CERG Team Members

Professor Joanne Porter


Joanne is the Director of the Collaborative Evaluation Research Group (CERG). She has guided the development of CERG (formerly CEU), managed a number of evaluations, and worked with industry partners including Gippsland Primary Health Network, Latrobe City Council, GippSport and Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENS).

Joanne is an experienced emergency nurse having worked in metropolitan, rural and remote emergency care centres. Joanne is a Fellow with the College of Emergency Nursing Australasia (CENA) and is a board member on the Victorian branch of CENA. She brings with her a career of clinical, research and leadership expertise.

Dr Michael Barbagallo

Deputy Director - Academic

Michael’s research interests include bioscience education, learning and teaching and reflective practices in health care.

He has extensive research experience in data collection and analysis techniques along with multiple publications in peer reviewed journals.

Michael is an active member of CERG, working on a number of evaluations and with industry partners including Latrobe City Council and Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLEN).

Valerie Prokopiv

Deputy Director - Operations

Valerie has extensive local knowledge and networks within Latrobe and is vital to community engagement success. She has a high level of administrative experience and is proficient at report writing and distribution. She has experience in marketing and public relations, development of web and print content including editing and finance management.

Val has extensive expertise as a research assistant working on a number of projects with Federation University on the Hazelwood Health study, and RMIT working with the Centre for People, Organisations and Work as a field researcher.

Elissa Dabkowski

Research Fellow

Elissa worked as a private practice physiotherapist in the Gippsland community for 14 years after completing her degree at Latrobe University Bundoora. Elissa decided to change careers to become a registered nurse, with the view of becoming a midwife. This view changed when Elissa discovered a love for research, which led her to successfully completing an Honours degree. She is currently in the middle of a PhD about falls prevention in hospitals via a full-time industry scholarship. She is an active member of CERG and has contributed to several projects and research publications.

Megan Jackson

Research Fellow

Meg completed with Distinction a Bachelor of Nursing at Federation University in 2016, followed by an Honours degree in nursing in 2019. Meg is now undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at Federation University, with a research project exploring the lived experience of emergency department nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meg has a range of clinical nursing experience in areas such as oncology, intensive care, emergency and women’s health, ensuring a diverse skill set. Meg has gained comprehensive research experience through Honours and PhD projects, in addition to working as a research assistant for the Hazelwood Health Study. Meg undertakes sessional academic teaching in the School of Health at Federation University, with a passion for education and development of best practice research outcomes.

Natalie Bransgrove

Research Fellow

Natalie completed her Bachelor of Nursing Practice with Monash University in 2015, followed by a graduate year with Latrobe Regional Hospital. She started working in a regional emergency department for changing direction to work in aged care as a unit coordinator.

In 2021 Natalie went on to complete her Master’s in Public Health with Monash University, specialising in Health Promotion. While studying Natalie filled a maternity leave position as the Health and Wellbeing Coordinator of the Loy Yang B Power Station. She then went on to work with Latrobe City Council as a community engagement officer focusing on community safety and gender equality. Natalie has recently been accepted to undertake a PhD at Federation University with CERG, where she will focus on the DELIVER project, exploring innovative access to care for older Australian's. Natalie brings with her previous health care system knowledge and experience, passion for gender equality, and strong community connections.

Libby Miller

Research Fellow

Libby completed a Bachelor of Nursing in 2017 with high distinctions and received the University Medal for outstanding achievement. During that year, she participated in a hospital nursing placement in Nepal, igniting a passion to explore carer roles and the hospital environment for people with palliative and end-of-life needs through an honours research project in 2018.

Libby’s love for research continued, and she commenced a full-time PhD in March 2020. Libby’s PhD is investigating environmental factors within the acute hospital setting - the natural, built, social (behaviour and language), and symbolic environments where people may receive bad news about their life-limiting illness.  As well as research expertise, Libby has medical, palliative, surgical and hospital in the home clinical experience.

Daria Soldatenko

Research Fellow

Daria is an experienced researcher who holds two PhDs. She has 12 years of research experience across tourism, education, and ecology. She completed her first PhD in tourism in Russia in 2013 and graduated with her second PhD in Australia in 2022. Daria’s main research interests are regional tourism development, tourism motivational factors, and culture.

Daria has worked as a Research Associate and Assistant, both in Russia and Australia. She has strong quantitative, research, statistical and data interpretation skills. Her main publications, including the monograph and papers in peer-reviewed journals, can be found in her Google Scholar account here. Being a member of CERG, Daria is very passionate about doing research and strives to contribute further to local and international communities.


To engage CERG's evaluation services, collaborate with us or ask about our research, please get in touch via the Contact page.