Gratitude: my thesis acknowledgements

There are people I sincerely wanted to thank for their support in various capacities during my PhD. I included some (not all, unfortunately) in the Acknowledgements section of my thesis, but I’m aware only a very tiny number of people in the world will actually read that (basically me plus or minus 1). So, here I paste my acknowledgements, as they appeared in the thesis.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Version one:

First I wish to acknowledge and pay respect to Aboriginal people past and present as the traditional owners of the land on which I conducted this research, namely the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, whose ancestral lands the University of Sydney is built upon. I also wish to acknowledge the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of the land on which I conducted my fieldwork. As Aboriginal people continue their struggle for equality and justice in a land that was taken from them, I acknowledge many of the central themes of this thesis, including the value of local knowledge, community, sense of place, land management, and geography have been important for and practised by Aboriginal people on this land for some 60,000 years before I began thinking and writing about them.

I wish to sincerely thank Dr Eleanor Bruce as my PhD supervisor, mentor and friend. More than assisting with the practical, technical and theoretical aspects of my research, which has been instrumental, she encourages me, challenges me, treats me with respect and as an equal, provides opportunities, promotes me and my work, and has fostered enormous growth in me as an early career academic. It is immeasurable how much I have learnt from Eleanor and I am extremely grateful for having worked with her during these formative years.

I also thank my associate supervisors, Dr Joshua Whittaker, Associate Professor Kurt Iveson, and Professor Matt Duckham, whose expertise, guidance and encouragement have been beyond valuable for both the work of this thesis and my professional development. I also acknowledge the broader ‘Out of Uniform’ research team for their support.

I acknowledge the Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC for providing me with scholarship funding, and I thank them for providing various learning, enriching, networking, and professional and personal development experiences. Lyndsey Wright, Michael Rumsewicz, Nathan Maddock and David Bruce have been especially helpful.

I give sincere thanks to Peter Middleton, the entire Bushfire-Ready Neighbourhoods (BRN) team, and the Tasmania Fire Service for their many forms of support and collaboration in this research. Special mention is given to Lesley King, Suzette Harrison, David Cleaver and Sandra Barber. Working collaboratively with the BRN has shaped my work to be something more meaningful and shaped me to be a more skilled and knowledgeable researcher with a better understanding of the professional and societal context in which my research sits.

There are others not associated with this thesis in an official capacity, but who have contributed significantly nonetheless. Here I wish to thank my officemate (soon to be Dr) Stephanie Duce for her companionship, empathy and encouragement. She is the smartest person I know and I hope she remembers me as her career flourishes. I also thank Dr Caren Cooper, Dr Eloise Biggs and Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes for their mentoring and helpful advice.

Perhaps the biggest thank you belongs to the Tasmanian community members and Australian emergency management professionals who participated in my research, either by completing a survey, an interview, or participating in a workshop. If I could name them all without compromising university research ethics, I would, because I am tremendously grateful for their time, patience, and valuable inputs to the research. The worth of local knowledge and the willingness of people to give time to others should never be undervalued.

I thank my friends and especially my housemates for remaining interested and supportive, and for giving me many, many things to enjoy outside of the PhD.

Finally, I give thanks to my family for their love, support and inspiration: Kobe, Latrell, Joe, Tara, Shannon and Jim. I give particular thanks to Dave for his unwavering interest and insightful conversations. And for my Mum, if I am proud of this work and my achievements, that doesn’t compare to how proud I am to be her son. I thank her for allowing me to be everything I am capable of.

To any marginalized individual or group who has ever been underrepresented on a map, or any citizen who has ever had their knowledge undervalued, at any time, in any context, as well as anybody who has never had anything dedicated to them, I dedicate this thesis to you.

Version two:

Cheers, thanks a lot.

Seminar presentation on PhD research: volunteered geographic information and bushfire preparation

Below is a recording of a 20 minute presentation I recently gave on my PhD research as part of the Thinking Space seminar series in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney.

