Last update: August 24, 2023

Waubra Foundation January 30, 2017 Australia

Expert Witness Statement of Sarah Elisabeth Laurie, CEO, Waubra Foundation

“When the acoustic startle reflex is repeatedly triggered during sleep, it results in chronic sleep deprivation which worsens with progressive low frequency noise sensitization.”

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Waubra Foundation website:

Expert Witness Statement of Sarah Elisabeth Laurie, CEO, Waubra Foundation

Requested by Stockyard Hill Landscape Guardians, provided pro bono

Re: Stockyard Hill Wind Farm Application to Amend Planning Permit PL-SP/05/0548

Name and Address of Expert

Sarah Elisabeth Laurie
CEO, Waubra Foundation
PO Box 7112,
Banyule VIC 3084


Bachelor Medicine, Bachelor Surgery, Flinders University, awarded 1995
Fellowship Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), awarded 1998
Fellowship Australian College of Remote and Rural Medicine (ACRRM), awarded 2000

Professional Affiliations

Nil currently
Former Fellow and Examiner for RACGP
Former Fellow of ACRRM
Former member of Australian Medical Association State Council, South Australia


January 1995 - April 2002 Post graduate hospital and rural General Practice training with rotations in Emergency Medicine, Intensive Care, Cardiology, General Medicine, General Surgery, Orthopaedics, Anaesthetics, Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, and employment as a full time Rural General Practitioner in Rural and Remote South Australia, with one in two or one in three rotation for after hours emergency care for the local hospital / health service in addition to full time clinical workload during the day.

April 2002 – August 2010 unplanned recovery from sudden onset of ill health requiring urgent surgery, and extended family caring responsibilities

From August 2010 to present – Medical Director and then CEO of Waubra Foundation (voluntary).

I have used my previous clinical experience as a rural General Practitioner to interview individuals reporting adverse health effects from a range of industrial noise sources, and then used the information obtained together with my clinical insights and experience, to collaborate with trained health and acoustics professionals in Australia and internationally to plan and implement new multidisciplinary research methodologies and develop new acoustic instrumentation, to facilitate accurate measurement and recording of acoustic exposures, and concurrent physiological data (sleep and heart rate), where people are reporting adverse impacts with exposure to industrial noise sources.

The aim of this work is to identify the precise acoustic triggers for the reported symptoms, including particularly the triggering of the acoustic startle reflex that underpins much of the reported illness, especially when the acoustic startle reflex is repeatedly triggered during sleep, resulting in chronic sleep deprivation which worsens with progressive low frequency noise sensitization.

The acoustic exposures have been in residential as well as occupational settings, at open cut and underground coal mines, coal, gas and wind power generators, and other noise sources such as CSG field compressors and urban data storage centres.

International collaboration has occurred with experts such as Dr Paul Schomer, immediate past Director of Acoustical Standards in the USA. At Dr Schomer’s invitation, I was asked to join the international working group on Wind Turbine Noise in May 2015 in Pittsburgh, USA, and to present at the American Society of Acoustics conference. I work closely with independent Acousticians, Psychoacousticians and others both in Australia and internationally who are leading the world in investigation of industrial noise inside impacted residents homes, together with the collection of concurrent physiological data.

I have collaborated with others in the development of affordable dual channel broad spectrum acoustic soundscape recording units, in order to capture scientifically important data which is being missed if averaging and sampling techniques are used, or if infrasound and low frequency noise inside and outside homes is excluded from measurement and analysis as is the case with many existing sound level meters and regulatory requirements and standards.

Medically trained researchers and collaborators have included (but are by no means limited to) Professor Robert McMurtry from Ontario, Emeritus Professor Alun Evans (Cardiac Epidemiologist) from Ireland, Dr Chris Hanning (Sleep Physician from the United Kingdom), Dr Michael Nissenbaum (Radiologist practicing in the USA & Canada) as well as the early medical research pioneers in the specific area of wind turbine noise including Dr Amanda Harry (Rural General Practitioner from the United Kingdom), Dr David Iser (Rural General Practitioner from Toora, Victoria), and Dr Nina Pierpont (Population Biologist and Specialist Paediatrician from the USA). Others include Professor Mariana Alves Pereira, and Professor Arline Bronzaft from the USA.

Other contributors to this report: None


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Paper by Waubra Foundation — January 30, 2017