Meet 2017 Honours Research Fellow Gemma Viney

Gemma’s research will address how grassroots environmental justice movements mobilise and investigate environmental justice movements in Australia.

We are happy to welcome Gemma Viney to the Sydney Environment Institute family.

Gemma is one of three students to be awarded an Honours Fellowship at the SEI  in 2017. She is undertaking Honours in International and Global Studies in the Department of Government and International Relations. Take a moment to get to know Gemma.


What are you researching for Honours?

My Honours research is centred around environmental justice movements in Australia. I am aiming to investigate how Indigenous and rural farming communities in NSW have developed environmental justice coalitions despite their different roles in a history of oppression and colonisation.

What are the key environmental issues your research aims to address?

The key issues my research will hopefully address is how grassroots environmental justice movements mobilize, as well as investigating environmental justice movements in Australia. A lot of the literature surrounding Australian environmental justice is limited to observing environmental injustices or highlighting single conflicts which reflect the broader global movement. My research, however, hopes to highlight a coalition of grassroots community mobilisers who constitute an Australian environmental movement existing outside of the periphery of the literature.

I’m also hoping to look at how community coalitions are formed without a base level of understanding that comes from shared identities, experiences or social demographics. A lot of environmental justice literature that discusses how the movement was formed doesn’t address the basis of the relationships between the communities that went on to form broader environmental justice networks. In using the unique connections being formed in rural Australia between two communities who have otherwise historically been very separate, I am hoping to look at this issue with a new perspective that will offer a new understanding of how grassroots networks are formed.

What led you to your research topic? 

I became interested in the general field of environmental justice through taking Professor David Schlosberg’s GOVT3995 unit on the topic. This was my first experience with the subject but it was something that quickly became one of the most interesting issues I had researched at university. This gave me a field of interest to work within, but what lead me to my eventual focus was the observation within that course that Australia was underrepresented within environmental justice literature despite the concept being highly applicable to the Australian context. In particular, there was little research done into the possibility of an Australian environmental justice movement developing in a similar way to that of the US movement. Environmental justice was a very interesting starting point for my research but what was important to me was bringing this concept to the Australian context. I hoped to introduce a new perspective to Australian environmental justice research which would concentrate on giving a voice to an existing movement that was developing outside of the literature.

Initially this was the focus of my research, and it still is a key element, however, my supervisor (Professor David Schlosberg) helped me to concentrate my research on the observations that could arise for environmental justice literature more broadly through a focus on Australia. Australian environmentalism and the way we as a population experience and interact with the environment is unique to our nations context. This provides an interesting perspective for my research as it offers new networks being formed through connections that are not evident in the equivalent movements that have happened around the world.

Apart from research, what are your passions & interests?

My main interests outside of research are centred around my involvement with my football club. I have been playing for 15 years, coaching for 4 years and volunteering with the club for the past 3 years. This takes up most of my time on the weekends but it’s something my whole family is involved in and it means I get to spend a lot of time watching or playing sport which is one of my favourite things to do. I also love my job working at an afterschool care, it gets pretty stressful at times but kids are hilarious and they make going to work something I can look forward to.

What about SEI made you interested in an Honours Fellowship with us?

I found out about this fellowship opportunity through the Environmental Justice course I took in my final semester before Honours and it seemed like the ideal opportunity given my research topic. After reading some of the blog posts from the previous fellows I became even more convinced this was something that could be a big advantage in my Honours year. The chance to be surrounded by people with an interest in your field and able to give support, advice or even just lend a sympathetic ear is something that I feel I’m already benefitting from even in the start of the Honours process.

Gemma Viney is an Honours Research Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute. She has a Bachelors of International and Global Studies from the University of Sydney and is currently undertaking Honours in the Department of Government and International Relations. Gemma’s research is investigating Australian environmental justice and the coalitions forming between rural farming and Indigenous Australian communities.