicine and Law graduates.

Please read the Acknowledgements page in the thesis!

Here is the thesis link:

Rachel’s PhD thesis

I’ll also update you on some plans for 2019, but in the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


stage crop


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DoctoralWriting SIG post today

via “The world is larger and more connected”: experiences of an online Thesis Writing Group

I co-authored this post which has been published today. It is about the undeniable strengths of an on-line thesis writing group (TWG) for external students. My group has 3 members – I’m south of Adelaide, Christina is in metro Melbourne and our facilitator Susan is NSW Central Coast. It’s a fabulous group – I can’t imagine now how I’d manage without the support of the TWG.

My AJEM paper published 31 October 2017

PhD paper no. 3 is out now in the October 2017 Australian Journal of Emergency Management.

The title is: Narrowing the awareness-action gap: cultivating fire-fitness as a social norm through public policy initiatives.

Click on:

Rachel’s AJEM paper

This is a shorter version of the original paper I wrote for AFAC (Australian Fire & Emergency Service Authorities Council) conference in September in Sydney. There is more detail in the original, and in the relevant chapter in my PhD thesis which is rapidly nearing completion.



My post on the Prevention Web blog

I was invited to write a post for the DRR Voices blog page on the UNISDR PreventionWeb site. Please see:

It’s also been added the the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC blog page at:

Have a look around the Prevention Web pages – excellent multidisciplinary topics.

UNISDR PreventionWeb site

The UNISDR PreventionWeb site has a wealth of information regarding Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and all things natural (and unnatural) hazards.

I was impressed by this post:

written by a medical practitioner in the US, and recommend you have a look. Climate change really is the biggest public health risk of the 21st century. I see on Twitter today the UK government has followed the lead of the French, and has voted to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. As I have previously mentioned, the time for a gradualist approach to climate change is over. We are now in adaptation mode. The challenge will require paradigm change and a suite of lifestyle adjustments juxtaposed to the consumer culture of the late 20th century.




3 Minute Thesis (3MT) at the BNHCRC Showcase: my text and slide

I gave a 3MT on 4 July 2017 at the Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre Showcase in Adelaide. You can listen to the audio at:

This is the text of my presentation, which is given strictly within three minutes, using one slide only and without notes. My slide is also below.

3MT slide BNHCRC


It is widely acknowledged that preparedness for bushfires, and other hazards, is persistently too low. My research is about building a culture of preparedness – to be “fire-fit” – as a routine part of everyday life – as routine as buying the groceries or putting fuel in a car. It becomes a ‘social norm’ that can help save human life.

Climate change is the biggest public health risk of the 21st century. Severe weather events are the new normal. We can save human lives, reduce psychosocial trauma and everything that goes with it (including the massive costs) by making people and communities fire-fit.

I talked to my research participant groups – emergency responders and the owners of any kind of animal – on South Australia’s bushfire at-risk Lower Eyre Peninsula, to come up with ways to help make this happen. These are some of my recommendations from my research findings:


  1. Create a new type of workplace leave which I’ve called: Catastrophic Day Leave, giving employees the ability to trade other leave or overtime specifically for the purpose of putting their survival plans into action. This can be written into individual employee contracts.


  1. Give new residents a financial incentive to attend fire-safe seminars by offering a significant discount on their second year’s council rates.


  1. Reward “best-practice”
  • identify excellence in property preparedness
  • give rebates independent of Emergency Services levies
  • use bushfire compliance to value-add to properties at point of sale
  • hold fire-ready open days – like open garden schemes
  • give public awards for Bushfire Best-Prepared towns


  1. Review the use of fire breaks on farms and rural living blocks
  • maybe with a by-law?
  • a little shared loss could mean a lot of people are safer
  • consider planting more flammable crops further away from valuable infrastructure and assets


  1. Use the social microclimate to advantage – syncing multiple sources of synergistic information from
  • Schools
  • The workplace
  • The family


  1. Resource sharing – because available funds are not becoming any easier to find


These encourage MEDIUM to LONG term changes to public health and safety policy and bushfire preparedness behaviour.

Make Catastrophic Day leave an optional, but FORMAL type of workplace leave.

Give new people easily accessible fire safety information and reward them for joining in.

Publicly acknowledge best practice.

Give farmers incentive to put in firebreaks, and think about crop placement.

Maximise the potential of multiple social microclimates.

New, straightforward public policy, can help achieve this so that effective fire-fitness becomes just another part of daily life.

I really enjoyed giving the 3MT.  There were five other BNHCRC student 3MT’s on the first day of the meeting, and all presentations were very well done.



Beyond 2000! BMC Psychology & Frontiers in Veterinary Science papers pass 2000 views, and UNISDR features paper 1

Both papers 1 and 2 are now well over 2000 views each, which is very pleasing. Both are open access, links are:

I’ve just received an email from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction that they have featured my BMC paper (“Paper 1”)on their PreventionWeb site at the link below.

The UNISDR Prevention Web site has excellent and very valuable information for the DRR community – please have a look as this is “big picture” linking back to communities and people, so is very inclusive.



I’m back from the Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference on the Gold Coast.  It was an excellent meeting, and I’ll write up some of my tweets from each day shortly. My paper will appear in the peer reviewed proceedings, so will post that link in a few weeks when it is released.

The ANZDMC 2017

I’m off to the ANZDMC tomorrow evening. I’m chairing the South Australian session with three presentations on Tuesday morning, then presenting a summary of my PhD research later in the afternoon in the Understanding and Enhancing Resilience stream. This paper will be part of the peer reviewed proceedings available about four weeks after the conference. Looking forward to seeing the Samaritan’s Purse truck – looks like a beauty from the photos.