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University of Canterbury launches Earthquake Scholarships

University of Canterbury launches Earthquake Scholarships

The University of Canterbury is to offer scholarships for postgraduate research into the effects of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes, focusing on the lessons learned from the response.

UC Canterbury Earthquakes Digital Archive (CEISMIC) director Professor Paul Millar is concerned that as time wears on vital information about the response and recovery is being irretrievably lost.

The first four scholarships, funded by The Canterbury Community Trust, will support masters’ students to research and write on aspects of the earthquake response and recovery that align with the strategic priorities of the Trust. The successful applicants will have their fees paid and receive a stipend of $12,000 to support them through a year of study.

“These scholarships will be known as CEISMIC Learning Legacy Scholarships. CEISMIC has been collecting and preserving information about the effects of the earthquakes for the purposes of commemoration, teaching and research since 2011, but the response is ongoing and it is vital that research continues," Millar says.

“Many people outside Canterbury assume that five years after the earthquakes began we know all there is to know. Cantabrians know we still have a long way to go with recovery, and many people can tell of important information being lost as people move on and situations change.”

Although CEISMIC has collected over a quarter of a million items of information, Millar’s concern for the large amount of material being lost inspired him to develop the scholarship scheme.

“When the government established CERA and SCIRT, they used legislation to require that each organisation created a learning legacy around the way they achieved their objectives. We need to emulate that by producing learning legacies from every group involved to learn lessons from the way emergency services, communities, councils, businesses, education providers, government agencies and others responded immediately and afterwards."

“UC is ideally placed to do that – we have quality research resources, expert academics to supervise postgraduate students, and an international reputation for world-class research.”

“Topics for the first scholarships will include the way many activist organisations like Greening the Rubble and CanCERN sprang up after the quakes in response to community need; the impact the earthquakes had on the resilience, connections and networks of families in the Aranui High School zone; lessons about more effective disaster management strategies for local cultural institutions like galleries, archives and museums affected by the quakes; and the experiences of temporary migrant labourers who have come to assist with the Canterbury rebuild, but who are often extremely vulnerable when it comes to employment, immigration, accommodation and health."

“We’re grateful The Canterbury Community Trust has recognised the many ways in which these scholarships have value. A scholarship is an investment that can be life-changing for a student. Not only is there an earthquake learning legacy produced, but a student is supported to earn a master’s degree, and information is collected that can be archived and make permanently available through CEISMIC that might otherwise be lost.”

Millar hopes many more organisations will follow The Canterbury Community Trust’s lead and fund students to carry out research and produce learning legacies.

“Creating new knowledge about something that has profoundly affected so many people is a great privilege and responsibility and I’d like as many students as possible to have the opportunity to do something that will be good for them and good for Canterbury.”


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