PhD and Research Masters

CURS welcomes applications from prospective PhD and Masters Research candidates. To be considered, you will need to be fully fluent in English and have achieved excellent results in your undergraduate studies.

Jai Allison – PhD (Community Resilience)

Resilient Organising – An Australian Case Study

Community resilience means many things to many people. For those living in communities resilience is an ‘empty signifier’ unless it’s enacted. Typically community developers and/or disaster risk reducers employ resilience as an aim within an implicit, depoliticised agenda of modernisation.

This research will explore the uses of resilience as an organising and enabling concept for people to create change at the community scale. The researcher hopes to facilitate cross context Majority (Vietnam) and Minority (Australian) learning, as community traditions and innovations that create resilient characteristics are shared through Asset Based Community Development perspectives.


Elizabeth Adamczyk


Susan Caves – PhD (Human Geography)

Cultivating Resilient Grain Farmers in Australia

This research is an exploration of Australian grain farmers being and resilience.  The socio-economic and ecological conditions under which Australian farmers operate continue to change significantly and rapidly.  Living and making a living, especially in the remoter inland areas, is increasingly difficult for many, physically, mentally and financially. This research is aimed at identifying and studying resilient grain farmers who have responded to the challenges by breaking away from the mainstream and experimenting with new and innovative ways to be grain farmers.

Eliza Crosbie

Matthew Coxhill – PhD (Human Geography)

Making Peace With the Orange Roughy

The Western human relationship with fish is contrary to Western societal norms and expectations around factors such as animal cruelty and wild animal conservation. In particular, the commercial fishing industry often seems almost wantonly destructive, yet not publically accountable for the damage done.  Situated within animal geography, this research seeks to consider these issues through an examination of the ways violence is enabled and perpetuated in relationships between humans and fish, in the context of a specific commercial fishery. This research explores how the anthropocentric discipline of peace studies allows analysis of violence in the more-than-human context and considers how aspects such as charisma and communication have impacted and continue to influence attitudes and behaviours around fish.

Lara Daley – PhD (Human Geography)

Social Movement-Oriented Research with(in) Non-Institutional Grassroots Urban Politics

This project uses activist-research inspired approaches to explore anti-systemic grassroots politics in the Australian urban context. I am interested in the politics and new social relations that responses to capitalist forms of social organisation and crisis are producing. Specifically, the research investigates the struggles and political practices that emerged in response to the G20 Leaders’ Meeting (Brisbane, 2014), which centred around two intersecting political gatherings: The Peoples’ Convergence and the Indigenous-led Decolonisation before Profit gathering. The research aims to contribute to processes of critical reflection, collective theorisation and social transformation.


  • Aunty Shaa Smith, Neeyan Smith, Sarah Wright, Paul Hodge and Lara Daley, 2018, Yandaarra is living protocol, Social & Cultural Geography, 48(2), 176-182.
Melina Ey – PhD (Human Geography)

Confronting Coal and Gas: Gendered Narratives of Resistance and Place-Based Identities

Across New South Wales, land use conflicts have been heightened by the sustained expansion of coal and coal seam gas projects. Natural resource development projects are capable of fundamentally reforming the environments and places in which they occur, and for many communities, this can be a profoundly distressing and disempowering experience. Resource development is also highly uneven in its impacts; being particularly acute within rural contexts, and often overlooking the roles and agency of women. As significant actors in these place-based contestations, it is critical to consider the ways in which women are responding to the undermining of particular ways of valuing and experiencing place at the hands of resource projects. This research explores the ways that a diverse range of dynamic female actors are responding to unwanted changes to rural communities at the hands of resource project expansion in New South Wales. It also engages with emotional geographies of place, considering the ways in which highly personal and emotional relationships with place can prompt and shape resistance in unique and unanticipated ways.


Rhyall Gordon – PhD (Human Geography)

The everyday politics of Food Sovereignty economies

My PhD research focuses on the food sovereignty movement in the Spanish province of Asturias. The food sovereignty movement is active in establishing new economies that focus on social and environmental justice. I draw on Gibson-Graham’s concept of community economy, and bring it into conversation with other concepts – such as hegemony, prefiguration, aporetic ethics – to explore the economic practices of the Asturian food sovereignty collectives. From the empirical work carried out with farmers and food collectives, the purpose of my thesis is to understand the moments of closure and exclusion that happen in the everyday practices of postcapitalist economies and the different approaches used to manage these moments.


Ainsley Hughes – PhD (Human Geography)

Lost and Found: Emotion, Affect and the Changing Tools and Practices of Wayfinding

Navigating our everyday mobilities involves a complex and messy tangle of relations, and is seldom performed without disruption. In addition, the practices and technologies that people engage with during their wayfinding are rapidly evolving in the digital age. Yet, much mobilities literature still carries an underlying assumption that the mobility path is known, intended or predictable, narrowly framing wayfinding as a rational decision-making process. This research project explores the realities of being ‘lost’ and ‘found’ as we move around in our everyday lives. Using theories of emotion and affect, this research focuses on the embodied, ephemeral and multiple ways people learn about the spaces and places around them. It rethinks longstanding ideas of what it means to ‘read’ space, be located, and feel lost or found during our mobilities. 


