Meet Catherine Bennett, Deakin’s COVID-19 expert

Deakin’s very own COVID-19 expert Catherine Bennett has been thrown into the media spotlight to share her specialist knowledge since the global pandemic hit our shores, and now she can’t remember what life looked like before!

Written by Erica Naughtin

Having started out simply enjoying her epidemiology classes while studying undergraduate microbiology, she went on to build up experience wherever she could, including completing a PhD in Population Genetics and CDC-style applied Epidemiology training. Fast forward a few years, and Catherine is now working alongside an international team representing 20 countries who are looking at mortality that is directly and indirectly associated with COVID-19.

Catherine already had the hands-on experience in infectious disease epidemiology to draw on through her work on New South Wales health outbreak investigations and being a Public Health Coordinator for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, so launching into the media arena came naturally to her. With her extensive teaching experience, Catherine is well placed to help us all understand those daily numbers and what they mean for us, Victoria, Australia and even the world. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Distancing and masks, yes all necessary, but if you don’t wash your hands well, and often, you undermine the benefits of all your other efforts.

Now very much a morning person, Catherine starts her day with phone calls, radio interviews and checking in with any new developments or research. Then her day continues into a flurry of media commitments and preparing expert witness statements and opinion pieces, followed by working through her emails and doing her ‘day job’… at night.

Shielded with her cheat sheets and graphs (which she never seems to need to use!) Catherine has appeared on countless TV interviews to deliver insight and understanding, including on The Project where Waleed thanked her for her ‘optimism backed by expertise’. Being able to have a laugh when the topic is COVID-19 is a rarity, that combined with a good exchange with the panel, means Catherine counts this one as one of her favourite appearances.

Like most of us, Catherine is working from home in her ‘dining room studio’ and is dealing with the challenges and nuances that come with that, however working from home for her does have added layers of complexity most of us won’t be facing, including worrying whether her morning live cross will pick up the audio from her weekly bin collection or grocery delivery. With her 7-day-a-week workload, laundry and mundane chores happen by running around in between her busy schedule of commitments, and seeing her partner is confined to when he pops into her ‘office’.

Catherine never expected she would be receiving fan mail, which she finds ‘weird and wonderful’, however her tireless work definitely is deserving of it. Next time you’re watching your television and get to hear from Catherine, you’ll see why. You might even spot the ‘book of the week’ her partner replaces each Sunday just within camera shot. Afterall, there’s got to be some fun in all of this.