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Meet our researchers

Meet the researchers of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre

We unite academics across all disciplines to produce high-impact research and engagement with one of the world’s fastest growing regions.

SSEAC's Postdoctoral Research Associates

Contact: emma.calgaro@sydney.edu.au

Dr Calgaro is a human geographer specialising in disaster risk reduction, vulnerability, and resilience. Her research explores the drivers of vulnerability and resilience in the coupled human-environment system with a regional focus on Southeast Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.

Taking a systems approach, her current work explores two fundamental questions designed to advance greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the disaster space: 1) what does inclusion means in the context of DRR and 2) what steps - including knowledge generation and sharing, processes and practices - are needed to make Disability-inclusive DRR a lived reality.

Contact: rosemary.grey@sydney.edu.au

Rosemary Grey is a University of Sydney Postdoctoral Fellow, based in the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre & Sydney Law School. Her postdoctoral project examines gender & international criminal law, with a focus on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh. This project builds her book Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes at the International Criminal Court, published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

Before joining the University of Sydney, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Melbourne, and spent time as a visiting scholar at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies (University of Leiden) and PluriCourts (University of Oslo).

Contact: jess.melvin@sydney.edu.au

Dr Melvin's postdoctoral research will investigate the military’s instrumentalisation of political Islam in Indonesia today. Specifically, it will look at the role the military plays in mobilising hard-line Islamist groups and inciting religious violence - a mobilisation that, according to Dr Melvin, is expected to intensify during the lead-up to the 2019 Presidential Election.

Dr Melvin was previously Henry Hart Rice Faculty Fellow in Southeast Asian Studies and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Genocide Studies at Yale University. She completed her PhD, "Mechanics of Mass Murder: How the Indonesian Military Initiated and Implemented the Indonesian Genocide: The Case of Aceh," at the University of Melbourne in 2014.

Benjamin's research investigates current financing strategies for environmental management, including Payments for Ecosystem Services, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Impact Investing. He explores the economic viability of these strategies, and highlights implementation challenges related to politics, institutions, and social inequalities. Much of his research has been conducted in socio-ecological systems of coastal Southeast Asia, particularly mangrove forests and near-shore fisheries.

Benjamin attained his PhD from the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore, and also holds an MSc from Imperial College London. Prior to his PhD, he spent two years as a research coordinator with the Zoological Society of London in Bangladesh, and the Island Conservation Society in the Seychelles. 

Contact: kristy.ward@sydney.edu.au

Kristy Ward is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Her research interests include labour activism, gender and organised labour, and the politics of aid with a particular focus on Cambodia. Kristy’s current research on worker agency and representation examines why, how and to what effect Cambodian workers mobilise collectively under comparative regulatory regimes. From 2013 to 2016 Kristy taught numerous subjects in the undergraduate and postgraduate Development Studies program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), where she also completed her PhD. Kristy has worked with various non-government organisations in evaluation, project development, and consultancy roles in both Australia and Southeast Asia. 

A snapshot of our researchers from across the disciplines

Faculty of Health Sciences

Patrick’s research focuses on medical imaging optimisation and perception, with a particular emphasis on breast cancer diagnosis. He is Chair of Diagnostic Imaging, National Co-Director of BREAST, Co-Director of the Medical Image Optimisation and Perception Group and Associate Dean, International, for Health Sciences. He is the world’s highest ranked researcher in Medical Radiation Sciences. His work has changed clinical practice, impacted upon national guidelines and informed international reports. At the University of Sydney over the last 5 years, he with Professor Warwick Lee, has developed a novel, international, web-based solution – BREAST – to identify reasons for undiagnosed breast cancers.

Patrick’s main research interest in Southeast Asia is focused on female breast cancer in Vietnam. Breast cancer is currently the most commonly diagnosed malignancy among Vietnamese women. While risk factors associated with breast cancer are well known in developed countries, agents linked to breast cancer in Vietnam are much less developed. His work, first, explores the association of breast density as well as demographic, reproductive and lifestyle factors with breast cancer among Vietnamese women and, secondly, investigates medical imaging diagnostic efficacy in Vietnam. He works closely with the Vietnam National Cancer Hospital, Hanoi Medical University and the Vietnam Health Strategy and Policy Institute, and is supported ably by his Vietnamese PhD Student Phuong Trieu.

Sydney Law School

Simon started working at the University of Sydney in 2008 in the Sydney Law School. He has been interested in Indonesia since studying the Indonesian language at high school then spending a year in Yogyakarta on the ACICIS Study Indonesia program. Ever since, Simon has been researching Indonesian law.

