Rachael Peak

Rachael Peak
Research Program:
Research Topics:

What are your research interests?

My work connects stroke survivors with researchers working on stroke rehabilitation and brain repair, through the Hunter Stroke Research Volunteer Register. I’m a scientist and stroke survivor and am interested in making access to cutting-edge research programs and new rehabilitation methods easier and more equitable for all people after stroke.

I’m interested in:

  • Fast-tracking stroke research programs by making sure people with stroke know about them
  • Improving consumer engagement in research, from research design all the way to when discoveries are translated into everyday healthcare and policy
  • Improving understanding in the public sphere as to what stroke is and how to understand the potential of people who have had strokes

Why did you get into research?

At high school I had a great interest in science, which led me to do a research degree at the Newcastle University. I had an interest in the environment and moved into a career and PhD studies investigating the movements of dung beetles and behavior of frogs in the laboratory and in the field. 

I had a stroke 14 years ago which has left me with hemiplegia on my right side and aphasia. I would really love for the general public to learn more about how to relate to survivors. It can be extremely frustrating for the affected person to feel that others don’t understand stroke and its affects. Problems like aphasia - that affects someone’s ability to communicate - doesn’t necessarily equate to having lost intellect.  We need better rehabilitation methods, and to understand and support people after stroke because there is a massive amount of untapped potential among the thousands of skilled, intelligent and capable people who have had strokes. I feel privileged that I can bring my research experience together with my lived experience of stroke to work with the neuroscience team here to benefit others with stroke.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

To ensure that all stroke survivors in Australia, including people who have aphasia, have access to emerging research studies, if they choose to be participate. Some 30% of people who have strokes are affected by aphasia, and traditionally, these people have been excluded from participating in many stroke research studies.  This is because communicating with someone with aphasia effectively can take more time, sometimes messages need to be presented in different ways and extra aphasia expertise is needed.  It’s unacceptable though, to leave 30% of people with stroke behind. I’m committed to changing this. Our stroke register includes people with aphasia. We are working on improving the accessibility of information across our research studies, and working to make sure people with aphasia aren’t excluded from any trial that they otherwise could participate in, with the right support.

I’m passionate about making sure that stroke survivors have an increased level of input in the development of research projects so that the important issues that affect us, in our opinion, are addressed when decisions are made about where to invest.


Rachael Peak is an environmental scientist and a research assistant for the stroke recovery research team at HMRI. She had a stroke 14 years ago which has left her with hemiplegia on her right side and aphasia.  Prior to her move into stroke recovery research, she has spent time both in the lab and in the field studying the movements of dung beetles in the Hunter Area, and exploring sex differences and gender roles in Assa darlingtoni frog populations in the Dorrigo area. 

She was a founding member of the Maitland Aphasia Communication Group which supports people to access ongoing communication therapy and practice in addition to formal rehabilitation. Her consumer perspective adds value to her role in engaging stroke survivors in research studies via the Hunter Stroke Research Volunteer Register.

Future Focus

I want to see all people who have strokes benefit from the rehabilitation and research work happening at HMRI, and every person with stroke ought to know that they can choose to participate in current clinical trials. I’m committed to working with the stroke research team here to better communicate the needs of local stroke survivors to researchers, and research findings to the community.

Specialised / Technical Skills

  • Designing “Aphasia friendly” knowledge and media
  • Consumer engagement
  • Anuran histological and behavior laboratory skills
  • Stroke survivor of 14 years
  • Identify different flora and fauna skills, especially anuran vocalizing, triangulation, collection, call recording, catalogued and husbandry methods
  • Database management, REDcap, statistical analysis