Our research

Our research

Our research is focused on the complex relationships between human and environmental systems in the cities and regions of Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

Projects include major explorations in urban systems, Indigenous knowledge, global environmental change, vulnerability and risk in the Asia-Pacific region, and environmental justice.

Current student projects include work in Nepal, Vietnam and Bangladesh—as well as a range of national and local topics in various elements of geography, planning, political ecology and professional practice.

Research strengths

The Department of Geography and Planning has research strengths in four core areas:

Indigenous geographies and critical development studies of Australia and the Asia-Pacific

Issues of justice are at the heart of work within the Department, with primary focuses set on Indigenous geographies and critical development studies. In challenging the dominance of Western knowledge and colonising processes, our research engages post-­development and Indigenous geographies to rethink rights, responsibilities and co-­existence. Through innovative approaches, including close collaborations with NGOs, communities, families and place, our research focuses on the interface of Indigenous and local communities, institutional frameworks, governance, sustainability and justice. Our staff—working in Australia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and New Zealand—are active researchers in a number of fields. These include Indigenous self-­determination and empowerment, Indigenous research methodologies and ethics, water cultures, native title, critical development studies, geographies of aid, social vulnerability, adaptation and community participation.


Sara Fuller, Richie Howitt, Andrew McGregor, Jessica McLean, Fiona Miller, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Margaret Raven, John Hunter.

Urban governance, planning, housing studies and home

Planning and urban governance have implications for the social and economic performance of cities and nations. Our research unpacks the ways cities are managed and experienced by policy makers, the private sector and the urban public. In particular, the department has research strengths in planning system regulations and reform; metropolitan and strategic planning; social housing delivery and management; community participation and resistance to planning and development; urban regeneration and renewal; local government urban management; urban global policy transfer; sustainable urbanism; social impact assessment; and experiences and perceptions of home.


Sara Fuller, Donna Houston, Richie Howitt, Kristian Ruming, Greg Walkerden, Alison Ziller, Linda Kelly.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation

Environmental change and responses to change have social, cultural and political implications that are highly uneven across space, time and society. As one of the most significant challenges facing the world today, climate change has implications for other global challenges, such as poverty and global inequality, urbanisation, human security, food security and biodiversity. Social challenges associated with climate change are particularly apparent in terms of social-ecological resilience, food, energy and transport systems, international aid, and decision making on mitigation and adaptation. Staff from the department currently engage in research on a range of climate-­related issues, including: urban and rural climate adaptation and policy;vulnerability assessment; low carbon transitions; climate justice and activism; Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+); alternative food pathways; climate and environmental history; floods; drought and climate finance.


Sara Fuller, Donna Houston, Andrew McGregor, Jessica McLean, Fiona Miller, Emily O'Gorman, Greg Walkerden.

Environmental humanities, environmental management and political ecology

The human dimensions of environmental change highlight the complexity of life in the Anthropocene, where the boundaries between society and environment are problematised; and where there is increasing recognition of the 'more-than-­human' worlds we inhabit. Our environmental humanities, environmental management and political ecology research themes focus on new approaches to understanding human-­environment relations on a dynamic planet. Our research focuses on connections across social and environmental systems, as well as boundaries. Staff draw on a range of cross-­cultural, interdisciplinary, historical and philosophical approaches that bridge theory and practice. These support just and resilient ways of living with, and managing, environments. Current research includes: environmental governance; phenomenology and environment; human-­wildlife conflicts and cooperations politics in agricultural landscapes and hydrological systems, watershed management; environmental management practice; Indigenous environmental knowledge and management; and political ecologies of food waste.


Donna Houston, Andrew McGregor, Jessica McLean, Fiona Miller, Emily O'Gorman, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Greg Walkerden.

Research collaborations and partnerships

Our faculty conducts research for local and state-level governments, NGOs, international aid agencies, community organisations and private consultancies. We collaborate with universities across the Asia-Pacific region, including Kyoto University and University of Malaysia Sabah.

In the 2012 Excellence in Research Australia (ERA), Macquarie University was ranked as being at "world standard" for both Human Geography and Planning. We regularly secure funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), with five discovery projects and one linkage project awarded to staff over the past five years. We play a central role in the Macquarie-Ryde Futures Partnership, with Professor Richie Howitt taking on the role of Director.

We welcome enquiries and opportunities for collaborations and partnerships. Potential higher degree research students (PhD and Master of Research) and postdoctoral research fellows are encouraged to contact the Department of Geography and Planning to find out more.

Social Impacts Australia

Macquarie University is a world leader in Social Impact Assessment (SIA). The approach to SIA teaching at Macquarie embodies our values of scholarship, integrity and empowerment—specifically the underlying need for all institutions to conduct themselves ethically, equitably, and for mutual benefit with the people that use and share resources.

