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 course gave me an appreciation of the challenges faced when promoting disaster preparedness, in respect to how we prepare and maintain knowledge and education for an event that may never happen, but it just might.

“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,” says Rhian.

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,” says graduate Aileen Mendoza.

Aileen is focused on channelling the knowledge and skills she has gained throughout the program to improve outcomes for communities in need.

“I hope to be able to help communities by ensuring availability and distribution of basic services for them. In particular, I want to focus on helping the communities in my country the Philippines, both in Manilla and even in rural areas,” says Aileen.

The University of Newcastle offers their 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 down time.

“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,” says Rhian.

The course also offered Rhian the chance to connect with other professionals working across different sectors, to gain a diverse insight and experience.

“I had opportunities to talk disaster management, resilience and recovery with a number of professionals who aren’t in the clinical sphere. It was great meeting and working with town planners, and architects in both government and non-government professions,” Rhian says.

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

“I wanted to take a year out to work in development, which I’m fortunate enough to be doing, before hopefully moving more into the emergency response field,” says Ginny.

“I’m working with the Forestry Department of Vanuatu under the Australian Government’s Volunteers for International Development Program. I’m getting to mix my old skills with new ones in a multimedia capacity-building role.

“It’s brilliant and I’m learning so much, and thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve been able to continue filming and editing, plus implement a social media campaign aimed at promoting forestry awareness.

“This course has given me a new-found confidence and at the same time, I’ve gained first-hand development experience,” Ginny says.

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.

Now is the time

It’s an emerging field — and an exciting one too. And cutting-edge programs like the University of Newcastle’s Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development are setting the benchmark for postgraduate qualification.

For those whose current role involves identifying, mitigating and managing business, safety or environmental risks — or those who aspire to such a position — this program offers an opportunity to be at the forefront of your field.

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

Why study through the University of Newcastle?

  • Receive UN co-certification— complete courses that are co-certified by both the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
  • Direct engagement with UNISDR resources— receive training aligned with the Sendai Framework— the United Nation’s global strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction.
  • Be recognised internationally — our School of Architecture and Built Environment is in the top 150 in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject list (2021).
  • Flexible study options — our advanced online learning system, together with that of UNITAR provides you with the flexibility and support to study anytime, anywhere to balance work, life and study.
  • 95.7% of postgraduate students in our Agriculture and Environmental Studies find employment within four months of graduating (Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017–2019).




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