Development Geography examines patterns and situations of human well-being in developing societies, with a focus on an integrated understanding of the causes and consequences of inequality across time and space.
It is a theoretically informed and empirically rich form of social science, in which researchers have long-term connections and commitments to groups and institutions in the countries where they conduct their research. Members of the academic staff and research students in the School of Geography are engaged in major research projects and teaching about the cultural, demographic, economic, environmental and political processes that shape people’s lives in contrasting situations and circumstances of 'development', particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Professor Jon Barnett, Jon is a political geographer whose research investigates the impacts of and responses to environmental change on social systems in the Asia-Pacific region
- Professor Anthony Bebbington, Anthony (ARC Laureate Fellowship (2016-2022) focuses on the governance of resource conflicts surrounding the mineral industry and other forms of mining under conditions of climate change, with a focus on Latin America, Indonesia and Australia.
- Professor Mark Wang, Mark is a human geographer whose interests include urbanisation in East Asia, development and environmental issues in China.
- Associate Professor Simon Batterbury, Environment and development, political ecology of natural resources, sustainability and international development issues.
- Associate Professor Wolfram Dressler, Wolfram’s research examines human-environment relations within the framework of critical political ecology in conservation and development.
- Dr Lisa Palmer, Lisa is a human geographer who teaches and researches on socio-natures and environmental governance. Her research is focused on south-east Asia (particularly East Timor) and indigenous Australia.
- Dr Brian Cook, Brian’s research explores the topics of water, risk, and sustainable development. The research is situated at the science-society interface. He explores the hidden power embedded in the knowledge that informs governance, most often relating to water and flood management.
- Dr Rachel Hughes, Rachel is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Melbourne. Her research examines questions of memory, justice and geopolitics, with particular reference to post-1979 Cambodia
- Dr Adam Bumpus, Adam’s work focuses on the local development implications of flows of international environmental finance. He is particularly interested in how local development can be fostered through multi-scalar linkages and partnerships.
- Professor Emeritus Michael Webber, Michael is a Professorial Fellow whose research combines formal social theory and large scale, survey based empirical methods to identify how peoples working lives are affected by international and social processes.
- Dr Jane Dyson, Jane works in the Indian Himalayas examining gender, work, youth and social transformation from the perspective of social geography, cultural anthropology and development studies.
- Frankline Anum Ndi. Frankline's research examines the effects of oil palm plantations, and the politics of land tenure in the South West Region of Cameroon. Supervisors: Associate Professor Simon Batterbury and Dr Wolfram Dressler.
- Angeliki Balayannis. Angeliki is a cultural geographer interested in waste, ethics, and chemical geographies. Her doctoral research follows the toxic materialities of chemical stockpiles. Supervisors: Dr Rachel Hughes and Professor Jon Barnett.
- Alexander Cullen. Alex’s research takes a political ecology lens to problems of land rights, resource management and livelihood impacts experienced by East Timorese customary communities under new conservation regimes. Supervisors: Dr Simon Batterbury and Dr Lisa Palmer. Web: Alexander Cullen
- Xiao Han. Xiao’s research examines the consequences and the framing of China's engagement in African dam construction. Supervisors: Professor Michael Webber, Professor Mark Wang, Dr Brooke Wilmsen.
- Peter Kamstra. Pete's doctoral research explores the relationship between people's risk perceptions and their behaviour on high-risk rocky coasts. He is interested in people's spatial understanding of risk and how it influences their movement. Supervisors: Associate Professor David Kennedy and Dr Brian Cook.
- Bunlong Leng. Bunlong’s research examines the institutional challenges of mainstreaming climate and environmental risks into donor-funded road projects in Cambodia. Supervisor: Dr Simon Batterbury.
- Chen Li. Chen's research examins housing demolition and relocation induced conflicts in urban China. Supervisors: Prof Mark Wang, Dr Jennifer Day.
- Sophie Pascoe. Sophie's research explores how global environmental governance translates locally in Papua New Guinea and the frictions and inequalities that may emerge in the context of climate change. Supervisors: A/Prof Wolfram Dressler, Dr Monica Minnegal.
- Denisse Rodriguez. Under a political ecology approach, Denisse´s research examines water-related concerns over resource extraction in the Ecuadorian highlands. Supervisors: Associate Professor Simon Batterbury, Dr Erin Fitz-Henry and Dr Lisa Palmer.
- Chenchen Shi. Chenchen is interested water and environmental management. Her current research examines industrial water use behaviour in China. Supervisors: Emeritus Professor Michael Webber and Professor Mark Wang.
- Tessa Toumbourou. Tessa Toumbourou's research explores gender, livelihoods and land use change in rural East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Supervisors: Associate Professor Simon Batterbury and Dr Wolfram Dressler.
- Skye Turner-Walker. Skye Turner-Walker's research examines how climate change adaptation development programming interacts with local resource management practices in Indonesia. Supervisors: Dr Lisa Palmer, Prof Jon Barnett.
- Elissa Waters. Elissa’s research examines the role of the state in governance for climate change and disasters in Australia and the South Pacific. Supervisors: Professor Jon Barnett and Dr Karyn Bosomworth. Web: Elissa Waters.
- Tao Xue. Tao’s research examine the effects of China’s New Land Transfer policy on rural farmers. Supervisor: Professor Mark Wang.
- Nahui Zhen. Nahui’s research investigates public trust in the institutions managing drinking water quality in Shanghai, China. Supervisors: Professor Jon Barnett, Professor Michael Webber and Professor Mark Wang.