In late 2015, he was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to examine the operation and performance of Indonesia’s regional anti-corruption courts. These are new courts, established from 2011 in each of Indonesia’s 34 provincial capitals. They have heard all of Indonesia’s corruption trials for the past 5 years, but we know very little about how they are faring. If prosecutors present convincing evidence, are these courts convicting defendants? And, if so, are they sentencing them to significant prison terms? Simon’s research, which commenced in July 2016, focuses on the operation and performance of five of these courts, located in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Papua.

Simon is also currently working on a University of Sydney-led research project about the use of geographical indications in the Indonesian coffee sector coordinated by Dr Jeff Neilson from the School of Geosciences. The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, involving collaboration with leading economists and rural development specialists at the University of Sydney. As part of this project, Simon is examining the scope of legal protection for geographic indicators for coffee in Indonesia, and the effectiveness of that protection.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Sophie joined the University of Sydney as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in History in 2019. Her research interests include human-plant relations, multispecies ethnography, race and human difference, ontological anthropology, biocapitalism, colonial and postcolonial studies, post-humanism, phenomenology, and the senses.

Sophie previously worked for international indigenous rights organization Forest Peoples Programme in the United Kingdom and Indonesia and has published over thirty works on human rights and the palm oil sector in Southeast Asia. She has also undertaken consultancies for United Nations bodies including the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.

Sophie's postdoctoral project will weave together social science methods (including history), science and technology studies, and biomedicine to examine the nutritional and health impacts of agribusiness on humans and their environments in Indonesia. Sophie is also interested in research development more generally and looks forward to engaging in inter-disciplinary collaboration on food, culture, and nutrition with members of the Department of History, the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, other departments in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences more generally, and the Charles Perkins Centre.

Sydney Institute of Agriculture

David Guest is a Professor of Plant Pathology in the Sydney Institute of Agriculture, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. He studied at the University of Sydney then took up a lectureship at the University of Melbourne until his return to Sydney in 2004.

His current research interest is managing diseases in tropical horticulture using an interdisciplinary approach that nurtures healthy soils, healthy crops, healthy livestock, healthy people and healthy ecosystems. His extensive fieldwork activities involve partnerships with research institutes and farming communities around Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including an Australia-Indonesia Centre funded collaboration with Institut Pertanian Bogor (Indonesia) on the sustainability and profitability of the Indonesian cocoa industry.

David is past President of the Australasian Plant Pathology Society and the Asian Association of Societies of Plant Pathology.

Faculty of Science

Yayoi’s main research interest is on land use dynamics and rural livelihood change in mainland Southeast Asia. She joined the School of Geosciences in February 2010 after dedicating a decade to research capacity building in Laos. Key research projects she has been involved in include research capacity building project at the National University of Laos funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada, which focused on community-based natural resource management in Laos. Yayoi has also led a study on land use and livelihood changes in northern Laos near the borders of China and Myanmar, funded by the Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography, France. The research was carried out in conjunction with regional research project in mainland Southeast Asia led by East West Center in Hawaii, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and focused on the land use dynamics in the Golden Triangle.

Since 2012, Yayoi has been working with the Sydney School of Public Health, the National University of Laos and the National Institute of Public Health on a research project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture, which focuses on assessing the links between resource development, rural livelihood and human well-being in Laos. The project aims to apply multi-scalar and multidisciplinary approaches in understanding the patterns of resource development and its impact on natural resources, and livelihood conditions and opportunities of people in resource constrained context.

Yayoi has been leading postgraduate field schools focusing on sustainable development issues in Laos. The field school on sustainable development coordinated through the School of Geosciences has been running since 2013, and continues to expand. Currently, the field school involves students from various disciplinary areas including environmental science, law, public policy, development studies, sustainability and public health. It is a unique, field-based learning opportunity for professionally minded students to learn about the complex issue through in-country lectures and discussions with professionals, experts and community members.

Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Rizal joined the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning in early 2015 after finishing his doctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the field of Architecture: Design and Computation. Rizal practised and taught architecture for 10 years in Indonesia where he worked with several built-environment issues, such as low-cost housing, traditional settlement and socio-cultural facilities.

His research specialty is in ethnocomputation – a computational design study which focuses on the way in which humans reason and represent their relationship with the environment through various modes of sensing, making, and living, across scale and medium. The study aims to develop a body of knowledge about the design logic underlying cultural artefacts and investigate its ability to adapt and respond to the built environment.

Rizal is currently undertaking an ethnocomputation study on traditional crafts. Some of them are site-specific, such as in Toraja, Indonesia, where he is interpreting the design logic underlying the engraved Toraja Glyph (Passura’) and the way in which the embedded ritual messages are being visualised in the traditional settlement. The project aims to contribute a novel lens that adds to the appreciation and preservation of cultural knowledge through explicit representation.