Special Recognition Award, University of Sydney

Here is a collage that accurately depicts the moment I collected my Special Recognition Award from the Dean of Science, Professor Trevor Hambley, at the School of Geosciences’ awards night 2016. I received the award for voluntary service to the School of Geosciences, including activities such as developing and running GIS and geography workshops for visiting high school students and summer camp for indigenous school students, coordinating and chairing school seminars, volunteering at university open days, and contributing to school culture through initiatives like establishing a weekly school morning tea.

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Spatio-temporal analysis of graffiti occurrence in an inner-city urban environment (Applied Geography)

In 2010 I completed a Master of Applied Science (Spatial Information Science) at the University of Sydney. Working with Dr. Eleanor Bruce I produced the thesis entitled ‘Graffiti and Urban Space: A GIS Approach’. The work examined spatial and temporal patterns of graffiti occurrence in the City of Sydney local government area, utilizing both council supplied data on graffiti removal, geocoded and analysed in ArcGIS, and graffiti incidence data collected using a handheld GPS and ArcPad. Cluster analysis was performed to determine graffiti removal hotspots. The research presents graffiti as a diverse urban culture, provides evidence for the ineffectiveness of ‘rapid removal’ and ‘zero tolerance’ approaches to graffiti management, and highlights benefits of a GIS approach.

Graffiti in Surry Hills, Sydney, 2011. Photo: Billy Haworth

The purpose of this project was to employ spatio-temporal analysis techniques within a GIS to test some of the popular claims about the effectiveness of rapid removal graffiti policies. The policy informs that rapid removal will deter graffiti writers and reduce overall quantities of graffiti. However, research has suggested that this approach does not reduce overall graffiti but rather triggers changes in location and form. Findings of my research provide evidence for the latter.

This project demonstrated the value of GIS in spatially assessing diverse phenomena in the urban environment. The project provides important quantitative evidence to complement existing qualitatively derived theories. Previously, quantitative work that had been undertaken in this area focussed almost exclusively on criminology. Significantly, my work extended spatio-temporal analysis of graffiti to examine the broader spatial practice of urban graffiti writing as a diverse cultural phenomenon. The project findings contribute to formulating better informed strategies for graffiti management – an important and relevant task for cities the world over.

In 2013 I published the work in Applied Geography with Dr Eleanor Bruce and A/Prof. Kurt Iveson, and the paper can be downloaded here (behind a pay wall – sorry). The citation and abstract are below.

In 2015 I won the prestigious Esri Young Scholar award for this project. Read more here.

Haworth, B., Bruce, E., Iveson, K. (2013). Spatio-temporal analysis of graffiti occurrence in an inner-city urban environment. Applied Geography, 38: 53-63.

Abstract:

Graffiti management often presents policy challenges for municipal authorities. However, the inherent diversity of graffiti culture and its role in defining urban space can be neglected when formulating response strategies. This study investigates spatio-temporal trends in graffiti across inner-city Sydney, New South Wales to support alternative perspectives on graffiti and its role in urban landscapes. Graffiti removal incidence records were geocoded to examine graffiti distribution across the City of Sydney Council Local Government Area over a six-month period. Graffiti removal ‘hotspots’ were identified using spatial cluster analysis and shifts in graffiti activity were examined through trend analysis. Specific sites within the Local Government Area were identified as a focus for repeated graffiti removal activities. Finer spatial scale GPS based mapping for a selected graffiti hotspot area in the suburb of Surry Hills showed diversity in graffiti form. While the rate of return may have decreased in the Surry Hills case study, the overall number of graffiti removal incidents increased. Rapid-removal policies can change the location, form and diversity of graffiti encouraging ‘quick and dirty’ forms of graffiti over more complex design works. Spatio-temporal variability in graffiti occurrence across inner-city Sydney highlights the need to consider graffiti as a diverse urban phenomenon when attempting to understand its occurrence and formulate response strategies.

