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Labours of love find their way home

Monday, 10 September 2018


Edith Cowan University is attempting to reunite almost 2700 hard-copy research theses – almost three decades’ and three tonnes’ worth -- with their authors, wherever they now live around the world.

Digitisation has made hard-copy theses virtually obsolete but ECU believes that the authors would appreciate having their bound work returned to them rather than it languishing, unloved on a dusty library shelf.

Dean of ECU’s Graduate Research School Professor Joe Luca said having a physical copy of a thesis -- the culmination of years of hard work -- is hugely important to any author.

“Many of our former students might not even have their own copy of the thesis they poured their blood, sweat and tears into,” he said.

“Printing a bound copy of a thesis, which is probably a couple of hundred pages long, is expensive and a lot of students wouldn’t have been able to justify that expense at the time.”

He said in the case of former students who have passed away, their families would likely appreciate to have a bound copy of one of the most significant things their loved one produced during their lives.

Over the last 7 years ECU Library staff have spent more than 3400 hours or 92 full-time work weeks scanning almost half a million thesis pages to ensure the collection would forever be preserved.

Laid end-to-end the original hard-copy collection would span the distance between Perth and the North Pole.

Stacked on top of each other, they’d be 69m tall, almost as tall as the light towers at Perth’s WACA Ground.

Since being uploaded to ECU’s Research Online database, the theses have been downloaded more than 2.3 million times – far more than they could ever have been read as physical items in the University’s library.

The theses span topics as diverse as helping new mothers with breastfeeding, Aboriginal children’s experience in sport, the value of parks to human health and grey nomads’ experience with travel.

Their authors include:

  • Dr Anne Aly, counter terrorism expert and Federal Member for Cowan
  • Professor Glen Phillips, Western Australian poet
  • Professor Leanne Monterosso, Chair of Nursing at University of Notre Dame and St John of God Hospital
  • Dr Rosemary Cahill, Director of the Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning at the WA Department of Education
  • Professor Yvonne Hauck, Professor of Midwifery at Curtin University and King Edward Memorial Hospital
  • Dr Barry Chesson AM, Principal at Occupational Hygiene Solutions
  • Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker indigenous health and education researcher at Telethon Kids Institute

So far the University has tracked down about a third of the theses’ owners and is appealing publicly to find the others, or their next of kin.

Professor Luca completed his PhD at ECU in 2002 and will be one of the former students who’ll be receiving the original hardcopy of his thesis.

“We’re encouraging anyone who has a thesis in our collection to get in touch with the University so we can return that hard copy,” he said.

“We want to make sure we can return as many of these theses to their original owners as possible.”

“It’s also an important avenue for the University to reconnect with our alumni community from all around the world.”

Anyone who believes they have a thesis in the collection or has a family member with one is encouraged to contact the ECU Library at


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