Warrick Jordan – PhD (Human Geography)

Fairness Beliefs and Preferences for Regional Adjustment Assistance

Australia’s regions are subject to accelerating global trends that influence their economic health and structure. The social and economic impacts of these changes are unevenly distributed. Efforts to manage regional structural adjustment are regularly identified as legitimately responding to public expectations of ‘fairness’. There is also substantial evidence that fairness beliefs are influenced by a number of consequential cultural and situational factors. This research is aimed at understanding the extent and composition of fairness beliefs, and how those beliefs influence public preferences for assistance during regional economic change


Rebecca Scott


Recently Completed RHD Projects

Dr Faith Curtis (Human Geography)

Refugees in Newcastle – performing care, belonging and hope

Contemporary refugee literature has thoroughly described a lack of appropriate settlement services, negative representations of refugees and asylum seekers, discrimination and racism. As a body of work, it tends to document despair and provides little evidence of ‘hope residing in cities’. Yet, many people from refugee backgrounds are welcomed into communities and nations by people who care. Research must also describe positive experiences that exist and for many refugees this includes social inclusion, building a sense of belonging and home and finding moments of happiness and hope. My research aims to fill gap by drawing on grounded insights from spaces of care in Newcastle, populated by organisations and individuals who make care-full proactive movements towards people from refugee backgrounds. It is important to acknowledge that care is not simple, caring relationships can be fraught with tensions and difficulties, but a focus on care can reveal these complexities in a way that simply focusing on exclusion and despair cannot. My research argues that care-full movements towards people from refugee backgrounds have the potential to nurture belonging, social inclusion and hope for the whole community.


Rupert Doney – PhD (Human Geography)

Residential retrofit: assembling infrastructures of provision and use

Retrofitting the existing housing stock presents complex issues in coordinating diverse industry stakeholders—policy and building industries, manufacturing, designers and contractors—in the provision of these technologies. This research examines the social interactions that shape how practitioners design, build, retrofit, manage and maintain residential housing.


Dr Phoebe Everingham – (Human Geography)

Volunteer Tourism: relational encounters in ‘spaces of becoming’

Volunteer tourism is widely represented as working in local communities on development projects while vacationing in exotic majority world locations. Tourists are able to have a pleasurable holiday experience while at the same time ‘giving back’ to local communities. Volunteer tourism is largely framed within a development aid context by the industry, volunteers and even tourism scholars. However framing volunteer tourism within development aid discourses not only plays into problematic neo-colonial paternalistic binaries, where locals are portrayed as passive and needy, but they also create unrealistic expectations for the volunteers and what they can achieve. This research engages theories of affect and emotion to map some of the more intangible experiences in volunteer tourism that are often overlooked and provides scope for the industry to move away from these notions of development.


Ryan Jones – PhD (Human Geography)

The Sum of its Parts? The Everyday Co-fabrication of the ‘Urban Forest’

Urban forestry is described by proponents as a key component of sustainable urban development that seeks to manage all the trees, parks, private gardens, and public reserves as ‘parts’ of an integrated ‘whole’ that will deliver social, ecological, and economic services to the city. Existing research has tended to see the urban forest as a pre-given entity that exists by virtue of the presence of urban trees more than something that is actively created and maintained in practice. This research seeks to rethink the ‘urban forest’ as something that is assembled and co-fabricated through the more or less ordinary relations that bring people and trees together. This will involve an exploration of the everyday actors, practices, knowledges, technologies, emotions and events that constitute individual trees and wooded areas in the city.


Dr Aengphone Phaengsuwan – PhD (Human Geography)

Measuring the Effectiveness of the EIA System of Development in Laos

Laos is one of the fastest growing countries in the region with socio-economic development over the past decade outstripping that of some of its near neighbours. This economic growth, however, is mainly dependant on short-term benefits gained though natural resource extraction. Many non-government organisations criticise this current form of socio-economic development for having caused rapid natural resource depletion and for creating significant adverse impacts on the environment, rural communities and long-term sustainable development. While Laos has adopted an Environmental Protection Law (in 1999) and instigated an environmental impact assessment (EIA) framework, it remains debatable as to whether under the current system of development, Laos will ever be able to achieve its sustainable development goals especially when its means for measuring negative impacts are neither effectively enforced and ever-changing. This research therefore evaluates the effectiveness of the current EIA system in Laos and considers what factors are needed to bring long-lasting improvement and ensure Laos meets its obligations to the environment and its people.