Some thoughts on Monocle’s 2014 Quality of Life Survey

Monocle’s annual Quality of Life survey for 2014 is out, so where is the best place to live in the world?  The survey considers multiple elements and measures, from the directly measurable, such as public transport quality and costs, crime and unemployment  rates, the number of book shops or museums and galleries, or the amount of rubbish recycled, sunshine hours and green space, to some perhaps less tangible, including perceptions of tolerance.  Monocle’s result: Copenhagen is on top (a position it also held in 2013).  Tokyo ranked number 2 (uniquely, Japan actually has three cities in the top ten), and Melbourne is ranked number 3 – another blow to Sydney in the perpetual battle between Australia’s two biggest cities for bragging rights (Sydney ranked number 11).

Many of the cities on the list will not surprise, and perhaps even more interesting, therefore, are the cities we think of as being great places to live that do not make the list.  Truly global cities such as London or New York, for example, do not appear.  In the case of London, Monocle explain that while the city may have nightlife and culture, house prices are increasingly high and issues exist around trust of law enforcement agencies.  Significantly, but not unexpectedly, no cities from Africa or Central and South America are included.  I say not unexpectedly given the parameters considered in this survey.  Brazil, for example, may have cities world-famous for nightlife and a suite of new infrastructure developments associated with the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but notoriously high crime rates and a less than liberal attitude to same-sex marriage prevent its cities from making the Monocle list.

While I think the survey could gain more credibility by providing more information on methods and metrics, and is quite obviously flawed in a number of ways (the extreme bias of wealthier western-world views is probably the most notable. But let’s be fair, who is the target market of the magazine after all?), I like this survey a lot.  I like it not particularly for the list itself, though this is interesting, but more for the concept.  The Monocle Quality of Life Survey, not unlike similar surveys, encourages me to consider what we value in cities and what actually is important for living quality.  What would make my list, and what elements would contribute to making my number 1?  What places would I exclude, and why?  Would I make similar judgements based on metrics such as crime rates, transport access, or the amount of green space?  Some of these elements are indeed very important to me, but I think my own measurements would be more personal.  My quality of life isn’t just about education, healthcare, crime, sunshine etc… It’s about experience.  It’s about the places of meaning to me as an individual and it’s about the interconnections between these places.  Many of these take time to develop and cannot be measured or mapped on paper easily.  If I think about the continual comparisons in Australia between Melbourne and Sydney (both places I have lived), on paper using Monocle’s metrics I agree and would conclude Melbourne is preferable.  But if I think about it more personally, based on my experiences, my connections to place, and my own inner-felt quality of living, Sydney wins.  We don’t just live in cities statically, we are a part of them, and we develop unique and highly personal relationships with them.  At present, I am in a strong, loving, committed, and enjoyable relationship with Sydney, and that’s something a survey cannot measure.

For the complete list of Monocle’s 25 best places to live in the world, check out this video.

Social media and crisis management: A Sydney conference


The Water Services Sector Group’s Social Media Conference was recently held in Sydney and I had the pleasure of attending. With a focus on crisis management and disaster response, a number of key speakers from various parts of the world shared their insights and experiences in the growing field of social media, which all agreed is now an undeniably important component of modern society. 

Melanie Irons spoke of the pivotal role of social media in mobilising a community through her Facebook page in response to the 2013 Tasmania bushfires. Suzanne Bernier used examples such as the ‘Yes we can’ Obama campaign and ‘Domino’s Pizza Scandal’ YouTube videos to illustrate the role of social media in shaping the reputation of individuals and organizations, demonstrating the impact social media use can have to define, destroy, or strengthen during crisis scenarios. Caroline Milligan described the concept of a ‘Virtual Operations Support Team’ with key events such as the London 2012 Olympics or Hurricane Sandy having much of their social media crisis preparation and response performed virtually by her team based in New Zealand. And Charlie Hawkins demonstrated some of the latest social media harnessing and visualization tools developed by the CSIRO. 

