Community Engagement

Social Research and Policy at UNSW has a major impact on practice and policy in various policy domains. Our staff work in research, consultancy, training and policy development with a wide range of Local, State and Federal Government departments. We also pro-actively engage with local and international NGOs, community organisations and multilateral bodies such as UNICEF and UNHCR. These partnerships have contributed to ground-breaking developments in practice and policy in relation to welfare reform, refugees and asylum seekers, people with disabilities, international development, natural disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies.


Sonia Graham is an environmental geographer who engages with a range of rural government agencies and agricultural bodies. In 2016 she lead a project funded by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, investigating the weed hygiene practices of landholders, weed contractors and transport companies across NSW. The project steering committee comprised representatives from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Great Lakes Shire Council, with some additional input from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. A copy of the report can be found here. Sonia has previously received funding from Meat and Livestock Australia, the Canadian Weed Science Society and the AW Howard Memorial Trust for her social research on weed management.


Caroline Lenette is part of a cross-institutional and multidisciplinary ARC Linkage project team (led by QUT) with partner and peak resettlement agency Access Community Services (Brisbane); the project explores the settlement needs of refugee women who enter as Women-at-risk. She is furthering her work on the experiences of refugee women with partner organisations AMES and Settlement Services International, and UNSW’s Centre for Refugee Research. Caroline also works with a group of community musicians, Scattered People, who have regular contact with detained asylum seekers in Brisbane through music and singing, to understand the links between participatory music and refugee health.


Siobhan O’Sullivan is a public policy scholar with an interest in service privatisation, in particular changes to welfare-to-work. She has recently commenced her second ARC Linkage examining best practice in private employment services delivery with the following industry partners – National Employment Services Association (NESA) , Jobs Australia (JA) and WCIG. Siobhan works closely with a range for-profit and not-for-profit employment services providers in Australia, the UK and elsewhere. Siobhan also has an ongoing interest in animal welfare. She has previously received small grants from Voiceless the Animal Protection Institute and is a regular media commentator on animal welfare issues, for example, in The Conversation. Siobhan has a regular downloadable podcast called Knowing Animals in which she interviews Animal Studies scholars from around the world.


Charlotte Smedley engages with a large number of community-based organisations and arranges regular guest speakers for her classes on media representations of asylum seekers and refugees. These speakers comprise refugees and asylum seekers from different countries and include organisational representatives from the Refugee Council of Australia, Asylum Seekers Centre, Settlement Services International, St Vincent de Paul Society, Advance Diversity and Parliament on King as well as refugees currently studying at UNSW. Charlotte was also actively involved with the development of a symposium on public attitudes to asylum seekers and refugees, which was held in July 2015 by UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law and included a number of her 3rd year social research and policy undergraduates who presented their research in the area of media discourse. Currently, Charlotte is working with the Centre for Refugee Studies, the Refugee Council of Australia and the Kaldor Centre at UNSW on a conference to be held in February, 2017. For the last two years Charlotte has been supporting the co-ordinator of UNSW's Community Development Project which works into social housing estates in Redfern, Waterloo, South Coogee and Namatjira which offers placements to social work and social research and policy students.


Kim Spurway has brought many years of experience as a humanitarian worker to her work at UNSW and has a wide network of contacts with international organisations involved in disaster risk and humanitarian practice such as UNICEF. Kim has led a systematic review in the effectiveness of community-based approaches to disaster risk management with UNSW’s Anthony Zwi in collaboration with the EPPI-Centre at the University of London and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). Kim is also updating a systematic review on the use of evidence in disaster risk management and risk reduction, and is currently working with Karen Soldatic at the Centre for Social Impact on a project in the Kimberley region on the intersection of disability, disaster and Indigeneity.


Chris Walker has undertaken a range of regulatory and policy work for road transport agencies. He is currently examining innovative models of regulation and heavy vehicle tracking with Transport Certification Australia and the potential for Australian regulatory practice to be transferred to other countries. Chris’s research on industry self-regulation has involved work with Australian trucking regulators and industry associations, as well as industry and government agencies in South Africa on their self-regulatory Road Transport Management System. Chris has extensive senior-level management and policy experience in various public sector agencies and contributes as a guest lecturer to the Executive Masters of Public Administration run by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.