Peta Straiton – 2022 Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence

Peta Straiton is from the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and is one of the 12 winners of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence for 2022. Her supervisors were Dr Gareth Butler and  Dr Wendy van Duivenvoorde

Peta’s thesis, “Assessing the Economic and Sociocultural Value of Maritime Cultural Heritage Sites: An Interdisciplinary Pilot Study” sought to find interdisciplinary ways to measure, value, compare, and articulate the sociocultural and economic value of maritime cultural heritage sites as tourism destinations.

We asked Peta to share what the award means, advice to PhD students and where are they now.

What does winning this award mean?

Being nominated for this award and winning it is an incredible honour, and one I never thought I would achieve throughout my candidature. I’m deeply grateful to those who assisted me on my journey, as these achievements are never done alone.

This award further validates the research, and the contributions made to my chosen discipline. I hope this help to elevate people’s perceptions of cultural heritage and the continued values it brings to society.

What led you to undertake a PhD? Why was your topic important to you?

Working in the cultural heritage industry I was continually dismayed at the lack of understanding people had regarding the values these site bring to modern society. I saw people assess the value of these location through their economic outputs, their importance to past societies, or through limited lenses on how modern society see them, but never discussing these values collectively.

I wanted to challenge current notions and demonstrate through an interdisciplinary model how these understandings of value interact, intercept, and reenforce each other, and that to true understand the values of these places we must consider all forms of value.

Where are you now?

Currently I’m a Senior Cultural Heritage SME at Rio Tinto. I’m actively working within the business to challenge current views and understandings on how to manage cultural heritage sites. I’m continuing aspects of my research and helping to expand best practice approaches to widen and deepen understandings of the values of cultural heritage.

What advice would you give to current or prospective PhD students?

My advice would be to pick a topic you love, and surround yourself with people who support you (whether they know the journey themselves or not)

Many PhD journeys are long and winding, filled with side tracks, and rabbit holes. This is frequently frustrating and sometimes you feel like you lose your way making it hard to get back on track. By focusing on the passion which drove you to this topic, and with the support of those around you, it can be the guiding lights to help bring you out of the even the darkest of places.

Also never compare your journey to others. Everyone does things in their own time and work through problems differently. Have faith in yourself, and remember this is your journey.






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