While shortcomings were noted, such as the need for report verification, rumour control and negative posts, the overall consensus was the positive attributes of social media use in crisis management, such as the facilitation of coordination and collaboration, speed of information transfer, bi-directional communication and individual empowerment, far outweighed the negative. The message of the day was clear: social media is here to stay. It needs to be incorporated into emergency management strategies and policy in order to foster the most effective collaboration between connected communities and official information sources. The general public now expect authorities and organizations to be active on social media. How organizations respond to this expectation and how they conduct themselves by involving (or not involving) themselves in social media conversations can directly impact their perceived credibility and overall effectiveness both in disaster situations, and in public more broadly.  

Some reflections on the Sydney rally for marriage equality

Rally for Marriage Equality, Sydney Town Hall – Photo by Billy Haworth







Today I attended the rally for marriage equality in Sydney. It was the first ever event of this kind I’ve attended. Even as a long time supporter (even if not in public demonstrations) of equal marriage rights, I found it quite emotional at times. Some of the stories told during a number of speeches, such as that of the struggles of a long time champion of LGBTI rights in Perth who took her own life just last week at the age of only 20, were quite hard to swallow. There were chants, words of inspiration, a march up Oxford Street, a re-chalking of the famous rainbow crossing at Taylor Square (the original was removed as “a matter of road and pedestrian safety“), and even a bit of confrontation with an opposing Christian group damning us all to hell – the “I say bigots, you say Fuck Off!” chant was particularly punchy in this instance. I don’t want to go too much into the ins and outs of LGBTI struggles in Australia as this blog isn’t really the place for it, and quite frankly that would make for a damn long article. But I do want to mention a couple of thoughts I had during today’s events.

First, if Australia is such an ‘advanced’ nation, why does it feel we are so far behind other parts of the world on this issue? Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and some sub-national jurisdictions in Mexico and the United States. Of course, each of these places experienced their own struggles along the way, and these haven’t always ceased just because legislation allowing equal marriage has passed (see the recent backlash against same-sex marriage and adoption laws in France). It seems so obvious to me sometimes that Australia should be on that list, particularly as a country without the strong dominance of Church power that other nations face as an obstacle. Is a long run of conservative governments on this issue the reason why we’re so far behind? With a federal election in just 6 days this could be the time that changes. In terms of major parties, The Greens have supported marriage equality for a long time, and the Labor party now says if they are re-elected into power they will act on the issue too. But a Liberal government in power would see no change and no equal marriage rights for LGBTI people (at least for some time to come). The prospect of the latter is a sombre thought.

The second observation I want to comment on is the notion of place and power. A space in the CBD of Australia’s largest city normally reserved for cars and buses was today taken over by a few hundred passionate people with something to say walking all over this space. Oxford Street, a place long-associated with the LGBTI community, the Mardi Gras parade, and gay rights in Sydney, today became the site of a real power shift in the city; from the dominance of convention and the motor vehicle to the (somewhat still controlled) free reign of rally-goers marching and chanting to make their voices heard on an issue they believe in. The crossing at Taylor Square was ‘reclaimed’ with the marking of the rainbow. The everyday function of this place and the identity of the place are very different things, and the shift from the dominance of function to a dominance of meaning and identity was interesting to be a part of. A big aspect of any movement is power, and showing ones power, and having places of power – often through aligned identity of the people and the place. Recent evidence suggests that gay residents and commerce are gradually abandoning the area around gay Sydney’s most visible and central streetscape, resulting in its gradual ‘degaying’ (See Brad Ruting, 2006). Today, Oxford Street and Taylor Square once again became crucial and powerful places for LGBTI identity, and for the present and long-running struggle for equal rights in Australia.
 
