Development studies and culture change Society, history and languages

Development studies and culture change Society, history and languages

Since World War II, the aim of development has been to ensure that developing nations take their place in the global community and have an equal voice.

At Macquarie you’ll analyse the impact of international development initiatives in the context of key environmental, health, human rights, international law, Indigenous rights and international relations issues.

Careers in development studies and culture change

  • development consultant 
  • international and community aid adviser 
  • local, state and federal government adviser or analyst 
  • market researcher 
  • non-government aid worker 
  • policy analyst 
  • program designer, manager or evaluator 
  • research consultant 
  • social change agent
  • researcher 
  • social impact analyst/researcher/adviser 
  • specialist in research design and evaluation

Professional experience

The diversity and flexibility of Macquarie University's PACE program provides a broad range of activities for students and partners to undertake, no matter your varying circumstances, locations, needs and resources.

PACE enables you to work with an international partner without even leaving the campus. Students used their development studies knowledge and legal research skills right here on campus. They supported a Philippino NGO to challenge legislation which negatively affects the wellbeing of street children in the Phillipines.

"Bahay Tuluyan is a relatively small organisation. We have limited resources and it is very difficult for us to gain legal resources within the Philippines. The PACE students allow us to do things we would not otherwise be able to do,"– Bahay Tuluyan Director Catherine Scerri.

No matter what your circumstances and what you decide to study at Macquarie, PACE has an opportunity available for you. Learn more about the opportunities available through PACE.

Our expertise in development studies and culture change

Associate Professor Chris Lyttleton

Associate Professor Chris Lyttleton

Associate Professor Lyttleton is a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Anthropology. His research interests include social consequences of economic development and modernisation in Southeast Asia; global health security; the social impact of HIV/AIDS and malaria; sexuality; social suffering and health vulnerability amongst migrants and minority groups.

Over the past 25 years he has worked with a large number of organisations including UN agencies, AusAID (now under DFAT), Asian Development Bank, and various NGOs on programs such as drug dependence (opium), lessening threats to infectious disease (sexual health and malaria) and assessing modernisation's impact on livelihood choices (infrastructure development).

See Associate Professor Lyttleton's full profile

The Master of Development Studies and Global Health (MDSGH) course is a cross-disciplinary program that brings together expertise from the Department of Anthropology, Human Geography, and other disciplines across the University.

Unique approach to teaching and learning

According to Dr Aaron Denham, Lecturer from the Department of Anthropology and MDSGH program director, the course is unique because of its combination of coursework and applied research experience. Only few programs within Australia and abroad offer this kind of integration.

Denham says, "The program is committed to research and teaching at the intersections of anthropology, development studies, human geography and global health. The research focus enables students to gain valuable hands-on experience in ethnographic or social impact assessment methodologies - both increasingly sought-after skills in global health and development careers within government, NGOs, private sector, and research and multilateral organisations."

From theory to practice

Students of Master of Development Studies and Global Health will take foundational classes in development, research methodology, medical anthropology, and applied anthropology, choose a specialisation in Development Studies or Global Health, then complete an applied, research driven project. Students will gain experience with this project from its initial formulation to completion.

The Global Health specialisation will teach students the theories and methods for understanding the complex ways health and disease intersect with culture, society, history and political-economic forces, while students who undertake the Development Studies specialisation will learn the diverse theories, methods and relationships that seek, analyse, and/or bring about targeted change in the lives of people around the world.

Denham adds, "The program offers a space for students to frame and practically address the social, cultural and political-economic dynamics within development, humanitarian and global health practice, and how these dynamics coalesce and affect people's lives."

Better career opportunities

In the global health and development fields, employment opportunities increase for those who possess at least a graduate degree and field experience (work and/or research) and have a region and topic of focus. Many development, humanitarian and health organisations require a postgraduate degree for advancement.

Graduates of Master of Development Studies and Global Health program will be able to provide analysis and recommendations regarding community and development projects, feasibility studies, reviews, evaluations and social impact studies for development projects. They will also be qualified to participate directly in field research, and development, humanitarian and human rights field projects.