Learn more about Social Impacts Australia.

Higher Degree Research (HDR) students

Ashraful Alam 

E: ashraful.alam@mq.edu.au

Project: Margins and more-than-human homes in urban transitional spaces

Alam’s research falls under the broad umbrella of political ecology in an urban-built environment. He is interested in the everyday more-than-human entanglements of ordinary citizens. Drawing on a range of performative methods, he explores the non-anthropocentric agencies of homes in urban transitional spaces of coastal cities, of which are constantly in flux due to climate change-induced displacement. Being attentive to the mundane encounters with non-human nature in home processes helps him to leave any analytical abstraction or perceived non-presentations (i.e., homelessness, dispossession) to explore life at the margin. His ongoing PhD explores how thinking through ‘home' informs an emerging ecology of nature-culture, giving a hint to an alternate mode of production of space in those apparently non-plannable liminal sites, from the 'below'.

Sunita Chaudhary

E: sunita.chaudhary@students.mq.edu.au

Research interests: Chaudhary is a forester with interdisciplinary research interests in human-environment relationship. Over the last 5 years, she has been involved in different projects on people and protected areas, and biodiversity and ecosystems management. Her aim is to inform better landscape planning and management in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Chaudhary’s current PhD research is focused on ecosystem services and differentiated human well-being. She is trying to understand how the globalised ‘ecosystem services’ concept can be more just and inclusive to shape the wellbeing of the invisible sections of a society, with a case study in Nepal. Currently, she is visiting Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, and working with Prof. Bill Adams to understand how and why the costs and benefits of ecosystems are distributed among different social groups. This is important to better understand how injustices are created. With this, she aims to critically explore equity and justice with implications on ecosystem services discourse.

Awards and fellowships

  • International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (iMQRES) (2013-2017)
  • Nuffic Fellowship 2013 for training grant on climate change adaptation, Uganda
  • National Academic Excellence Award 2010, Government of Nepal
  • East West Center Fellowship (2008-2009) for Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP), United States of America
  • International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) Fellowship 2006 for“Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring (Field Techniques for Conservation Research) Training Course” at Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, United States of America
  • North-South Dialogue Scholarship 2005-2007, Austrian Exchange Service (ÖAD), Austria for M.Sc in Protected Areas Management
  • Prince Bernhard Scholarship (PBS) 2003 by WWF International, Gland, Switzerland
  • Winrock Women Scholarship 2002, Winrock International Nepal and Ford Foundation
  • Tharu Merit Scholarship 2001, Tribhuvan University, Government of Nepal

Research grants

  • Rufford Small Grant 2009 for project entitled “A Participatory Dolphin Conservation Initiative in the Koshi River of Eastern Nepal”
  • Rufford Small Grant 2006 for research entitled “Status of, and Threats to, the Ganges River Dolphins (Platanista Gangetica) in the Koshi River, Nepal”
  • Research Grant (2004) by Danish International Development Agency funded Natural Resource Management Sector Assistance Program (NARMSAP) for research entitled “GIS based Range post Level Database Management System of Community Forestry of Kaski District”
  • Research Grant, 2003, Netherlands Development Organization funded Biodiversity Sector Program for Terai and Siwalik (BISEP-ST) for research entitled “Evaluation of Income Generating Activities in Community Forests and Leasehold forests”
  • Travel Grant from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animas (CMS) (2007-2008)
  • Training Grant by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and ETH Sustainability, Zürich, Switzerland (2007) to attend “Youth Encounter on Sustainability”
  • Training Grant by EUROPARC Federation, Hamburg, Germany (2006) to attend “Communicating NATURA 2000: training future leaders for communicating NATURA 2000” in Arnhem, The Netherlands.

Yi-shiuan (Yayut) Chen

E: yi-shiuan.chen@students.mq.edu.au

Chen’s project aims to explore contested notions of property in postcolonial Taiwan. As a hybrid colony, the contemporary dynamic of transitional justice and Indigenous rights in Taiwan reflects a complex history of property, sovereignty and governance. Taiwan Indigenous Peoples have been colonised by the Qing Empire (1683–1895), the Japanese colonial government (‎1895–1945) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (post 1945). Under the colonising processes, the Taiwanese Indigenous understandings of property—which integrate the relations with peoples, nature and cosmos—have been undervalued, or even omitted. Chen’s project will explore the ontological foundations of contemporary Taiwanese property systems, their implications for Indigenous peoples’ land use and well-being, and governance initiatives that might better support present and future co-existence of Indigenous and coloniser peoples.