Chalking the Rainbow Crossing, Taylor Square – Photo by Billy Haworth

The green amongst the urban

New York’s Central Park – aerial view (image: thisisthestoryof.wordpress.com)

Green spaces in urban environments are well known to offer a wide range of benefits for people and the environment.  They offer an escape for city inhabitants away from their often tiring normal routines. One of the things I find most pleasing about living in London is the abundance of parks and reserves, making green space and a little bit of nature easily accessible from almost anywhere within the city’s vast limits.  In fact, in most cities I’ve lived or visited I’ve come to appreciate time spent in green space.  An immediate benefit of green space apparent to me is space for recreation and leisure.  Whether it be kayaking down London’s Regent’s Canal, a football game with mates after school at the local common, or a formal exercise session in the city centre for fitness enthusiasts; green spaces make the perfect venues.  Green spaces also provide a place for relaxation and peacefulness, often comprising of tranquil ponds or lakes and beautiful gardens to explore. They contribute positively to the environment in areas such as climate change and biodiversity, and offer a place for wildlife to live and flora to grow, often including native or rare species.  The flying foxes hanging from the tree tops in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and the grazing Deer in Richmond Park in London are particular favourite examples of mine.  Personally, I have also found joy in the cultural and historical significance of particular green spaces, such as the haunting sculptures of artist Gustav Vigeland in Oslo, or the rich heritage of Greenwich Park in London.

Regent’s Canal, London.                                              Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.
Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, Oslo.                                  Greenwich Park, London.

I have a theory that my well-being is greatly improved by interactions with green space and the natural environment, and it turns out I’m not the only one with this view.  You don’t have to research very deeply to find a number of academic articles investigating and supporting this notion.  Nina Morris (2003) reports that urban green spaces are now widely recognised as major contributors both to the quality of the environment, and to human health and well-being in inner city and suburban areas.  A study in the Netherlands investigated whether the presence of green space can provide a buffer against negative health impacts of stressful life events, determining that health complaints were significantly moderated by the amount of green space in a three kilometre radius (Berg et. al., 2010).  Similarly, statistical analysis by Mass et. al., (2006) of people registered with 104 Dutch general practices revealed that the percentage of green space inside a one kilometre and a three kilometre radius had a significant positive association with perceived general health.  Mitchell and Popham (2008) explored the effects of exposure to natural environments on heath inequality, noting that populations exposed to the greenest environments also have the lowest levels of health inequality related to income deprivation.  Mitchell and Popham (2006) also reported that while in general a higher proportion of green space in an area is associated with better health, the association is dependent on the degree of urbanity and level of income deprivation in an area.  Results of a 2009 study (Lafortezza et. al.) indicate that longer and frequent visits to green spaces generate significant improvements of perceived well-being.  The study focused on physical and psychological benefits associated with the use of green spaces on people in the UK and Italy when heat stress episodes are more likely to occur.  And finally, Fuller and Gaston (2009) following their study of green space coverage in European cities, reported broadly that benefits of urban green spaces range from physical and psychological health to social cohesion, ecosystem service provision and biodiversity conservation.  I imagine with further research there would appear countless more examples supporting the idea of urban green space being associated with improved well-being.  But for the moment it is clear enough that the benefits are well documented.

Pondering my love of green spaces, I cannot help but ponder also the future of these areas.  With increasing populations and more people living in cities in the world than ever before, and increased demand for residential, commercial, and industrial space, will the amount of green space in our cities be compromised?  Will their size, abundance, or diversity be reduced?  Will we have to travel increasingly farther to get our nature fix?  Will green spaces become restricted or will their maintenance become an issue?  There are already many parks and reserves in London that charge an entry or usage fee.  Will the effects of climate change have an impact?  These thoughts do scare me a little, as I believe we should cherish and preserve our green spaces.  They are an integral part of our cities and their benefits to society and the environment are plenty.  So, go on, go enjoy some green space today.

Richmond Park, London.
Photos by Billy Haworth