UNSW Academic Leads

Academic Leads assist with strategy and ensure activities in their region are coordinated and align with IGD’s broader goals.

Academic Co-Lead - Pacific

Professor Worth is Head of the International HIV Research Group in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW. A sociologist by trade, Heather has carried out over 20 research and capacity-building projects in the Pacific in the past 15 years. She is a passionate advocate for development in the South Pacific region and is currently spearheading an application to the UNSW Futures scheme for a Pacific Futures Institute. This process has seen Heather bring together a large number of UNSW academics who are working on a range of research and development projects in the region.

To date, the Academic Co-Leads for the Pacific have been building institutional and community relationships across the Pacific focussing on identifying key issues for communities and how UNSW expertise can contribute.

Academic Co-Lead - Pacific

Professor Robinson has a background in environmental science, environmental law and human geography. Daniel’s research interests include protecting and promoting indigenous knowledge and rights in relation to the environment. He is a Research Fellow with the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), and he is Pacific Regional Project Manager of the Access and Benefit Sharing Capacity Development Initiative. He is currently the project lead on a 5 year ARC Discovery on Indigenous knowledge futures in Australia and the Pacific.

To date, the Academic Co-Leads for the Pacific have been building institutional and community relationships across the Pacific focussing on identifying key issues for communities and how UNSW expertise can contribute.

Academic Co-Lead - Myanmar

Dr Crouch specialises in comparative constitutional law and law and governance. She has worked on a range of projects in Myanmar. She is Team Leader for the UNSW-Asian Development Bank project on Professional Legal Education in Myanmar. Melissa is also Chief Investigator on an ARC grant on constitutional change in Myanmar and is a Constitutional Law Expert for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. She is part of the Australia Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project with Theunis Roux and Martin Krygier. She has previously worked with other agencies such as UNDP and USAID.

In Myanmar, the Academic Co-Leads have continued to pull together the interdisciplinary links UNSW has with University of Medicine 2 and Yangon Technological University as well as practitioners and policymakers in Myanmar.

Academic Co-Lead - Myanmar

As both policy analyst and academic, Dr Pedersen has been engaged with Myanmar for more than 20 years. Between 2001 and 2006, Morten was based in Myanmar as a project leader for the International Crisis Group where he delivered a series of ground-based policy reports that significantly and positively impacted humanitarian aid to Myanmar. Morten is a Senior Lecturer in International and Political Studies at UNSW Canberra and continues to develop work in Myanmar with a focus on peace, democracy and human rights.

In Myanmar, the Academic Co-Leads have continued to pull together the interdisciplinary links UNSW has with University of Medicine 2 and Yangon Technological University as well as practitioners and policymakers in Myanmar.

Academic Co-Lead – Africa

Professor Ramburuth was appointed Academic Lead for Uganda in 2016, and Visiting Professor at Gulu University in 2018, where she oversees four IGD project and delivers the Academic Development and Training program. Prem is the immediate past President of the UNSW Academic Board and a Professor in International Business, focusing on research and teaching in Cross-Cultural and Global Management in Business and Higher Education. She is UNSW’s representative on the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN) and Executive Committee, a PLuS Alliance Fellow, and Africa Lead for the PLuS Alliance Africa, leading its research in four countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.

To strengthen relationships in Africa, she works closely with the Offices of the Australian High Commissions in Africa, and the African High Commissions in Canberra, in particular, the Office of the Ugandan High Commission.

Continuing engagement with Gulu University has been a key focus of the IGD’s work in Africa. The Academic Co-Leads have contributed through ongoing relationship building and strategic engagement in Gulu.

Academic Co-Lead - Yuwaya Ngarra-li

Professor Eileen Baldry is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Criminology at UNSW Sydney. Professor Baldry’s teaching, research and publications focus on social justice and include mental health and cognitive disability in the criminal justice system; criminalised women, Aboriginal women and youth; education, training and employment for prisoners and ex-prisoners; homelessness and transition from prison; Indigenous justice; community development and social housing; and disability services. Professor Baldry has been and is a Chief Investigator on Australian Research Council (ARC), NH&MRC, AHURI and other major grants over the past 25 years, including Indigenous Australians with Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System (IAMHDCD) Project. She has been involved in a voluntary capacity with a number of development and justice community organisations and is currently a Director on the Board of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and Deputy Chair of the Disability Council NSW.

