Each year, the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT provides financial support for up to ten female researchers from APEC economies, through the Australia–APEC Women in Research Fellowship program.
This fellowship aims to encourage the mobility of post-doctorate female researchers from the APEC region. It is designed to assist with the particular challenges female researchers face in undertaking cross-border research activities such as lack of flexibility and extra financial support for child care.
As a talented female researcher from Chile and recipient of the 2017 fellowship, Irene Strodthoff was delighted to be offered the opportunity to conduct research in Australia at RMIT University.
Strodthoff’s project “Managing Disaster in Chile and in Australia: Bushfire and Community”, aims to improve disaster preparation, response and recovery in Chile by studying the social dimensions of bushfires in Australia.
“Disasters in general terms represent a high cost for states and a strong challenge to governments that must deal not only with saving lives at risk but also with infrastructure recovery”. Strodthoff said.
“This research is innovative as comparative work on the social dimensions of bushfires in the Southern Hemisphere and particularly between Australia and Latin America is almost inexistent. “
“While bushfires in the rural-urban fringe have become common in Australia, this is an emerging phenomenon in Chile. Australia has not only the expertise on the community and this particular type of disaster but it also has state-of- the-art material that might contribute to identify asymmetries and similarities between Chile and Australia.”
Strodthoff’s achievements during the fellowship granted her numerous opportunities to present her work to a variety of different audiences.
“I was invited to a seminar series at the University of La Trobe, to the Country Fire Authority in Geelong and to a community radio in Melbourne. I also had the opportunity to write an article for APEC Currents.”
Most recently, Strodthoff was able to collaborate with the Australian APEC Study Centre and RMIT, to present on a panel in Hobart, at the Australian International Education Conference. This panel presented on lessons learned through the fellowship for improvement of international research linkages and partnerships.
A key subject of the panel was nurturing transnational scholarly connections to attract funding. The main examples of this were former Australian doctoral students who had continued to collaborate with their awarding institution, linked research centres with a history of collaboration, isolated researchers seeking to collaborate with a team that holds a significant reputation, and researchers investigating common experiences or bilateral relationships.
Looking towards the future, Strodthoff plans to continue her vital research into bushfires once the fellowship concludes, utilising the connections she made while in Australia.
“Before coming to Australia, I established contacts in Chile with the private sector to make Australia visible in terms of expertise on the interrelation between the community and bushfires. I have been offered to participate in a seminar in the academic sector in Santiago upon arrival. This fellowship is the starting point for a more ample research project that I intend to develop in 2018.”
The next round of applications for the Australia-APEC Women in Research Fellowship will open in early 2018.
Story: Kevin Nguyen