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Lisette Collins Reflects on Being SEI’s First PhD Graduate

Dr Lisette Collins is The Sydney Environment Institutes first PhD, graduate. In 2016, Lisette completed her PhD from the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

Lisette’s thesis examined climate change adaptation plans (CCAP) across Australia, and through her research, she developed a unique database of CCAP’s.

Lisette is currently applying her knowledge and skills to NSW State Government policy. She is currently a Senior Policy officer in the Climate and Energy Team at the Department of Premier and Cabinet, after previously working in the Climate and Resource Efficiency Policy Branch at the Office of Environment and Heritage.

SEI talks to Lisette about her research and her experience as an SEI PhD graduate.

How did you come to develop the CCAP database?

I hadn’t intended on compiling a database of Australian CCAPs when I began my PhD. I wanted to analyse what had been developed and soon realised that no one had yet pulled together a list of all the CCAPs in the country. I realised I had to do it myself and spent a couple of months trawling the websites of all 560 local councils in Australia looking for CCAPs.

How has the CCAP database been received by local councils and government?

I’ve had a lot of feedback that people have found it very useful to see what else is out there. Certainly at conferences I get lots of people who are surprised to see how much has already been done in this space.

What are local government’s including in their climate change adaptation plans?

Many local governments across the country have quite a broad range of considerations in their CCAPs. Anything from how to better respond to extreme weather events to how to reach out to vulnerable groups and how to deal with mental health impacts of climate change.

What is it like to be SEI’s first PhD graduate?

I feel privileged to have been part of the SEI community. It was such a great experience to be writing a PhD on climate change while surrounded by all these fantastic seminars and symposia about all these different aspects to studying the environment. I feel like I’ve gotten to see this Institute grow from a three-person operation to an extensive, interdisciplinary institution that funds Honours Fellows, has a fantastic social media presence and pulls big numbers to their public talks.


Dr. Lisette Collins is a research affiliate to the Sydney Environment Institute. She has a PhD from the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, specialising in the development of climate change adaptation policy at the local government level across Australia.  Her PhD research focused on the prioritisation of sociopolitical concepts (education, vulnerable groups and mental health) in adaptation planning. The research involved the development of a unique database of adaptation plans from across the country which has been sought out by local government employees and consultants in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Victoria. She currently works as a Senior Policy Officer in the at the Department of Premier and Cabinet.