Ms Fiona Haigh

My journey towards becoming a researcher and PhD student at CHETRE started in my home country New Zealand where I studied Law and Psychology. I was always curious about understanding how other people think and feel and the thought of standing up in court arguing for people’s rights appealed to me. My parents tell me how already at primary school, I would come home and tell them about various injustices I thought teachers had been perpetrating on children - I always had sympathy for the underdogs (or who I perceived to be underdogs) and a strong sense of fairness.

After completing my professional studies and being admitted to the bar I left New Zealand – following a nice German boy I had met rock climbing. My studies took a new turn, and I ended up studying a Masters in Public Health at Bielefeld University. I thought I had finished with law until one day in the library I came across a new book that looked at the relationship between health and human rights. It resonated with me. I clearly remember sitting on the floor in the library reading and reading feeling excited, which to be honest didn’t happen to me that often in my studies! I decided to focus my master’s thesis on health and human rights. At the same time, I began working part time at the State Institute of Public Health North Rhine Westphalia in an EU funded project developing policy health impact assessment (HIA) methodology. HIA soon became the main focus of my research career. What I particularly liked about HIA is that it provided an opportunity for applied research that can make a direct difference to people’s lives. I also liked the focus on equity, and the potential for communities to use HIA as a tool for to protect and enhance their wellbeing.

We then moved from Germany to northern England, where I went to the International Health Impact Assessment Consortium (IMPACT), which is based at the University of Liverpool and forms part of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on the Social Determinants of Health. I undertook HIAs and did research and teaching, a welcome change after years of being a student. The nice German boy had come with me and during our time there we had a daughter – Aife. The long-wet winters and a desire to be closer to my family combined with a great opportunity to join the HIA team at CHETRE (not to mention the appeal of rock climbing in the Blue Mountains) then led us to Australia at the beginning of 2011. At CHETRE I have been encouraged and supported to begin a PhD that has given me the opportunity to combine HIA with human rights. CHETRE feels like a good fit for me – there is a sense of shared values with people working here despite the content of our work being so varied.  This also translates into a work environment which values people as a whole not just what they contribute to the job.


I can’t wait to see what happens next…