The Master of Development Studies and Global Health course will give students the competitive edge to pursue careers in government, non-government, humanitarian, disaster relief and multilateral aid organisations, or in groups concerned with human rights, indigenous issues, migration, or women's development programs. MGHDS graduates may work as in-country field consultants, or in immigrant or refugee assistance organisations and lending agencies that work in developing countries.

Designed for students coming from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, the MDSGH course is suitable for graduates with social sciences, behavioural, or health science background, or for those with work experience as a development professional, social worker, or health professional. This new course is for people who envision themselves as someone who will be successful in immersing within the MDSGH program's cross-disciplinary dialogue, practice-based learning, and application of theory to development and health challenges.

To gain more insight into why Alegra decided to undertake postgraduate studies in development studies and global health, and learn about her supervised research-based project component of the degree where she is undertaking a solo expedition to the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, we asked her a few questions.

What are you studying at Macquarie University?

I am currently doing a Masters degree in Development Studies and Global Health in the Department of Anthropology. I’ve started preparing for my thesis titled: Women at the End of the Land that will document my solo expedition to Yamal Peninsula in Siberia in late February 2016. This thesis is based on principles of visual anthropology so it will integrate written theory, observational film and ethnographic photography. The Women at the End of the Land expedition is part of my larger project Wild Born.

Why did you choose Macquarie University for your studies?

I was particularly interested in the Department of Anthropology because it has an innovative curriculum, high-quality teaching and very strong research. I wanted to work with Associate Professor Greg Downey and Dr Jaap Timmer as well as the rest of the staff. I couldn’t be happier for making this decision. The department has been vital to my project development and has given me support in many ways.

Tell us about your experience of the research project component of the degree, where you design and conduct your own independent project, practise newly acquired skills and put theory into action.

The expedition Women at the End of the Land is part of my larger project called Wild Born and is going to be used for my thesis that will be constructed as a part-written, part-media-based presentation. I’ve been working on Wild Born since 2011. In it, I aim to study and document the traditional ways and sacred rituals surrounding pregnancy and childbirth amongst tribal women around the world. Women at the End of the Land will research and document the socio-cultural and environmental aspects of natural childbirth amongst Nenets women, especially these women’s traditions and birthing practices. Besides exploring the rituals and traditional heritage of their ancestors, the expedition aims to also document their adaptation to changes in their environment and economy.

On the expedition, I will join a Nenets family for sixty days and travel with them during their winter pasture, crossing the forests and tundra in the Arctic Circle and continue migrating northwards across the Gulf of Ob. Few places on earth are home to a more challenging environment. In this area of Siberia, temperatures plummet to -50C, and the Nenets’ yearly migration routes cross many deep-frozen rivers. During this time, I will be accompanying a Nenets woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. With her acceptance, I will follow the whole process of preparation for the birth.

The Yamal Peninsula contains the largest natural gas reserves on the planet. Oil and gas extraction is crucial in shaping the Nenets’ future. With rapidly expanding infrastructure and the appearance of thousands of exploration and drill sites, one of the main threats is the release of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Climate change threatens the Nenets with increasingly unpredictable weather and places the environment under immense strain. On the peninsula itself, the expansion of the oil and gas industries is squeezing the Nenets’ traditional migration routes, and campsites are lost to gas development.

This expedition should provide not only anthropological knowledge about the heritage of the Nenets people, but also an understanding of their current patterns of cultural change and which forces enrich or, alternatively, threaten their collective identity. Through field ethnography, observational film and documentary photography, the expedition seeks to provide a collection of oral traditions and imagery that can act as an educational reservoir.

How has what you have learnt in your degree so far helped you in your work and to achieve your goals?

The degree has enriched me and broadened my knowledge. The opportunity to engage with such a variety of people and the willingness of lecturers to contribute and be involved in my study and journey has been essential to my success so far. Specifically, the units I have taken have helped me to frame my research project objectives in a profound way, adopt a clearer view on current topics, and enabled me to personally define in a more accurate way what I would like to specialise in, in my future work. The program has also helped me to better understand global issues and to question some of my own assumptions and the thought patterns I had. Anthropology has helped me to see issues I have long cared about in new ways. Practically, it has helped me prepare myself for going into the professional world.

