The University of Newcastle, Australia

Diane Bull's story

Dr Diane Bull has spent her professional life unravelling how stress can impact on the wellbeing of people working in emergency and sometimes volatile situations.

Nominated for an Australian of the Year award in 2004, for her work in science, research and education, Diane says that her proudest achievement is maintaining relationships with the psychology students who she once taught, and some of whom are now her colleagues and friends.

"I am currently working in private practice and I am proud of the how many of my former students are now colleagues, it is very rewarding to see them develop into competent and capable professionals and to be part of their continued professional development," Diane said.

With more than 30 years' experience working as a psychologist, academic and researcher, in both private practice and as the inaugural lecturer of Psychology at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, Diane aspired to be a doctor when she was young.

"Apart from an earlier wish to emulate famed dancer Dame Margot Fonteyn, I always wanted to be a doctor, but circumstances prevented me from attending university until later in life," Diane said.

Diane completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in psychology, at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, before graduating with First Class Honours in psychology, and a PhD from the university's Faculty of Medicine.

"As the inaugural lecturer and program director for the psychology program at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, I have had a continuous business, collegial, and social relationships with my colleagues and students, well after they have left the campus, which is a testament to the wonderful sense of the community at the Ourimbah campus," Diane said.

Studying her postgraduate qualifications concurrently to lecturing psychology, Diane saw firsthand how students benefitted academically, when they enjoyed a close rapport with their lecturers and their fellow students.

After initially commencing her honours studies at the University of Newcastle's Callaghan Campus, she considered the feedback of her students, who spoke of benefitting greatly from the close relationships they formed with their lecturers and tutors, to continue her studies at the university's Ourimbah campus.

"The feedback from my students showed the close associations one develops with their lecturers is vital, and begins on the first day," she said.

"On larger campuses it may be many years before one can develop collegial and collaborative relationships with their peers and academics. The smaller size and intimate nature of the Central Coast Campus allows for a great sense of community, and the support I received was reflected in my achievements."

Diane's research investigating the psychological factors which effect an individual's wellbeing when working under conditions of both physiological and psychological stress, is internationally recognised, and has led to a better understanding of ways to help better manage stress for these workers.

"My prime interest is identifying those variables that will alleviate the adverse health effects of high-risk workers such as police, fire fighters, ambulance officers, and military personnel," she said.

"My research suggests that these workers need to be better supported to maintain wellbeing and an expected level of professionalism, which can be difficult in high-demand and emergency circumstances."

Continuing to learn more about psychology, as well as further developing her skills as a researcher and practitioner, continues to be Diane's professional focus, after decades as a leader in her field.

"I am now in the later part of my career; but I plan to continue my work of putting my knowledge and training into practise to continue my service of the community."