We offer a number of PhD Projects each year, funded variously by the University, academic staff research grants or other sponsors (including for example Endeavour Scholarships, Australian Awards; the China Scholarship Council, and Vietnam International Education Development). We seek high performing students with an average weighted mark in Honours and/or Masters of >85% (+GPA equivalent).
The following are some of our potential PhD Projects. For any information about these research Projects, contact the relevant supervisors.
Mining, climate and water in the Andes and Central America: governing conflicts over resource access
Supervisor: Professor Anthony Bebbington
This Project will address how climate change is affecting the governance of water resources in areas affected by both large and small scale mining. Of particular interest is how conflicts over water among mines, farmers, communities and urban settlements take form, are negotiated, and affect broader institutions and technologies of water governance. These governance questions can be addressed at different scales (from the territory to national scales), depending on the interest of the student. The Project is linked to a larger Australian Laureate Fellowship program addressing these questions across Latin America, SE Asia and Australia.
Extractive industries, the forest frontier and forest dependent communities
Supervisor: Professor Anthony Bebbington
Large scale development plans, legislative reforms and policy decisions are encouraging the expansion of mining, oil, gas and energy investment in areas that are currently forested, as well as investment in large scale infrastructure also. These forests also play critical roles in climate regulation, livelihoods and local cosmologies. This Project will document new pressures on forests, and address how competing claims over the forest are being governed. The Project could be in the Amazon, Mesoamerica, Indonesia or Central Africa. All forms of extraction are of interest, but especially research on coal mining and forests. The Project is linked to a Australian Laureate Fellowship program on mining, society and environment.
Culturally diverse perspectives on the Australian environment
Supervisor: Professor Lesley Head
We seek one or more PhD students to join a broader Project exploring culturally and ethnically diverse perspectives on nature and environment. Projects will examine how migrant communities in Melbourne interact with different places, including domestic contexts, urban environments and peri-urban bushland.
To what extent are incubators and accelerators assisting in local and global connections for clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship?
Supervisor: Dr Adam Bumpus
Interested in hearing Projects that look at the processes of innovation and roles of entrepreneurs, accelerators and incubators in getting companies off the ground and successful clean energy businesses and technologies into the mainstream. Empirical and theoretical Projects, and specifically interested in candidates with expertise in carrying this work out in India (although other regions also considered). Theoretical bases: Economic geography, open innovation, new business venturing.
What are new business models for scaling up distributed energy resources (DERs) and what social, economic, and environmental outcomes do they bring?
Supervisor: Dr Adam Bumpus
Empirical analyses of how DERs can be scaled up across different socio-economic, geographical, or sector-based business model approaches. Especially interested in business model testing as related to distributed smart solar+storage and/or microgrid business models and/or those that can be applied in both developed and developing world contexts. Theoretical bases: business model innovation, economic geography.
To what extent is the ‘mobile revolution’ assisting innovation for climate change solutions in developing countries?
Supervisor: Dr Adam Bumpus
How can mobile phones assist in adaptation and mitigation in developed and developing countries? How does communication fit into responses to climate change? Interested in candidates who are looking to develop technology and test it ‘in the wild’. Potentially co-supervise with professors in Computing and Information Sciences @unimelb. Theoretical bases: development geography, political ecology, economic geography.
Youth and Agrarian change in Southeast Asia
This Project will examine the changing characteristics of youth involvement in farming in the context of rural island Southeast Asia. Relevant subthemes:
- Youth livelihood aspiration
- Youth politics, social movements
- Youth and gender
- Youth migrations, remittances
Geographic areas: Timor-Leste, Indonesia, The Philippines
The Cambodian-Australian community and Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal
Supervisor: Dr Rachel Hughes
This Project seeks to explain why far fewer Cambodian-Australians have participated as ‘civil parties ‘(victim participants) in the United Nations-supported Cambodia-based Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) (2007-2017). Even when the smaller diaspora population in Australia is taken into account, participation by Cambodian-Australians has been low compared to Cambodian-American and French Cambodian communities. It will describe and explain knowledge and perceptions of the KRT within the Cambodian-Australian community, differentiated by generation, gender and level of education, specifically in communities in Melbourne and Sydney.
Field locations: Australia (Sydney and Melbourne)
Interest/skills: A demonstrated interest or background in cultural geography, ethnographic research or migration studies would be advantageous, as would Khmer language skills.
Wheels keep turning: an ‘environmental noise problem’ assemblage in NSW, Australia
Supervisor: Dr Rachel Hughes
This Project investigates the problem of ‘wheel-squeal’ associated with rail-freight operations throughout Australia. This is experienced by people, close to passing freight trains, as prolonged and very loud, high-pitched noise. An assemblage approach to community agitation in response to this ‘environmental problem’, and lived experiences of audio distress and sleeplessness, would focus on northern Sydney as a case study. Such an approach would also take into account the materiality of the freight wagons, the corporate economics of rail-freight transportation, the politics of EPA and NSW State Government approaches to the problem, the role of environmental law, and the relationships between residents and experts over the last five years.
Field locations: Australia (Sydney)
Interest/skills: A demonstrated interest or background in cultural, environmental or legal geography is preferred.
China’s South-to-North-Water-Transfer Project: What are the principal inter-jurisdictional conflicts and how are they being managed?
Supervisor: Professor Mark Wang
A research group within our School has been awarded a large ARC Discovery grant to study aspects of China’s South-North Water Transfer Project. The SNWT Project is the largest inter-basin transfer program in the world, involving several mega-cities, dozens of smaller cities, a host of provincial-level administrations, and the resettlement of over 300 000 people. One potential PhD Project is about SNWT’s institutional setting arrangements and inter-jurisdictional conflicts.