Grants Awarded to SEI Research Affiliates

A number of the Sydney Environment Institute’s affiliates have been successful in landing coveted grants.

Dr Jane Lê, Researcher of the Balanced Enterprise Research Network, has been awarded a grant from the Australian Research Council for a Discovery Project called The Human Side of Energy Security. The main focus will be to advance understanding and position industry and policymakers to safeguard the vital energy security process by closely examining the decisions and actions of people working in the Australian energy sector.


In early 2015, Cyclone Marcia ravaged the Australian east coast, leaving thousands of people without access to electricity, and sending corporations and governments into overdrive trying to restore the supply. Adding the political complexities of oil rich regions, such as conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the threat of terrorism, and frail infrastructure through inadequate investment, serves to highlight our vulnerability to longer term energy supply disruption and constraints. Thus, managing our energy supply to ensure access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy is vital to Australian economic growth and quality of life.

Solutions from economic and engineering perspectives only partially address these issues because they overlook critical human factors that underpin energy security. Therefore, this project will use a practice-based approach to look deep inside energy-related firms and agencies to explain how decisions and actions that take place within these contexts shape our energy future. A decision enactment model will be developed to guide industry and policy makers in producing more effective energy decisions.

It will fulfil the following objectives:

  1. Develop a clear framework to track how managers define and perceive energy security issues
  2. Explain why certain decisions and actions are taken over others by outlining the process of making decisions and taking action about energy security issues
  3. Delineate the implications of these decisions and actions on energy security outcomes

Other investigators on the project are:

Professor Christopher Wright (Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney)
Professor Paula Jarzabkowski (Cass Business School, City University London)

Dr Alana Mann, Researcher of the Food, People and the Planet at the Sydney Environment Institute, has been awarded a grant from the University of Sydney Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences cross-disciplinary Research For Social Impact Support Scheme for an upcoming project called Planning Our Food Future: A Study of the socio-cultural dimensions of food security for inner city residents of Sydney. This project brings together interdisciplinary food studies scholars to understand the socio-cultural dimensions of food security in the City of Sydney local government area.


Sydney’s population will reach five million in 2016 and eight of the ten most densely populated neighbourhoods in Australia are in inner-Sydney including Pyrmont-Ultimo and Surry Hills. Currently, there is a lack of data on urban food access, community-based food activities and food relief organisations within the City of Sydney.

There is an urgent need to prioritise food in planning so that inequities in urban food provisioning systems are addressed and detailed food policies that promote and protect residents’ access to healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food produced in ecologically sound ways are developed and implemented. To address this knowledge gap, this project will aim to:

a) identify the policies, corporate, community-based and household strategies that influence demand for particular foods and practices in the City of Sydney local government area (LGA)
b) understand the socio-cultural enablers and barriers to demand for healthy and sustainable foods
c) develop a broad set of socio-cultural indicators of food demand to complement supply side indicators for modelling a fair and sustainable food system that caters for the needs of all residents.

This research is highly significant in its concern with the specific food needs of particular groups (e.g. inner city Aboriginal residents in Redfern and Waterloo) and the patterns of participation of those groups in local food networks (e.g. food relief organisations, community gardens, farmers’ markets).

Other investigators on the project are:

Professor Elspeth Probyn
 (Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney)
Professor Margaret Allman-Farinelli (University of Sydney)
Dr Brian Jones (University of Sydney)
Associate Professor Bill Pritchard (Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney)
Professor David Schlosberg
 (Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney)
Mr Luke Craven, PhD student
 (Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney)

Professor Iain McCalman, Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute, has been awarded a grant from the Australian Research Council for a Discovery Project titled Understanding Australia in the Age of Humans: Localising the Anthropocene. The main focus of the project is to undertake the first comprehensive research investigation of Australia as a distinctive locality within the global idea of the new epoch of Humanity known as the Anthropocene. The project will analyse and narrate how human interventions have come to transform Australian environments in fundamental and enduring ways, and to use both print and museum interpretive environments to develop new understandings of the cultural dimensions of the Age of Humans.


To date scholars have explored the concept of the Anthropocene mainly in response to northern hemisphere environments but it is also necessary to interrogate the concept in relation to varying local conditions. This is especially pertinent from the perspective of Australia, due to the continent’s fragile ecological conditions and related socio-cultural constructions and experiences. The project will investigate how Australian communities and environments are responding to past, present and anticipated Anthropocenic changes, for example Torres Strait Islander groups who are already moving from their homes because of the salination of fresh water and rising sea levels.

The project will develop significant new research methodologies and outcomes by exploring how material culture—understood broadly to encompass objects, images and digital entities—and its display in museum environments can help us to conceptualise and communicate the implications of Australian Anthropocene. Scholarly analyses will be developed on how objects encode dynamic environmental histories and, in the process, online and three-dimensional exhibitions will be built to engage Australian publics with the challenges of the Anthropocene.

The project aims to take advantage of a newly holistic impetus by bringing research scholars into collaboration across a variety of disciplines and sectors. The proposed program links senior and emerging scholars of environmental and cultural history, museology and digital art and science, with expert guidance from geology and stratigraphy, animal ecology and anthropology, in a broad investigation of the implications of the Australian Anthropocene within its larger global context.

Other investigators on the project are:

Professor Libby Robin, The Australian National University
Dr Kirsten Wehner, National Museum of Australia
Dr Josh Wodak, The University of New South Wales
Dr Caitilin de Berigny, The University of Sydney
Dr Martha Sear, National Museum of Australia
Dr Jennifer Newell, American Museum of Natural History
Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, University of Leicester
Professor Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin–Madison