He has also run a field schools and exchange programs in Indonesia. In collaboration with Institut Teknologi Bandung and the Australia-Indonesia Institute, Rizal led students to investigate issues faced by informal street vendors and create alternative deployable designs to enhance the vendors’ mobility and minimise conflict between public and private spaces within the city. In a more interdisciplinary line, Rizal also co-coordinated a Sydney Southeast Asia Centre field school on Cultural Industries in Central Java, supported by Universitas Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta, which highlighted contemporary issues in the Javanese cultural industry.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Southeast Asia has seen one of the highest growth rates in internet access in the world. Aim’s research focuses on how this rapid and sweeping digital transformation of Southeast Asian societies impacts politics in the region. She is particularly interested in the role of social media in inducing political and social change. A “social media ninja”, Aim examines civic participation and political activism on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia. Despite her work online, she sees the cyber realm as deeply intertwined with the physical world. As such, maintaining a deep connection with the region and conducting frequent fieldwork research in Southeast Asia is a pivotal part of her research.

Supported by funding from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, Aim's project on digital activism and political opposition in Thailand has resulted in a number of journal articles and book chapters. The project has now expanded to include additional analysis on the role of online media in political opposition movements in Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines with collaborators from North America and Southeast Asia. Another major project, Wikipedia and Politics in Southeast Asia, in collaboration with Dr Ying Zhou from the School of Information Technologies, examines the role of Wikipedia as a space for alternative political discourse in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Recognising the highly gendered and euro-centric nature of Wikipedia content, both researchers plan to launch edit-a-thons at major universities in Southeast Asia to improve female and non-European contribution to Wikipedia.

To improve the sharing of knowledge and fostering of academic and student exchange on issues of cyber-security and internet governance, Aim has co-founded the Sydney Cyber Security Network (SCSN) with Dr Frank Smith, with support from the NSW Ministry of Industry and the University of Sydney's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. SCSN is one of Australia's premiere cyber security research incubators that seeks to bridge the social-technical divide in academia, private sector and government.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Josh joined the University as Lecturer in the Department of Chinese Studies in 2017. A graduate in Chinese theatre from Nanjing University, he has worked closely with theatre troupes and performers in China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia for fifteen years. His research focuses on recent and contemporary literary and theatrical activities of Southeast Asian Chinese communities, and current cultural exchanges and discourses in the age of Chinese soft power.

His 2019 book Minority Stages: Sino-Indonesian Performance and Public Display (University of Hawai’i Press) traces the evolution of performed Sino-Indonesian identities from the late colonial period to the present, looking closely at religious processions, glove puppetry, ‘Chinese opera’, commercial, community and political theatre. Currently, he is working on Tsinoy (Sino-Filipino) and Sino-Myanmar theatre history and practice as well as the flows of literature and popular music between Indonesia and the Chinese world. His present projects operate on the principle that looking at Sino-Southeast Asian communities regionally rather than in isolation promotes a fuller account of the movements of people, cultural products and ideas over time.

Sydney School of Veterinary Science

Jenny-Ann joined the Sydney School of Veterinary Science in 2002. She is an Associate Professor in Veterinary Epidemiology, and focuses on smallholder livestock systems to inform sustainable changes to husbandry and marketing that will improve household income, as well as the epidemiology of transboundary animal diseases to inform more targeted approaches to control and prevention.

Her main research project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, takes a regional approach to enhancing smallholder pig systems in Timor-Leste and Eastern Indonesia. Collaborators on this project in Timor-Leste include the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the National University of Timor-Leste, in Indonesia; the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology, Directorate General of Livestock & Animal Health Services, University of Mataram, and in Australia; the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the University of Queensland and the University of New England. The project aim is to improve household livelihoods in rural villages of Nusa Tenggara Timur and Timor-Leste through better smallholder pig production, with pig husbandry and health services accessed through learning alliance partnerships linking to villages, and to improve knowledge of classical swine fever, a viral disease of swine that is exotic to Australia and a constraint to pig raising in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

For the past 10 years, Jenny-Ann’s focus on Indonesia has led or contributed to research on the epidemiology and control of white-spot virus in smallholder shrimp farms; biosecurity of small commercial poultry farms; poultry movement and risk for avian influenza spread; dog movement and risk for rabies spread; pig movement and risk for the spread of classical swine fever.

She is currently contributing to a new project led by Professor David Guest (Sydney Institute of Agriculture) and Nunung Nuryartono (Institut Pertanian Bogor) funded by The Australia-Indonesia Centre titled “Sustainability and Profitability of Cocoa-based Farming Systems in Indonesia”. Jenny-Ann will contribute to investigation of the constraints and opportunities for incorporating goats to provide a mixed cocoa-goat farming system to diversify smallholder income, to establish compost production and to provide meat and milk for household consumption.