Research to Practice Associates

Michael has community development experience in West Africa, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Pacific. He has also taught international development studies in both the classroom at UNSW and in India with Engineers Without Borders. Michael joined the Institute for Global Development to ensure important ideas and research are realised. He holds a Master of International Development and a Graduate Certificate in Disaster Risk Reduction.

Research to Practice Associate

Somali is a global human rights and gender equality expert, with experience working across Australia, the UK at the OECD and at the United Nations. Somali currently leads a range of gender equality initiatives and is also an Adjunct Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at the University of Sydney, and a board member of ACON. She has a BA (UTS) and a Master of Science (Human Rights) (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Sarah Cook is currently an IGD Research to Practice Associate and Honorary Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at UNSW. She was previously the inaugural Director for the Institute for Global Development at UNSW. Prior to that she spent almost 10 years leading research institutes within the UN - as the Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research / Innocenti Research Centre, in Florence, Italy and from 2009-2015 as Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva. In these roles, she has led research on transformative social and economic policy, shaping debates in the UN on equity, sustainability and social justice, and engaging at the intersection of research, policy and programming. Her own research has focused primarily on China, following its social and economic transformations over more than 3 decades. Key research interests include social policy/protection, labour markets and migration, and gender. From 1996-2009 Sarah was a Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and spent 5 years as a Programme Officer with the Ford Foundation in Beijing. She received her PhD in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


Research to Practice Associate

Nigel Spence is Research to Practice Associate at the Institute for Global Development at the University of New South Wales. He is currently completing a PhD investigating the influence of international organisations on child protection policy in Vietnam. Nigel recently completed 14years as CEO of ChildFund Australia overseeing child-focused development programs in the Asia-Pacific region. He also contributed to the wider international development sector and in 2019 was awarded the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Outstanding Contribution to the Sector Award. Previously, Nigel was CEO of the NSW Association of Children's Welfare Agencies (ACWA). His early career was as a child welfare social worker in Australia and the UK.

Dr Alec Thornton is an IGD Research to Practice Associate and an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Geography, School of Science, at UNSW Canberra. Currently, Alec is a freelance development consultant, residing in Berlin Germany. Alec’s areas of expertise is in participatory research on sustainable livelihoods in urban and rural agriculture. He has conducted research and analysis on sustainable livelihoods in Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ethiopia and Zambia, as well as in Fiji and Samoa. He is also Senior Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg, in the School of Humanities and the School of Tourism & Hospitality. Alec was vice president (2010-2017) of The African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP). He was co-editor (2015-2018) of the Australasian Review of African Studies (ARAS), and editorial board member for Urban Forum (2010-2016) and Applied Geography (2009-2015), and is currently ‘Sustainable Urban and Rural Development’ Section Editor for the journal Sustainability (MDPI, Switzerland).

Alec was an Academic Co-Lead for Africa at the IGD, making significant contributions to building research capacity for academics at Gulu University (Uganda).

Dr. George Varughese is Senior Strategic Advisor at Niti Foundation, a Nepali not-for-profit public interest organization that supports locally-led policy reform. He previously worked at The Asia Foundation and the United Nations Development Program. He holds a joint doctorate in public administration and political science from Indiana University, Bloomington.

IGD Team

Interim Lead

David has 30 years experience working across the world in development and emergencies. He worked for four years in a disaster management consultancy, followed by eight years for the NGO CARE International UK, as head of policy and subsequently regional manager for southern and west Africa. From 2006-2014 David was Director of CENDEP, a centre at Oxford Brookes University focusing on development and emergencies. Between 2013-14 he was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University and from 2014-15 was a Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). David was appointed the Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair at UNSW in February 2016

David has carried out a number of assignments for NGOs and donors, and in recent years has led large post-disaster reviews in Haiti, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Nepal. David was trained in architecture; he holds a PhD in urban livelihoods and vulnerability and a Masters degree in development practice.

David has been a member of several NGO boards and committees, including the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (where he chaired the funding committee) and CARE International UK. David is editor of the 2016 IFRC World Disasters Report and author of the 2019 ODI/ALNAP Urban Humanitarian Response Good Practice Review.


After a career in project and event management and fundraising for the arts, Hannah joined UNSW as a Project Officer in 2013. She worked on outreach activities before managing the fundraising portfolio of the University’s Equity and Access programs. In 2017 Hannah worked with an Interim Management Board to establish the Institute for Global Development and was later appointed its Manager. Hannah holds Master degrees in International Development and Education (Hons) – both from UNSW.