Natural Hazards Research Australia CEO to retire | Natural Hazards Research Australia

Natural Hazards Research Australia CEO to retire

Release date

16 February 2022

The Chief Executive Officer of Natural Hazards Research Australia, Dr Richard Thornton, will leave his position at the end of June this year, at the completion of his current term. 

Having been appointed to lead the Centre through its busy establishment year, Dr Thornton said he decided that the time was right for him to move on to other projects and semi-retirement. 

Dr Thornton has had a long and accomplished association with natural hazards research in Australia. He was Research Director of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC, 2004-2013), CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC (2013-2021) and continued as CEO into the new Natural Hazards Research Australia from 1 July 2021. 

“It has been a privilege to watch the growth and impact of natural hazards research over the years. When I started, the research in this field was of high quality but it was uncoordinated and poorly linked to the needs of fire and emergency managers, government or community organisations.” 

“The Cooperative Research Centres Program enabled us to harness this good work and link it in with the needs of those who are preparing for and responding to natural hazards on a daily basis across Australia. The funding of Natural Hazards Research Australia for 10 years from 2021 by the Australian Government was a testament to the success of this model of doing collaborative research with real-world uses, and I am proud to be a part of its formation.” 

“The other challenge we faced was an aging of our research workforce. One of the things I am most proud of has been our ability to nurture and grow our capability and capacity to be able to address the growing risk from hazards in Australia. With around 200 PhD students supported over the period of the two CRCs and the new Centre this has created a lasting legacy of which I am happy to have been part of.” 

Natural Hazards Research Australia was funded by the Australian Government from 1 July 2021 to conduct research into disaster risk and resilience in a national network of fire and emergency service agencies, universities, government bodies and community organisations. 

Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO, Chair of the Centre, said Dr Thornton’s work across the two CRCs and in establishing the new Centre was a remarkable legacy for natural hazards research in Australia.  

“Through that period the two CRCs have contributed a wealth of valuable knowledge, tools and new approaches to the management of, and response to, natural hazards.  Over the course of the last 20 years the outcomes of the CRCs have saved lives, homes, businesses and communities.” 

“The Board wishes to thank Richard for his leadership over many years and his legacy in developing a globally recognised capability of research in natural hazards mitigation, response and recovery.” 

“A search for his replacement will commence immediately though Richard will continue to lead the Centre in the meantime.” 

“On behalf of the Board, and especially for myself, I want to thank Richard for his commitment to the Centre, to excellence and impact in research and to his leadership within the sector.”

The Centre's Board released a statement, thanking Dr Thornton for his extraordinary contributions to the sector.