SEI Research Lead Sophie Chao was awarded the FASS ECR Excellence Award, which recognises, encourages and rewards outstanding research performance at the ECR level.
Dr Chao is a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and her research investigates the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health and justice in the Pacific region. She is a Research Lead on SEI’s Biocultural diversities theme, with her ARC DECRA project exploring the diverse perceptions, practices and knowledges surrounding human-kangaroo relations in Australia. Her DECRA research aims to produce interdisciplinary knowledge to contribute to a shift towards more equitable human and wildlife futures.
In June this year, SEI is pleased to host the Beyond Bios Symposium as part of Dr Chao’s DECRA. This Symposium will bring together scholars spanning disciplinary boundaries and geographical divides to consider life beyond the boundaries of dominant scientific frameworks.
As an early career researcher, receiving this Award was a wonderful acknowledgement of the relevance and rigour of my emerging research trajectory – one that has and continues to be enriched by SEI’s interdisciplinary community of thinkers and practitioners. I’m thrilled and excited to continue this trajectory as a DECRA Fellow, in conversation with all at SEI and beyond who make this community possible and meaningful.
The FASS Research Awards Selection Committee was particularly impressed by the outstanding quality of Dr Chao’s research outputs (of which there are many), and by the originality and sustained significance of her research program. Dr Chao is one of SEI’s core researchers and is a highly valued member of the SEI community – this recognition is particularly well deserved.
We are also pleased to congratulate SEI Director David Schlosberg, as part of the FoodLab Sydney team, on being awarded the FASS Research Impact Award. This is a significant win as it acknowledges the real-world impact of FoodLab Sydney on our local community.
FoodLab Sydney is a not-for-profit culinary business incubator that helps entrepreneurs with high barriers to entry formalise and grow their food businesses as part of a vibrant, local and inclusive food system. It focuses on supporting refugees, migrants, women, Indigenous Australians and low-income entrepreneurs by offering affordable kitchen space, industry-specific resources, mentoring and sales opportunities.
FoodLab Sydney has been an amazing experience in research impact. The team brought best practice policy suggestions from previous research to the City of Sydney, and with support from the City’s Knowledge Exchange Grant program and an ARC Linkage grant, we were able to both implement and research a crucial intervention to broaden social inclusion in Sydney’s food system. The program has evolved to become a freestanding social enterprise, assisting a diverse and migrant population in establishing new food businesses and becoming part of a larger good food system across the city.
As an SEI-led research project, FoodLab Sydney – in partnership with the City of Sydney, TAFE NSW, and FoodLab Detroit – was designed to make the City’s food system more inclusive. The program has demonstrated significant impact in a range of diverse communities, enabling opportunities for greater gender, ethnic and racial equity and justice, and contributing to the development of a broader good food system.
Since 2019, it has supported the launch and growth of 29 food businesses, which includes caterers, food trucks, market stalls and artisan products. In 2022, 90% of the cohort came from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and 50% are female, with 100% formalising their business in 2022. In order to gather evidence of impact, FoodLab Sydney established a sophisticated social impact strategy and measurement framework grounded in academic research and community engagement.
FoodLab Sydney is writing a new story of empowerment, of diversity, of good food systems. I truly cannot think of many initiatives that have successfully brought this many institutions together, with its impacts being felt further than the food businesses it supports – it is beginning to transform the food industry in Sydney. We are grateful to be recognised for this by Sydney University.
Professor Schlosberg is a former Research Lead of FoodLab Sydney, and was instrumental in its beginning in 2019 as a research project and pilot program, along with former University of Sydney colleague Professor Alana Mann (now of the University of Tasmania), and former PhD student Luke Craven. Professor Schlosberg is still closely involved with FoodLab Sydney and currently serves as a Board Member.
This Award recognises the work of the broader FoodLab team, which has included Program managers Jamie Loveday and Catriona Macmillan, researchers Dr Kate Johnston and Omar Elkharouf, and partners at the City of Sydney, including Lauren Flaherty.
The Institute is pleased to congratulate both Dr Chao and Professor Schlosberg, as well as all Award recipients, including SEI member Susan Banki who was recognised as a joint winner of the FASS Research Mentoring Award.
Header image: Australian nature by Karen Black via Shutterstock, ID: 1920822995.