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Lessons from a research student - Kelsie

We spoke with Dr Kelsie Prabawa-Sear about her journey as a PhD candidate at UWA. Her research took her (and her family) to Indonesia and now she’s combining her interests in the mental and physical benefits of engaging in nature for children. Kelsie tells us about how UWA helped her create her own path as a research student. Hear about Kelsie’s journey and her advice for other PhD candidates. 

How did you start your research journey?

“My research journey really began with a desire to improve outcomes for students and the natural environment. I was working in the environmental education field and felt that despite good efforts, environmental education didn’t seem to be achieving much in the way of positive change. 

I was keen to find a better way of doing this, so I undertook a Masters by Research in Education for Environmental Sustainability. I didn’t really have plans for further study when I received an email advertising a PhD scholarship to join a team of academics from UWA, University of Newcastle and University of Indonesia. The research project focused on environmentalism in Indonesia.  I had previously studied in Indonesia as part of the ACICIS Program (UWA) and thought it’d be a wonderful opportunity to combine my areas of interest (environment, education, Indonesia) and to return to Indonesia with my young family. I secured a scholarship through the project’s Australian Research Council Grant and my family and I packed up and moved to Indonesia for my field research and the adventure of a lifetime.”

Four women stand outdoors looking at their hands in Indonesia

Why did you choose to study at UWA?

“As an undergrad, I wanted to do a science degree that combined social and biological sciences and UWA offered that.”

What’s a common misconception when it comes to being a PhD candidate?

"A common misconception is that a PhD will be all-consuming and take over your life. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are many ways to conduct research and communicate with supervisors and a healthy, balanced approach to life and research brings the most positive experience and outcomes"

What advice would you have for those considering a higher degree by research?

“Pick a topic you love and find a supervisor/ supervisors that encourage and support your work and that you respect. If you can trust your supervisors to guide you, the rest will fall into place. Don’t let perfection get in the way of completion.”

What’s a key lesson you’ve learnt?

That the more fulfilling your life is outside of your PhD, the better you will cope with the experience. This helps to keep any difficulties in perspective and prevents the size of the challenge from appearing too daunting.


Family of five stand outside Winthrop Hall after graduation

Have you received any awards or scholarships during your time at UWA?

“I have been really pleased to receive a number of awards and scholarships that have provided me amazing opportunities. These include:

  • UWA scholarship to undertake studies at Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia) as part of the ACICIS program
  • Australian Research Council scholarship for PhD
  • Australian Association for Environmental Education - Western Australian Environmental Educator of the Year 2017
  • Professional Teaching Council of Western Australia – Outstanding Professional Service Award 2017
  • Anthropological Society of WA, Berndt Memorial Prize – 2019 Winner Ethnosciences Award for PhD thesis. 
  • Australian Anthropological Society, Nomination for Best PhD thesis 2019 (UWA).”

What advice do you have for other students or future students to get the most out of their university experience?

You don’t need to force opportunities. Take opportunities that appeal to you. The more interested you are in something, the better you will do.

Kelsie completed her PhD at UWA, and now she’s the CEO of Nature Play WA, a not-for-profit that supports the well-being of Western Australian children by growing their connection to nature and community through outdoor play. 

Find out more about undertaking a research degree at UWA here and explore the research scholarships available for 2023, applications close 31st October 2022.


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