In 2019, a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic, a few of us Filipino scholars in Melbourne formed the Cities and Environments Research Network (CERN) to provide an avenue for research peers to share scholarly work and support each others' projects. Our multidisciplinary group is composed of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University, however, we also have some members from the University of New South Wales in Sydney. We all primarily arrived in Australia through obtaining master's and PhD scholarships, and so the group also provided us an opportunity to share our Filipino roots and concerns about our home country, as well as collectively explore our host country. Some of us have since graduated or sought employment back home in the Philippines or elsewhere outside Australia, but we remain an active network despite being physically fragmented.
In our group, "Environments" is broadly conceived in order to accommodate our wide range of interests, which include disaster and climate change, informal urbanism, gender and development, museum studies, education, eco-fiction, legal studies, among others. We mainly organise forums to showcase our ongoing and completed research projects as well as to draw upon our scholarly practice to make sense of current events and their practical implications.
CERN has organised several online forums since the pandemic.
We were especially active during the pandemic and used our time during lockdowns to hold talks, including topics immediately related to Covid-19 governance, such as the impact of quarantines on disadvantaged communities, the complexity of producing and distributing vaccines, and the politics around universal healthcare.
We are also conscious of our privileged stance as Global North scholars and our ethical responsibility to our research communities. We therefore disaster relief projects for our research community partners, such as the CERN Street Fund for Metro Manila street vendors whose livelihoods were affected by Covid as well as the CERN Fisherfolk Fund for Manila Bay fishers affected by Typhoon Paeng (Nalgae). Through these two efforts we were able to send food, medicine, and hygiene supplies to more than 30,000 families.
An online flyer introducing the CERN Street Fund.
We have several forums planned for 2023 as well as a special journal issue on disaster in the works.