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Learn more about our governance and management

The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre is managed by the Centre Director, who is supported by an Executive Committee, Country Coordinators and a Board of Management.

Strategic and operational management is vested in a Director who is supported by an Executive Committee composed of academic members associated with the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, and the Country Coordinators. The Centre's operations are overseen by the University Executive Committee for Multidisciplinary Initiatives (UE MDI Committee). 


The Director serves as the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s manager and academic head. She or he is a senior academic specialising in any area of Southeast Asia, and a Professor of the University of Sydney.

The Director is ultimately responsible for the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s performance, including the delivery of its mission and goals, and the effective management of its resources to sustain and enhance its academic and outreach roles.

Our people

Professor Michele Ford


Professor Michele Ford is Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and a former ARC Future Fellow. Her research interests are in Southeast Asian labour movements, labour migration and trade union aid. Michele’s research has been supported by several Australian Research Council Discovery Project grants related to these and other topics. She has also been involved in extensive consultancy work for the international labour movement and the Australian Government.

Professor Sonja van Wichelen

Deputy Director

Professor Sonja van Wichelen is Deputy Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and Professor of Anthropology and Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Her research takes place on the cross-disciplinary node of law, life, and science in a globalizing world. At the moment she is working on the postcolonial politics of bioscience governance in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Indonesia. Sonja received numerous fellowships, including a DECRA from the Australian Research Council, a SOAR Prize from the University of Sydney, a Rubicon Fellowship from the Dutch Research Council, and a Membership with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Before moving to Australia, Sonja lived in the Netherlands, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States.

Dr Natali Pearson

Curriculum Coordinator

Natali Pearson is a Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia. Her research seeks to make an intervention in museological and heritage discourses by theorising underwater cultural heritage as worthy of critical scholarly attention beyond that afforded by the prevailing, maritime archaeological, perspective. By conceptualising underwater sites and objects as having agency, her research aims to expand popular curatorial approaches beyond tropes of treasure and pirates to a far broader understanding of underwater cultural heritage that accounts for the historicity and connectedness of the ocean and the material remains it contains.

Natali is co-editor of Perspectives on the Past at New Mandala and a regular contributor to The Conversation. Natali has completed a PhD on underwater cultural heritage in Indonesia (2018, USYD). She also holds a Master of Museum Studies (2013, USYD); a Master of Arts in Strategy and Policy (2006, UNSW); and a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) with Honours Class One in History and Indonesian Studies (2002, UNSW). She has worked at the Asia Society’s galleries in New York and Hong Kong, and as a consultant to the Asia Society Arts & Museum Summit. She is an alumni of the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies and the Asialink Leaders Program. Prior to this, she worked in Asia-focused defence and anti-money laundering / counter-terrorism financing roles in the Australian federal government.

The Director chairs an Executive Committee consisting of academic staff drawn from the membership. The Executive Committee is appointed by the Provost on the recommendation of the Director, and will serve a three-year term unless otherwise indicated by the Provost. The Executive Committee meets on average four times per year to provide advice and make recommendations to the Director on the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s:

  • strategic directions, outcomes and priorities
  • annual operating and action plans
  • allocation of internal grants
  • performance against strategic and operating KPIs and outcomes.

In addition, each member of the Executive Committee takes special responsibility for one of five areas of operation (community outreach; curriculum; policy and regional outreach; research; research training). In this capacity, they advise on, but also contribute to, Southeast Asia-related activities in their designated area.

Community Outreach Adviser

Dr Justin Beardsley

Faculty of Medicine and Health / Sydney Institute for Infectious Diseases

Dr Sandra Seno-Alday

The University of Sydney Business School

Curriculum Advisor

Dr Susan Banki

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Sociology and Social Policy

Dr Abdul Razeed

The University of Sydney Business School

Regional and Policy Engagement Advisors

Associate Professor Tihomir Ancev

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Economics

Ms Danielle Somers

Faculty of Medicine and Health / Office for Global Health 

Research Advisors

Associate Professor Sonja van Wichelen

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Sociology and Social Policy

Dr Sabin Zahirovic

Faculty of Science, School of Geosciences

Research Training Advisors

Dr Sophie Chao

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology

Associate Professor Petr Matous

Faculty of Engineering, School of Project Management

The Country Coordinators serve as focal points for activities related to each country in the region, as part of a committee chaired by the Director. They advise on strategic developments in different countries and bring together researchers across the University of Sydney who work in the eleven countries of the region.


Associate Professor Daniel Tan

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Jeffrey Neilson

Faculty of Science


Professor Nick Enfield

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Malaysia and Brunei

Associate Professor Marina Kennerson

Faculty of Medicine and Health


Dr Louis Taborda

Faculty of Engineering and IT

The Philippines

Dr Aaron Opdyke

Faculty of Engineering and IT


Dr Yeow-Tong Chia

Sydney School of Education and Social Work


Dr Aim Sinpeng

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Lynda-Ann Blanchard

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Associate Professor Tihomir Ancev

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences