Research Week 2020
Connect Today For Resilience Tomorrow (19-23 October 2020)

Western Sydney University's research aims to foster connections and partnerships that shed light on the causes and drivers of pressing national and international challenges. The last few years have imposed increasingly severe challenges on all of us, and in 2020, our Research Week focus is 'Resilience'. 

Connecting with us through our diverse program of events during Research Week is a real opportunity to focus on rebuilding a better Australia. Resilience is about being able to adapt and navigate with informed knowledge and sound evidence.

This Research Week, we invite you to connect with us today and help us build resilience for our country and our world tomorrow.


Western Sydney University values academic excellence, integrity and the pursuit of knowledge. Ranked in the top two per cent of unis in the world, we are globally focused, research-led and committed to making a positive impact on the communities we engage with.

Western has been ranked 3rd in the world for its work in research, outreach and stewardship to address the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

*THE World University Rankings 2019-2020
*THE Impact Rankings 2020


Monday, 19 October

Engaged Disability Research in Education and Work @ Western: Improving Equality Through Co-Design

Captioning and sign language interpretation will be provided for this event

Associate Professor Danielle Tracey and Associate Professor Maria Estela Varua

Research Theme: Education And Work

Type: Webinar

Time: 10:00am – 11:40am

This online symposium brings together Western Sydney University researchers and leading government departments and community organisations to showcase research partnerships which seek to promote high quality education and work for people with disability. Importantly, processes of co-design, partnership and a strengths-based approach underpin these research stories.

Topics featured include:

  • Supporting teachers to enhance inclusive practice in preschool
  • Understanding the transition experience from school to post school options, including employment
  • Advocating for collaboration in higher education to support student success
  • The online symposium culminates with a collaborative discussion where participants will be grouped by their area of interest to formulate future research priorities and projects


Public Discussion and Expert Panel: The COVID-19 Pandemic and the education and work of people with disability: where to now for policy, practice and research?

Captioning and sign language interpretation will be provided for this event

 Associate Professor Danielle Tracey, Associate Professor Maria Estela Varua and Associate Professor Christine Johnston

Research Theme: Education And Work

Type: Webinar

Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent government management strategies, resulted in significant changes and uncertainties for the education and work of people around the world. These impacts were considerable for people with disability, their families, their education and work settings, and the professionals and organisations that support people with disability.  

Western Sydney University will host a public discussion with a panel of experts to explore the issues, challenges and opportunities that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions include:

  • What are the experiences of people with disability as students and workers? 
  • What are the experience of their families?
  • What are the experiences of people and organisations that support, educate, employ and/or partner with people with disability?
  • What are the opportunities arising from this pandemic to improve education and work for people with disability? 
  • What are the opportunities for research to inform policy and practice improvements? 

The session will commence with a dialogue between the panel of experts to share their experiences and perspectives addressing these questions. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the evolving ideas. The session will conclude with reflections from panel members about what next positive actions can be taken in the areas of research, policy and practice to capitalise on the experience of COVID-19 pandemic to improve the education and work of people with disability.

Community Support of Families with Young Children During times of Collective Crisis

Contact: Associate Professor Rebekah Grace & Dr Kelly Baird

Admin: Linda Riek

Organiser: TeEACH Strategic Research Initiative

Type: Webinar

Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm

This presentation will discuss the ways in which community members, often on a voluntary basis, mobilise to support families and young children during times of collective crisis. In recent times in Australia, communities have endured significant challenges, including as the result of fire, floods, drought and the COVID-19 Pandemic. As devastating as these events are, they have also been shown to be potential catalysts for community mindedness and reaching out to those who are most vulnerable or isolated. This presentation will discuss the importance of community connection for families of young children, and examine how we might sustain the renewed commitment to supporting families and children experiencing adversity in the post-COVID-19 world.

Prioritising Healthy Placemaking post COVID-19

Contact: Professor Nicky Morrison

Research Theme: Urban Living Futures & Society

Type: Webinar

Time: 2:00pm – 4:30pm

What have we have learnt from living through COVID-19 and how do we build back better? How do we deliver placemaking that incorporates the explicit recognition of the need for social, environmental and economic sustainability and puts healthy placemaking at the top of everyone’s priorities?
 We invite all planners, urban designers, architects, engineers, developers and other built environment practitioners to hear our findings from a NSW state-wide survey about your experiences in making healthier places. We will report back on the barriers you face, and how many of you have overcome them so that your work can positively impact the health of our communities.
 Where you live shapes how easy it is to buy healthy food, use active transport, and make social connections. The evidence is clear. But how do we make places that improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for all? Let’s share our thinking and best practices to break down existing barriers and deliver places that genuinely provide:

  • Healthy living through active living, active transport, access to healthy foods and social connectivity initiatives
  • Interactive green infrastructure and open spaces
  • Effective urban heat mitigation measures
  • Alternative housing provision (integrating affordable housing into development schemes)
  • Future learning – creating lifelong learning opportunities to reskill and expand minds
  • Strengthening engagement with the wider community and especially vulnerable groups
  • Innovative workplace hubs to stay connected and work from – to minimise daily commutes
  • New employment opportunities connected to activation precincts and beyond
  • New collaborative governance models that offer long term stewardship post-development

Sharing Indigenous Knowledge – Always Was, Always Will Be

Contact: Professor Michelle Trudgett   

Admin: Dimity Cocker

Type: Webinar

Time: 3:00pm – 5:00pm

Western is deeply committed to supporting the dynamic Indigenous Research agenda which spans across disciplines. The Indigenous Research Forum will bring together HDR students and academics from the WSU Indigenous Research Network to showcase their research and answer questions.. The event will highlight the work of seven Indigenous Researchers who will each deliver a ten-minute presentation and answer questions on the resilience of our First Nations People.

Tuesday, 20 October

Sustaining Success in Business Research

Contact: Associate Professor Maria Estela Varua & Dr Michelle Cull     

Fiona Smith

Type: Webinar

Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm

It was the best of times and the worst of times; conducting business research through an unprecedented pandemic and regulatory changes has been a challenge for business researchers. However the pandemic has also offered extraordinary opportunities for new scientific discoveries and technologies as businesses reveal ideas and techniques that are ripe for rapid development into novel practices.

Join the School of Business and our industry partners to hear about some of the latest joint research projects driving sustainable success to build a better tomorrow. These projects have a focus on improving financial, health and wellbeing outcomes and creating sustainable, liveable cities and communities. 

Research ON children, ABOUT children, WITH children and BY children: Before and after the COVID-19 factor

Contact: Harry Shier & Associate Professor Rebekah Grace

Type: Webinar

Organiser: Organiser:  TeEACH Strategic Research Initiative

Time: 10:00am – 11:00am

This presentation will explore:
The many, evolving roles of children in research;

  • Learning from the experiences of child researchers in Nicaragua;
  • An analytical tool to help researchers develop partnerships with children and adolescents;
  • The COVID Factor: Further evolution of children’s roles in research.

Gender Equity and COVID-19

Contact: Professor Janice Aldrich-Wright & Dr Kieryn Mackay

Type: Webinar

Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reshaped our society. In the rush to manage this global crisis, it has become increasingly apparent that there will be a gendered impact extending far beyond the initial crisis period. Both the United Nations and the Australian Human Rights Commission have warned that the various social and economic impacts of COVID-19 stand to undo decades of progress towards gender equality. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has urged governments and institutions to put gender issues at the centre of COVID-19 responses.

This year’s SAGE Research Week event will consider how Australian higher education leaders might work through emerging institutional complexities to mitigate the gendered impacts of COVID-19 within our organisations, with our industry partners, and across our communities. The event includes presentations from 2019 Vice-Chancellor’s Gender Equality Fund researchers, who will discuss how their findings might need to be recast in light of our new 2020 context, and a panel discussion with senior equity representatives from across the sector to address the making, negotiating, and implementing of the Australian Higher Education Joint Sector Position Statement, ‘Preserving Gender Equity as a Priority During and After the Pandemic’.

Research Impact Competition

Contact: Dr Shantala Mohan and Judy Foster


Organiser: Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Enterprise & International)

Time:  2:30pm - 5:30pm

Early and mid-career academics have five minutes to present, in layperson’s terms, the positive impact of their research in addressing a wide-range of societal issues and real life challenges (using one slide).

Astrosite – Introduction to Space Situational Awareness and Event based Sensors

Contact: Associate Professor Greg Cohen and Professor Andre Van Schaik  

Admin: Rachelle McVittie

Panel Webinar

Organiser: International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems (ICNS)

Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm

As our world becomes more reliant on satellites, the potential for collisions between space objects is increasing. As a result, there is a critical need for accurate detection and tracking of satellites. Here at Western Sydney University, the International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems have developed a novel way to track space objects. Please join us for a walk through of the Astrosite, a world first neuromorphic inspired mobile telescope observatory, and engage with leading researchers in the field of space situational awareness using event based sensors.

Wednesday, 21 October

Working with Communities in Challenging Times

Contact: Professor Virginia Schmied, Associate Professor Paul Breen and Dr Jennifer MacRitchie

Research Theme: Health & Wellbeing


Time: 10:00am - 12:00pm

2020 has presented our community in Western Sydney and beyond with enormous challenges. Thousands were affected by drought and bushfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all.

Western Sydney University researchers responded rapidly to these crises, collaborating to address important questions that directly affect our health and wellbeing. This work ranges from laboratory work developing small inhibitory RNA targeting the SarsCoV2 virus; to understanding the effectiveness of telehealth in delivering health services for children and adults; to the mental health impacts of COVID-19.

This past year has been characterised by uncertainty, but also resilience. We would like to share what we have learned and discuss with you how these learnings can help to “build back better’, ensuring resilient and adaptive systems and services, not just for emergencies but for a healthier future.

Resilience NSW & WSU: Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons

Contact: Dr Annette McLaren and Amy Hill

Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Enterprise & International)

 1:00pm – 3:00pm

Western Sydney University is proud to announce Resilience Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons as our keynote speaker for Western Sydney Research Week 2020 – Connect Today for Resilience Tomorrow.  Western’s research is driven by impact – it is research determined to make a difference beyond the University’s gates. There has never been a more vital time for our research, for Australia and for the globe.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons has been at the front line of some of Australia’s most recent challenges, his role as NSW Fire Commissioner saw him lead NSW in its response to the most catastrophic fire event ever experienced in this country.

Joining the Volunteer Bushfire Brigade as a teenager, by 19 Commissioner Fitzsimmons was the youngest ever member elected captain of his brigade. His leadership in the face of bushfire and other disasters is informed by 35 years of experience facing the challenges and witnessing the devastation they present. Named as Resilience Commissioner in April 2020, Commissioner Fitzsimmons is focusing on helping the people of New South Wales rebuild and recover, not just from the bushfires and the drought, but importantly, the extraordinary implications of fighting COVID-19.

Western Sydney University’s Research Week 2020 is also focused on recovery and resilience and we can think of no better voice to represent these issues than Commissioner Fitzsimmons.

We invite you to be part of this live streamed event on Wednesday the 21st October from 1-3pm to be part of the conversation and contribution to the State’s and the Nation’s recovery and resilience.

The Young and Resilient Research Centre: Researching Resilience in Digital Society

Contact: Associate Professor Amanda Third, Associate Professor Pip Collin and Deb Blackmore


The Young and Resilient Research Centre

Time: 3:00pm – 4:00pm

Big social and technological changes present both challenges and opportunities for young people and their communities. The newly formed Young and Resilient Research Centre embraces an integrated mode of research and development, education, training and enterprise to research and develop technology-based products, services and policies that strengthen the resilience of young people and their communities, enabling them to live well and participate fully in social and economic life.

Key to this is a unique conceptual and methodological approach to researching resilience with stakeholders, including non-profits, big business, government and young people themselves.
In this session we will share and discuss how we approach the concept of resilience in critical, dynamic and different ways across the research centre, as demonstrated in three current research projects.
Followed by a panel discussion with the presenters.

Enabling Planetary Health in the Blue Mountains: partnerships in urban resilience

Contact: Professor Juan Francisco Salazar

Research Themes: Environment and Sustainability; Health and Wellbeing; Education and Work; Urban Living Futures and Society

Type: Webinar

Contact:  Professor Juan Salazar

Time: 4:00pm – 5:45pm


Cr Mark Greenhill OAM, Mayor of Blue Mountains City

Dr. Rosemary Dillon, CEO Blue Mountains City Council

Associate Professor Louise Crabtree, Institute for Culture and Society

Dr. Leo Robba, School of Humanities and Communication Arts

Professor Tony Capon, Director of Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University

Professor Nicky Morrison, School of Social Sciences

Dr. Tayanah O’Donnell, Director of Future Earth Australia

In this panel, researchers from Western Sydney University and Monash University will be joined by the Mayor and the CEO of Blue Mountains City Council to discuss the discipline of planetary health and its role in responses to crises such as the 2019-2020 bushfires and COVID-19. Looking at why social and economic models must recognise and strengthen the interdependencies between planetary and human health, the panelists will present on the importance of building engaged partnerships between universities and local government for enabling planetary health in the Blue Mountains as a way to ‘bounce forward’ into more resilient and healthy economies, communities, and places. This conversation coincides with the 20-year anniversary of the region's UNESCO World Heritage listing in November this year. The session will commence with short presentations by the panel of experts and be followed by a moderated conversation to share their experiences and perspectives on enabling planetary health at the local community level. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the debates.

This event is hosted by SISTER-Hub at Western Sydney University

Neuromorphic Engineering – Alternative Technology Inspired by Biology

Contact: Professor Andre Van Schaik and Rachelle McVittie

Type: Webinar

Organiser:  International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems (ICNS)

Time: 5:00pm – 6:00pm

Introduction to Neuromorphic Engineering including demonstrations followed by a Q&A to discuss real industry challenges with Neuromorphic Engineering.

Thursday, 22 October

The Future of Smart Work

Contact: Professor Alana Maurushat

Research Theme:  Urban Living Futures & Society

Type: Webinar

Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm

Smart working is a set of practices that provide innovative ways to allow work to become more flexible in terms of location, hours, and shared responsibilities which is facilitated through a range of physical and digital infrastructure.
Smart working arrangements are seen as environmentally sustainable, offer a way to be more connected to family and community, and as a method of reducing costs both to the individual worker and organisation. Popular smart work techniques individuals teleworking from home, collaborative shared co-worker hubs in dense CBD urban areas, and smart working hubs in suburban and regional areas. With recent critical emergencies such as drought, bushfires,
floods and COVID-19, Australians have been forced to adopt agile smart working practices. Resilience has been at the heart of our ability to adopt agile smart work.

Smart working hubs have been at the centre of suburban and regional development in Australia over the past several years, but have once again captured the attention of local councils, government, industry, and individual workers due to a string of emergencies, most noticeably COVID-19. As the Western Sydney Region grows and is urbanised, smart work arrangements, and particular smart working hubs offer a way of development that have the potential to provide flexibility and opportunity to the region. This workshop will highlight research and initiatives suitable for the region, progress ideas with the idea of working towards a collaborative agenda for councils, industry, communities, and critical public institutions such as universities, schools and hospitals. Within the resilience theme, we will also discuss the importance of digital resilience – without it, many smart working arrangements will not be possible going forward. The workshop will conclude by with the collective development of a collaborative smart work roadmap for Western Sydney.


Career Empowerment for HDRs

Facilitated by: Professor Caroline Smith

Dr Kate Mcbride, Prof Andrew Shalliker, Dr Peter Bansel

Graduate Research School

Guest Speaker:
 Kristina Revenda, Coach and Mentor

Admin: Matthew Spencer


Time: 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Are you a Higher Degree Research candidate looking to build a career in academia or industry? Are you worried about how a climate of change and disruption in the wake of COVID-19 has impacted your employability? Join us for an interactive discussion with a focus on dynamic career planning and how you can apply your research skills and experience to take control of your career and be resilient in a challenging employment market.

Co-designing in times of change: Progressing and Sharing Parenting Stories and Love Project

Contact: Professor Virginia Schmied and Dr Cathy Kaplun

Admin: Linda Riek

Type: Webinar

Organiser: TeEACH Strategic Research Initiative

Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm

In this webinar we will draw on examples from the field to explore the concept of co-designing. Co-design is increasingly emphasised in service design and delivery but interpretations of the process and approach can vary greatly. A central goal of the Centre for Transforming early Education and Child Health (TeEACH) is to actively engage with families to meet their needs in the delivery of services and to ensure service usability. Co-design is typically a very interactive process and of course this has been challenging with COVID-19 restrictions. This webinar focuses on the experiences of continuing the Sharing Parenting Stories and Love project over the COVID-19 lockdown period.

The Sharing Parenting Stories and Love project aims to support and strengthen vulnerable families by engaging a small group of South Asian mothers in designing activities to build connections and collaborations for
all mothers. By coming together to share, listen, explore, design and experience, five mothers have developed a strong friendship and agency in the design of a program of activities that support their children’s health and development and will be used to improve outcomes for ‘new’ mothers and their children in their local community.

Using Arts and Health in Changing Times

Contact: Professor Virginia Schmied, Associate Professor Paul Breen and Dr Jennifer MacRitchie

Research Theme:  Health and Wellbeing

Type: Webinar

 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Through personal engagement, work in the community, and in targeted therapeutic contexts, the creative arts and culture are powerful tools for enhancing health and wellbeing. Western Sydney researchers are collaborating to explore how we use the creative arts as a means to build connectedness to people and place in these changing environments, heightened by the recent global events of 2020. This work ranges from questions understanding the broader mechanisms behind arts engagement, to working alongside communities and organisations using the arts to cope with daily life.
We would like to share brief reports of recent WSU research in arts and health and provide a networking opportunity to discuss how we can collaborate with arts and cultural organisations in Western Sydney. Together, we can further the evidence and opportunity to demonstrate that creative arts and culture is pivotal for health and wellbeing, transforming the conversation from staying alive to truly living.

