Asia-Pacific Geographies

The Mekong Research Group (AMRC)

Fishing in Cambodia

The Mekong Research Group (AMRC) is a resource centre based at the School of Geosciences, University of Sydney. The Centre promotes research, discussion and debate on development and environment issues in the Mekong Region. Established in 1997, AMRC focuses on the role Australia plays in the region as a near neighbour, donor and major trading partner. The Centre is a focal point for information, dialogue and activities in support of an equitable and sustainable development path for the Region. The Director of the Centre is Professor Philip Hirsch. Major projects of the Centre include:

  • Fisheries and Livelihoods in Laos A one year pilot study supported by ACIAR looking at livelihood changes faced by rural Lao who depend on capture fisheries for significant parts of their income and/or diet. visit the project's website
  • Law Project A three year project funded by ARC looking at hard and soft law in Mekong Basin governance. visit the project's website
  • Cambodia Water Project. A five year AusAID funded program being undertaken by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) in conjunction with the University of Sydney and the Royal University of Phnom Penh. The goal of the program is to improve the use and governance of water resources in Cambodia to increase agricultural production and sustainable use of natural resources. For more information visit the project's website
  • The welfare impacts of land titling in Laos Funded by AusAID's Australian Development Research Awards program, this project is a four year collaborative research project between Prof. Philip Hirsch (AMRC), Dr. Paulo Santos (Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources) and the National University of Laos, examining the extent to which gaining access to secure land titles improves economic welfare. visit the project's website
  • Mekong Learning Initiative (MLI). An initiative coordinated by AMRC and funded by Oxfam, this is a collaboration between eight universities in the Mekong Region to facilitate teaching and learning in the social sciences of natural resource management. For more information visit the project's website

Agri-food geographies


University of Sydney geographers have considerable expertise with regards to how the changing global conditions of agri-food production and trade are impacting upon rural places in the Asia-Pacific. The restructuring of global food markets has generated marked changes to the ways that rural producers interact with suppliers and buyers. How this occurs and to whom it benefits are vital questions for the economic geography of development in the region. Research is generally conducted in association with national or international research institutions in collaboration and/or partnership with local organizations. For more information, contact Bill Pritchard. Specific funded projects include:

  • Institutions for food security: global insights from rural India. An Australian Research Council Discovery Project concerned with how vulnerable rural populations in the developing world are navigating the global food crisis. For more information, visit the project's website.
  • Traceability as a Mode of Ordering. An Australian Research Council Discovery Project into the changing global value chain arrangements for tropical products grown in Southeast Asia and South India. For more information, visit the project's website.
  • Indian Agriculture in the 21st Century. An Australian Research Council Discovery Project into the social, economic and environmental effects of India's liberalization project in agriculture. For more information, visit the project's website.
  • Non-state Regulation of Agricultural Trade. An AusAID funded project under the Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships scheme. For more information, visit the project's website.
  • Improving the sustainability of cocoa production in eastern Indonesia. An ACIAR funded research project that aims to support the Government of Indonesia's policy to provide the research and extension needed for the production of high quality cocoa in sustainable smallholder systems. Visit the project’s website.
  • Smallholder Engagement with Specialty Coffee Chains in Indonesia. An ACIAR funded research project that explores development issues for coffee farmers in Eastern Indonesia. Visit the project’s website.
  • Linking eco-payment schemes with community livelihoods: the need for institutional innovation to address deforestation in Southeast Asia. A project funded by the University of Sydney's Institute of Sustainable Solutions. Visit the project’s website.

South Pacific Island-states

Geographical research on South Pacific island-states is a longstanding area of interest within the University of Sydney. Professor John Connell anchors this area of inquiry with more than three decades of experience and more than one hundred relevant publications. Professor Connell has made key contributions to development studies and the analysis of rural-urban and south-north migration flows. His research on agrarian change and rural development in the South Pacific context was brought together most completely in the 1997 book Papua New Guinea. The Struggle for Development (Routledge, London). Subsequently, he has undertaken extensive research on these and other issues on behalf of multilateral agencies including the UN's Food & Agricultural Organization, and the International Labour Organization. For more information, contact Professor John Connell.

Southeast Asia, Australasia and Southwest Pacific (SEAASWP) Network

The International Geographical Union (IGU) Regional Network for Southeast Asia, Australasia and the Southwest Pacific was created in July 2006 and is the fourth IGU Regional Network. The new network brings together geographers from Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Southwest Pacific island nations including Papua New Guinea. The Network aims to foster collaborative research and teaching initiatives, mutual support and mentoring activity. The Network has adopted the acronym SEAASWP, to be pronounced 'Sea-Swap', reflecting its regional coverage, maritime extent and spirit of exchange. SEAASWP is coordinated by Professor Philip Hirsch.

Southeast Asia Field School

The three week field school for Geography undergraduates involves a self-contained Unit of Study for 20-25 students based on a program of fieldwork, classroom-based teaching, readings and assignments. Students carry out fieldwork with peers at universities in the host countries, allowing cross-cultural peer-based learning and giving access to village level fieldwork that would otherwise be difficult in such different cultural and linguistic circumstances. Phil Hirsch ran the Southeast Asia Field School in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. From 1999, John Connell and Eric Waddell established a South Pacific Field School to provide an option for students in alternate years, and John also ran this in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. In 2011 and 2012, Jeff Neilson offered the field school in Indonesia.

For more about previous field schools, please visit the Field Schools Alumni website or the Unit of Study page for more information.

Sydney Southeast Asia Centre

The School is a central node within the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. With more than 200 academics working on and in Southeast Asia, the University of Sydney has one of the highest concentrations of regional expertise in the world. The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) was established to build on this wide-ranging expertise.