David Crew 

E: david.crew@mq.edu.au

Focus: Changing social and economic conditions of Aboriginal families in the NSW rural town of Deniliquin – 1965-2015.  Crew’s research links to his work with Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre Aboriginal Corporation in Deniliquin and revisits work undertaken by Professor Janice Monk in 1965.

Tasmin-Lara Dilworth

E: tasmin.dilworth@students.mq.edu.au

Dilworth is interested in understanding how we might develop more equitable, sustainable and playful ways of engaging with those non-humans with whom we share our cities and our lives.

Her research examines how constructions of ‘risk’ are shaping children’s play experiences in bush and beach spaces during middle childhood in Sydney.

Outdoor play in bush and beach spaces is a vital means through which Australian children engage with the complicated and often fraught intimacies of more-than-human cities, and grapple with the project and possibilities of living in entangled multi-species worlds. However, children in many wealthy, urbanised countries in the ‘Minority World’, including Australia, are spending significantly less time playing outdoors than previous generations. An increasing preoccupation with risk is often identified as one of the key reasons for the changing geography and ecology of outdoor play. It is hoped that this research will contribute to the development of initiatives that encourage children to spend more time playing outdoors in risk-appropriate ways.

See Dilworth’s academic profile

See Dilworth’s Research profile

Corrinne Franklin

E: Corrinne.franklin@mq.edu.au

Project title: Investigation of Indigenous Australian Sex Workers in New South Wales

Franklin’s primary research focus will be on the everyday lives of Indigenous Australian sex workers, their identity, and reasons they have entered the sex industry. She anticipates this research will highlight issues relating to health and well-being, as well as concepts of identity, power, and shame. In doing so, the purpose of her project is to understand who Indigenous sex workers are, why they have chosen this type of work, where they work, how they have come to be in the profession, and how they feel about their choices and lives. Her research strives to understand Indigenous sex workers in NSW and she envisages that knowledge will inform policy, as well as access and delivery of support and services that are culturally appropriate and relevant.

Minna Hsu

E: minna.hsu@mq.edu.au

Focus: Post-disaster relocation and reconstruction of Indigenous communities in Taiwan

See Hsu's Academia profile

Rabiul Islam

E: rabiul.islam@mq.edu.au

Focus: Islam’s research interests include community-based disaster risk reduction, social capital and disaster resilience, and climate change adaptation.

His current research project is social capital and cyclones, exploring how households’ social networks contribute to disaster resilience and recovery in Bangladesh. This thesis investigates the contributions of three kinds of social networks to disaster resilience and recovery, following cyclones in Bangladesh. These include: bonding networks (within extended families), bridging networks (amongst neighbours), and linking networks (between households and institutions). Households’ limited physical, financial and human capital limit the support provided through bonding networks. Bridging networks perform well initially, but tend to break down due to competition over access to relief goods. Linking networks provide valuable support, but are marred by corruption. Local civil society is the key to address corruption. The national policy would be more effective if the local social capital is strengthened.

See Islam's full profile in ResearchGate

Dauglas-Wafula Juma

E: dauglas-wafula.juma@students.mq.edu.au; daugyjuma@yahoo.com

Juma is a PhD candidate at the Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University. He is researching how irrigation systems could approach climate change adaptively, and what lessons could be drawn from for irrigated agriculture generally; salinity management is one focus.  Using an adaptive pathway analysis approach, an action research project is being carried out in the SIR with local stakeholders to identify adaptation pathways for irrigated agriculture, given the risks posed by climate change and associated changes in land use. His previous research was looking at the impacts of climate change and population growth on the water supply and management system of Nairobi city, Kenya. He is passionate about water resource management, and endeavours to explore and practice sustainable water management/governance in the Anthropocene, within the context of the “extended water nexus” and climate change. Professionally, he is a trained Water and Environmental Engineer.



Research gate

Skype: Dauglas86

Sufia Khanom

E: sufia.khanom@students.mq.edu.au; sufiasobi@yahoo.co.in

Khanom will explore the gendered nature of insecurity amongst migrants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The aim of identifying the key factors contributing to insecurity and the strategies men and women use to build their own adaptive capacities is critical to this project.  Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change due to its geographical location, high population density and overwhelming dependency on natural resources for livelihoods. Dhaka is expected to receive a huge influx of migrants from the coastal areas and the northern parts of the country as climate risks worsen and is already experiencing a rapid rate of urbanisation. Different development sectors and utility services are expanding to try and accommodate this growth, but are currently unable to meet the demand of the growing population. This situation undermines job opportunities, reduces basic human security and creates increased tensions as competition for dwindling resources become more intense. From a gender perspective, women and men play different roles and responsibilities and have different levels of agency and control over resources (tangible and intangible) both at a household and community level. So, the study will explore why women in Dhaka are more insecure than men proceeding on the assumption that this insecurity arises from them not only ‘being a woman’ or ‘being a migrant’, but also for specific practices, processes and power relations within the society.

