“Recognising the expert experience of people who live with disability creates research which is more meaningful and focused on the priorities of people living with disability”.

Dr Johnny Bourke

PLEx Researcher

Johnny’s interest in research began as he completed his undergraduate degree in psychology, and he became fascinated with the challenges researchers face when attempting to better understand the human experience.  Over time he has learned that researching and understanding the human experience is only half of the journey; the rest of the journey is to think about how research can be used to transform people’s lives for the better.

A particular highlight of his work to date has been developing a variety of creative and different ways to ensure people with the lived experience of disability can be actively engaged in the research process.  A further motivation is being able to work on a wide variety of research projects and topics which are all connected by the common thread of working to create more equitable opportunities for people living with disability.

On his days off, Johnny enjoys going on adventures with his family and as soon as he gets time would like to learn how to roast coffee beans!

Qualifications and Experience:

Johnny experienced a spinal cord injury in 2005 and now lives with C4/5 tetraplegia. Following his injury, he completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology at Massey University, a Masters in Health Science degree through the University of Otago, which explored the rehabilitation experience of those living with tetraplegia and completed his PhD in 2017 with Canterbury University. With a keen interest in rehabilitation and disability issues, John currently teaches a paper regarding Independent Living following serious injury/impairment at the Christchurch Polytechnic and Institute of Technology (CPIT).


Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Bourke, J. A., Catherwood, V. J., Nunnerley, J., Martin, R. A., Levack, W. M. M., Thompson, B. L., & Acland, R. H. (2019). Using cannabis for pain management after spinal cord injury: A qualitative study. Spinal Cord Series & Cases5, 82.
  • Bourke, J. A., Nunnerley, J. L., Snell, D. L., & Sinnott, K. A. (2019). The Burwood Academy: Incorporating the principles of the Independent Living paradigm into rehabilitation research. International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare (in press).
  • Bourke, J. A., Nunnerley, J. L., Derrett, S., & Sullivan, M. (2018). Relationships and the transition from spinal units to community for people with a first spinal cord injury: A New Zealand qualitative study. Disability & Health Journal. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2018.09.001
  • Bourke, J, Hay-Smith, E. J. C., Snell, D. L., & Schluter, P. J. (2017). Community inclusion of wheelchair users during the long-term recovery phase following the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.05.004
  • Bourke J.A., Schluter P.J., Hay-Smith E.J.C., & Snell D.L. (2016) Respondent driven sampling of wheelchair users: A lack of traction? F1000Research 5:753 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8605.2)
  • Bourke, J., Hay-Smith, E. J. C., Snell, D., & DeJong, G. (2015). Attending to biographical disruption: the experience of rehabilitation following tetraplegia due to spinal cord injury. Disability and Rehabilitation, 37(4), 296-303.
  • Bourke, J. A., Snell, D. L., Sinnott, K. A., & Cassidy, B. (2012). A user-led consultation model: making inclusion of service users in research a reality. Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, 5(2), 61-69.
  • Sinnott, K. A., Cassidy, B., Nunnerly, J., Bourke, J., & Kunowski, T. (2010). Community participation following spinal cord injury in New Zealand – A commentary. Topics in Spinal Cord Rehabilitation, 15(4), 63-71.

Conference proceedings

  • Bourke J, Schluter P, Hay-Smith J, Snell D. (2015). Wheelchair users’ experience of community inclusion following the Canterbury Earthquakes: a thematic analysis. Abstract accepted for oral presentation at the 2015 AFRM/NZRA Conference Wellington October 2015.
  • Bourke, J. (2014). The lived experience of spinal cord injury and its contribution to spinal cord injury research. Invited speaker at Australia and New Zealand Spinal Cord Society (ANZSCoS) Annual Scientific meeting, Auckland, November 2014.
  • Bourke, J., Hay-Smith, E. J. C., Snell, D. (2013). The experience of rehabilitation from the perspectives of individuals in New Zealand with tetraplegia due to spinal cord injury. Abstract accepted for oral presentation at Australia and New Zealand Spinal Cord Society (ANZSCoS) Annual Scientific meeting, Sydney, August 2013.
  • Bourke, J., Snell, D., Sinnott, A., and Cassidy, B. (2012). A User-led Consultation Model: Making Inclusion of Services Users in Research a Reality. Abstract accepted for poster presentation at Australia and New Zealand Spinal Cord Society (ANZSCoS) Annual Scientific meeting, Melbourne, October 2012.
  • Bourke, J. (2009). Consumer perspective of using a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bicycle. Abstract accepted for oral presentation at Australia and New Zealand Spinal Cord Society (ANZSCoS) Annual Scientific meeting, Perth, November 2009.