Rachel  Perkins, GIFT PhD candidate

The Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) is a Council established to represent the interests of higher education providers within Australia and New Zealand. Annually, they host a conference with the aim to bring together tourism, hospitality and events professionals from academia, government and business to promote informative, stimulating and challenges discussion on the latest issues in the field. This year in 2018, the conference was hosted by the University of Newcastle and was themed ‘Get Smart; Paradoxes and Possibilities’.

As a first year PhD candidate, I had never been to a conference and was excited (but mostly nervous) to attend. I had heard that the conference was a warm and welcoming environment, but the idea of sharing my research with experts in the field was a little daunting for me. Nevertheless, I registered my attendance and submitted two working papers to present, one as a poster presentation and one as an oral presentation. Both papers were accepted and so it was time to jet off to Newcastle with my fellow PhD candidates (aka our survival team). The conference structure facilitated networking opportunities, as well as the chance to get to bond with our colleagues. I stayed with four fellow PhD candidates who were all presenting at the conference as well. It was fun to use our evenings to rehearse and make sure our presentations were polished.

After watching each of my fellow candidates totally nail their presentations, it gave me confidence that I could present well too. I presented my poster first, which was an output from my Honours Project with my Supervisor Dr. Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore. It detailed my research within the Granite Belt region of Queensland, explaining the challenges small tourism operators were facing in collaborating with one another. My oral presentation followed, which was a pitch of my PhD project, with my Supervisors Dr. Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore and Associate Professor Charles Arcodia. It was a relief to have the presentations finished, and everything that I had heard about CAUTHE was true- it really was a warm and welcoming environment, and I felt very supported and encouraged from my attendance. The final night was the Gala Dinner, where I won First Prize for my Poster Presentation. I did not expect it, but I was really hoping I would win after spending weeks trying to make it look attractive to the audience- I even learned to use Illustrator so I could print the poster big enough!