Creating resilience, mitigating disaster

University of Newcastle

Friday, 10 December, 2021

Creating resilience, mitigating disaster

From facing a global climate crisis, to navigating a global pandemic, it’s never been more important for organisations to increase their resilience in the face of disaster.

And by mitigating risks and reducing their impact, businesses around the world are realising that championing sustainable development not only saves lives (and revenue), but also helps them to achieve a competitive advantage.

Graduates of emerging postgraduate degrees like the University of Newcastle’s Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development are leading this change.

The degree equips people from diverse backgrounds to understand resilience and sustainable development principles and systematically apply them to avoid disasters, operate through extreme events and emerge better placed to face the future.

It’s designed for those in management positions (or those aspiring to be) whose work involves resilience-building through the mitigation of impacts arising out of extreme events — which can be as varied as natural disasters, data breaches, political instability, terror attacks or health epidemics.

Rhian Blackwell, a recent graduate from the University of Newcastle’s Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development, is currently employed as an Emergency Management Coordinator with ACT Health. Throughout his career Rhian has seen and experienced extremes, from bushfires through to a global pandemic.

“Needless to say, we’ve had a busy 12 months.

“The program looked at prevention, mitigation strategies and how to build communities to be more resilient in the face of a hazard — and potentially avoid a disaster,” Rhian said.

A major drawcard of the University of Newcastle’s degree is its development in partnership with the United Nations, and its delivery through CIFAL Newcastle — a United Nations training centre with a focus on disaster resilience and sustainable development.

The result? Graduates are emerging with the best-practice knowledge and skills needed to implement the new UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai framework for Disaster Risk Reduction — and make a real and lasting impact.

“It’s attractive. It’s one of the reasons why (students) choose the University of Newcastle to study,” said graduate Aileen Mendoza.

The University of Newcastle offers its Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development full-time or part time, online or face to face. For professionals like Rhian, this flexibility made all the difference.

“The flexibility of online study — to catch up with lectures at nine o’clock at night as bedtime reading — suited my situation, and meant I could keep up with the course while still having downtime.

“The academics were as accessible to the online students as they were to the campus-based students. I spent a lot of time communicating with the program convenor,” Rhian said.

Another graduate of the program, former journalist, foreign correspondent and filmmaker Ginny Stein, said the degree has expanded her career prospects in new and exhilarating ways.

“I’m working with the Forestry Department of Vanuatu under the Australian Government’s Volunteers for International Development Program.

“I’ve been able to continue filming and editing, plus implement a social media campaign aimed at promoting forestry awareness,” Ginny said.

Career boom

Don’t be surprised if you start hearing the term 'Resilience Officer' more and more. Organisations are increasingly embracing this terminology ­— and the intention behind it. Whether it’s in local government, planning and implementing strategies for town planning, urban and rural development, community safety or service continuity in times of emergency, demand is growing.

Career opportunities are increasing in the private sector too — in business continuity, environmental protection, risk management, disaster recovery planning, emergency and crisis management and workplace health and safety functions.

To learn more about studying a Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development at the University of Newcastle visit

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