Jeremy Mah

E: jeremy.mah@mq.edu.au; jeremy.mah@hdr.mq.edu.au

Mah is currently conducting his PhD exploring how we can better support those working to create environmental and social change over the long term. In particular, he is researching how whole-person approaches to learning can support sustainability practitioners/change agents to become more resilient and effective within the organisations and systems they seek to transform. An aspect of this research involves examining how we can prevent burnout through reflective practices such as Transformative Coaching and Focusing.

This research builds on his Master of Research (2014), which explored how creative practice was integral in supporting individuals participating in a sustainability leadership program to make better sense of their life and career journeys.



Kate McCauley

E: kate.mccauley@mq.edu.au

McCauley is currently undertaking a PhD at Macquarie University which is centred on ‘Enhancing sensitivity to subtle forms of communication in real estate development professional practice for the advancement of architectural design and property development processes’. Her research is designed to elicit and distill skillfulness in professional practice in ways which enable project team members and key stakeholders of real estate development to leverage subtle forms of communication. This allows for more innovative and creative decision-making during architectural design and property development processes of urban built environments.


Twitter: @ecolibre_com

See McCauley's Research Gate profile

See McCauley's Academia profile

Nicole K McNamara

E: nicole.mcnamara@students.mq.edu.au

Project title: Understanding cycling practices in Sydney

McNamara’s research project considers the multiplicities of cycling. It uses ideas from social practice theory to map the elements of cycling for different practitioners and, by talking to practitioners about cycling practice, aims to gain a more careful understanding of cycling in Sydney. If cycling is to be considered a viable alternative mobility form by governments, a detailed understanding of the multiplicity of it is needed in order to encourage greater uptake.

See project website

Elizabeth Morgan

E: elizabeth.morgan@mq.edu.au

At the start of the 21st century, the world's food systems are in crisis and a business-as-usual approach will continue to fail. Morgan’s overarching research question is: how will big cities like Sydney feed themselves when the 'perfect storm' of climate change, peak oil, environmental stress and rapid urbanisation soon is upon us? Contemporary discourses on urban food security make the case for more local solutions while involving food system stakeholders at all scales, from the global to the individual. Within this context, Elizabeth is analysing and critiquing the role of local government (specifically two local government authorities in Western Sydney), non-governmental organisations and alternative food networks in attempting to address food (in)security, its causes, and possible remedies.

See Morgan's ResearchGate profile

See Morgan's Academia profile

Ropafadzo Kelebuhile Moyo 

E: Ropafadzo.moyo@students.mq.edu.au; Ropafadzo.kelebuhile@gmail.com

Academic and Professional Bio: Moyo has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Marine Biology and Master of Science in Zoology. She has worked as an ecologist for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. She is interested in the relations between humans and nature and how humans are part of nature. Additionally, she is currently registered as a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie University.

Title of PhD research: Connecting people and nature: a study of transfrontier conservation in Southern Africa

She is working on connecting nature and people in transboundary conservation areas through conservation and social development. Using the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park in Southern Africa, she is researching on how more holistic approaches to conservation and development can contribute to win-win processes and outcomes and the rethinking of trade-offs in human-nature relationships.


Sabiha Rosy

Project title: Development, Culture and Tourism in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh: Exploring Indigenous and Gender Concerns

Rosy’s research intends to understand the implications of developing tourism in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) for Indigenous people, their culture and gender relations. On a broader spectrum, tourism as a development process widens the importance of knowing history and culture, at best, to understand the contexts of Indigenous people. Her research explores the tourism-gender-development nexus through the lens of culture, considering the possibilities, debates and prospects for understanding these intersections. Moreover, her aim is to observe the gender relations within Indigenous communities, as introduced or constructed by tourism, and how tourism impacts on women’s lives. This research illustrates the cross-cultural differences associated with the history of discrimination, with a hope to significantly realise the culture, voice and emotions necessary to design ecotourism as an alternative form of tourism.

See Rosy’s academia profile

Wayne Williamson

E: wayne.williamson@students.mq.edu.au

Project: Social media and participation in planning

Description: This research seeks to investigate the use of social media by community groups and government agencies during strategic planning processes. Williamson hopes to gain an understanding of whether social media is improving communications between communities and planning authorities, who is involved and what they contribute.

See Williamson's website

See Wiliamson's Academia profile

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