What are your plans after completing your studies?

After completing my degree I would like to develop different projects that explore issues related to Indigenous ecological knowledge, human-environment relations and the empowerment of women and girls.

I look forward to specialising in Indigenous people’s rights, studying issues related to land ownership and rapid social change. Ultimately, I would like to reach a point where I can position myself on the front line negotiating and bridging between big corporations and Indigenous communities. I am also looking forward to developing my film directing skills and to enter the world of documentary filmmaking.

In 2008, when David Everett and Annabelle Chauncy decided to start a non-profit organisation to provide education to children in Uganda, no one took them seriously.

David says, "We were starry-eyed 21 year olds with a grand vision, and a number of people thought this was just a phase we were going through."

David was studying Bachelor of Arts major in Development Studies and Culture Change at Macquarie University when he and Annabelle founded School for Life (SFL). Having spent a year in Kenya doing volunteer work in various programs, David saw and experienced the hardships of the communities.

"I saw that the global economic system we live in was so skewed that just because you were born on a different piece of soil meant that your life [would be] dramatically different. It really unsettled me and I thought there must be something that could be done to [solve] this problem."

"I was blown away by the passion and desire for education that the children in the communities had. Education is the best way to combat [the issues that the communities are facing], hence our focus on primary, secondary, and vocational education."

School for Life

Today, through David and Annabelle's hard work, and with the support of their growing network and donor base, the School for Life has established a primary and vocational school in Uganda. The Katuuso Primary and Vocational Centre educates more than 300 students including children with special needs. School for Life has also developed community projects that provide employment, clean water, health care, vocational training, and environmental sustainability programs to students and their families.

School for Life aims to open another primary and vocational school, and a new secondary school. It also plans to develop its vocational projects to make them 100% financially sustainable. SFL aims to replicate this model as many times and in as many countries as the organisation can.

Learning and growing

To achieve School for Life's vision, David knew right from the start that the organisation will have to constantly develop their knowledge of community development, to establish credibility and strong ties in the field, and to gain more support from donors.

David shares of the SFL early beginnings: "Possibly the hardest part of the job was working through an extremely bureaucratic and slow legal and political system on many different levels. To start SFL we needed to register the organisation, procure land, get building approvals, and organise bank accounts, to name a few. Each of these processes could take anywhere between 3 months to a year, and required constant monitoring and following up."

"Working across cultures is always a challenge. I believe that the long-term success of our organisation can be attributed to us working alongside the Uganda system and not against it."

"My studies at Macquarie helped me to shape SFL into an organisation that understands the complexities of working in international development."

After completing his undergraduate course and setting up the groundwork for School for Life, David went back to Macquarie to pursue postgraduate studies. He is currently studying Master of Development Studies and Culture Change*.

"I believe that in order for School for Life to grow and become leaders in our field, we needed the credibility and knowledge to support our development work. [Doing postgraduate studies] helps me to keep on top of the latest development trends and theories."

"The most important lessons I learned at Macquarie are that community involvement and participation are paramount to the success of any development project, and that mitigating and understanding flow on effects of any intervention need to be monitored. Staff empowerment and financial sustainability is nirvana."

"We have a great support network behind us and as we grew in size, so did out reputation and credibility - which helped us be where are today. We still have a lot of work to do and many people to reach before we get to the point where we want to be, but it has been a great start."

Prestigious recognition

In this year's Australia Day celebrations, David and Annabelle were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for their outstanding achievements and service. This honour gives David such great motivation.

He says, "To receive such a prestigious award is extremely gratifying and provides inspiration to continue with our work. It also provides an opportunity to further achieve our vision and to grow School for Life as an organisation."

For Uganda, David envisions an educated, sustainable, and productive community: "I would like to see an educated populace rise up and become empowered enough to ask the hard questions of their government, and have the skills and knowledge to engage in the global economic system on equal terms, to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty."

*The Master of Development Studies and Culture Change program has been redeveloped into the new postgraduate degree Master of Development Studies and Global Health.

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