The Spirit of Endurance: learning about resilience from Australian vegetation

Contact:  Dr Annette McLaren & Amy Hill

Organiser: Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Enterprise & International)


WSU’s first ARC Laureate, Professor Belinda Medlyn, has been researching the impact of climate change on Australia’s vegetation for nearly thirty years. Over that time, her work has shifted from trying to predict the likely effects decades into the future, to documenting the effects of droughts, heatwaves and fires as they happen around us. In this Laureate Address, Professor Medlyn will reflect on her career as a scientist, educator and mother. She will describe what we have learnt about the resilience of Australian vegetation to climate stress, and what lessons we can draw for the future.

Friday, 23 October

Advanced Manufacturing, Sustainable Construction and the Circular Economy

Contact: Associate Professor Sarah Zhang

Research Theme:  Environment & Sustainability


 9:30am - 1:00pm

Environment and Sustainability have been a long-term concern for the globe including Australia. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the not-long ago bushfire, and the strong concern on waste treatment in recent years, our nation is facing more and more challenges. These new challenges have impacted various sectors including Advanced Manufacturing and Construction. Collaborative research partnerships are crucial for responding to these challenges. It is no time like now we need to work together for the sustainable development of economic, social environment to achieve a safer and higher quality of life for all people.

This symposium will bring government, industries and researchers in one roof to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing to the advanced manufacturing, sustainable construction and circular economy. The symposium also aims to build partnerships between researchers, industries, government so that we can respond to these challenges well. Government and key industries will present the impact of these challenges and the opportunities, and WSU research leaders will showcase the university’s capability. All participants will be engaged actively in the roundtable discussions with industries discussing the key issues facing them and researchers providing expert views and advice.

The Young and Resilient Research Centre: Resilience in Methods

Contact: Associate Professor Amanda Third and Associate Professor Pip Collin

Organiser: Young and Resilient Research Centre

Type: Webinar

Time: 10:00am - 12:00pm

What is resilience and how can it be researched?
This session will explore the unique strategies and methods our project teams have developed and deployed to investigate different phenomena that shape the experiences of resilience in contemporary society.
We will share the approaches, findings and outcomes from some of our most impactful projects undertaken with young people, non-profit organisations, big business, and governments in Australia and around the world.

Our work is organised around four inter-connecting themes include learning and work; participation and engagement; health and wellbeing; and places and platforms. These themes constitute our core Research Streams and are underpinned by the Intergener8 Living Lab – a co-research and co-design entity which brings young people together with community, industry and experts to collaboratively explore the relationship between young people, resilience and technology. 


Research Creations Showcase

Contact:  Associate Professor Robert Mailhammer  

Admin: Lina Gong

Type: Webinar

Time: 11:00am - 6:00pm

"In 2020 Research Week, the Research Creation Showcase will be held online. It features practice-led and research outcomes from School staff and postgraduate students across Design, Music, Media Arts, Digital Humanities, Writing and Humanities. An online exhibition of creative works including posters, films, photography and music will be curated by a team drawn from School of Humanities and Communication Arts.

As a showcase of creative practice (NTROs) and research, an exhibition will be developed in advance of research week offering a longer period of exposure than was the case in the past with the “live” event. A suite of artists talks, curators’ presentations and keynotes from both academics and industry partners will feature on the specified day in research week. A celebration of School-based research will be marked by a presentation to the top practice-led and traditional researchers."

Strength Based Early Learning (TeEACH)

Contact:  Associate Professor Christine Woodrow   

Admin: Linda Riek

Type: Webinar

Time: 1:00pm - 2:00pm

"Australia’s young children have recently been observers and participants of community disasters of unprecedented scale in living memory. With thousands of families across Australia directly impacted by a bushfire season of terrifying proportions and all Australian children experiencing life in a pandemic, early childhood education has faced significant challenges in adapting their curriculum and pedagogies to fit the circumstances, resulting in innovative practices and new learnings by parents and educators.

This session explores findings from a small study of early education responses in 2 states. The findings highlight the resilience of educators, children and families in adapting to difficult circumstances and underscore the importance of early education as a community resource. A panel discussion of educators and a pictorial display will accompany the presentation."