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Outdoor courtyard in Asia

Current research

Driving excellence in today’s academic research on Southeast Asia

We support researchers from across the University of Sydney to apply their disciplinary expertise to a broad range of real-world issues in Southeast Asia

A snapshot of current research in our areas of strength

Singapore: economic behaviour of taxi drivers
Lead: Dr Adrian Ellison
Discipline: Institute of Transport and Logistics
Grant: Sydney Southeast Asia Centre Cluster Research Grant

Dr Adrian Ellison is exploring the economic behaviour of taxi drivers in Singapore to understand how drivers respond to price and demand. Adrian is working with Professor Stephen Greaves and Dr Richard Ellison from the University of Sydney, and Dr Wai Yan Leong from the Land Transport Authority in Singapore.

The project addresses a significant issue the transport system in Singapore is facing: taxi services have to bridge the gap between mass public transport and the private car where reliable, on-demand, point-to-point travel is required. What is not fully understood is how individual taxi drivers behave in response to the price signals created through passengers’ demand for trips and the subsequent fares they receive.

The research team seeks to understand the behaviour of taxi drivers, and thus inform the design of effective and equitable transport policies to help the taxi industry fulfil the need for on-demand travel. Using data collected every 30 seconds on the status, location and driver from each of the 28,000 taxis in Singapore over a period of six months, they will record more than 1 billion observations throughout the project.

Employing the use of an innovative dataset and analysis, the researchers’ analysis will prove invaluable for the Singapore Government in formulating better transport policy that adequately reflects the needs and interests of citizens and the transport system as a whole.

Myanmar: nutrition insecurity
Leader: Professor Bill Pritchard
Discipline: Human Geography
Grant: Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP)

Failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals on hunger reflects a disconnect between agriculture and nutrition caused by a misalignment between livelihoods options, and food and nutrition security.

Associate Professor Bill Pritchard, Professor Michael Dibley, and Associate Professor Anu Rammohan (University of Western Australia) are at the forefront of a global call by researchers to address this misalignment. Applying an interdisciplinary approach, the research team has drawn on their respective expertise in human geography, public health and health economics to shed light on the need for nutrition-sensitive development in rural Myanmar.

The aim of the project is to test the case for nutrition-sensitive development interventions by using a unique dataset collected from 1600 households across four regions of the country. The research team will create a unique lens into the question of how livelihood-nutrition interactions evolve under conditions of rapid economic and social change, and explore what this challenge implies for Myanmar’s development and transition to democracy.

"Previously, nutrition surveys were undertaken by health professionals and social scientists focused on the narratives of rural livelihoods," says Associate Professor Bill Pritchard. "The two fields never spoke and lacked each other’s knowledge. Now, nutritionists and social scientists are coming together in a problem-solving way to better respond to the agriculture-nutrition disconnect."

The project will provide an interdisciplinary framework that responds to global calls for better integration of health, agriculture and social science research. It is also innovative in other important ways: it prioritises analytical depth at the household scale, and uses a cross-seasonal panel data method. These aspects enable the project to chart livelihood pathways and nutrition relationships in Myanmar, and to answer key questions in the food and nutrition debate.

Timor-Leste: poultry health and nutrition
Lead: Associate Professor Robyn Alders
Discipline: Veterinary Science
Grant: Timor-Leste Village Poultry Health and Biosecurity Program

Funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Associate Professor Robyn Alders is collaborating with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on the Timor-Leste Village Poultry Health and Biosecurity Program.

The program is developing sustainable options for nutritious and safe diets in rural areas of Timor-Leste. Building on locally available foods and controlling disease in village chickens, the project is making the consumption of chicken meat and eggs a possibility, sustainability reducing the incidence of undernutrition in children.

A large percentage of the Timor-Leste population is dependent on rural primary production. As such, food and nutrition security is a continuing major challenge for Timor-Leste. Subsistence agriculture is carried out by up to 80 percent of the population, but marketable surpluses are not always produced and certain times of the year are marked by food scarcity in many villages. Increases in poultry production potentially will benefit some of the poorest members of the community through increased availability of high quality protein from eggs and chicken meat.

The program's main objective is to demonstrate effective poultry management strategies in a small number of “pilot” villages in Timor-Leste. Management and vaccination techniques for Newcastle Disease demonstrated to be effective in improving village poultry production will then be adapted. Useful techniques demonstrated through the pilot villages will also be communicated to other villages in Timor Leste using a targeted extension program.

The health of village poultry will also be protected by work to strengthen international border and village biosecurity to reduce the reintroduction of poultry diseases into Timor-Leste and its villages, which will promote better understanding of the importance of animal health at the village level. Improved collaboration between villages and government will also support more effective disease surveillance systems and improved nutrition and prosperity.

Vietnam: artists and innovation in industry
Lead: Dr Jane Gavan
Discipline: Sydney College of the Arts
Grant: Sydney Southeast Asia Centre Cluster Research Grant

Dr Jane Gavan is developing the capacity of artists to undertake placements within manufacturing communities in Ho Chi Minh City. She is collaborating with artists at the University of Fine Arts in Vietnam (UFAV) to build on recent research that shows how artists producing creative works within manufacturing communities can raise levels of creativity and innovation within these communities.

The Factories as Studios project aims to expand opportunities for practice for artists while addressing the strategic need to increase innovation in manufacturing. Jane is collaborating with the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture, the Saigon University of Technology, the Dong Nai College of Decorative Arts, and the Hanoi University of Culture.

"The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre Cluster Research Grant has allowed me to develop a range of connections with a variety of disciplines within Vietnam such as art and design, architecture, museum and cultural studies, and business. It’s also allowed for increased institutional partner involvement."

The partners have welcomed this fresh approach to art and design practice, flagging two tangible benefits. First, the project has incited unprecedented cooperation between a variety of institutions across Ho Chi Minh City; secondly, partners have expressed a willingness to use this pilot project as a training ground for creative leaders.

The Vietnamese institutions have drawn on University of Sydney expertise in curriculum design when reviewing their programs to take into account this form of experiential learning to advance contemporary creative practice.

The project also aligns closely with the Vietnamese Government’s focus on making use of “social resources” in a range of sectors including manufacturing, to build a competitive advantage such as improving labour productivity.

Indonesia: anti-corruption courts
Lead: Professor Simon Butt
Discipline: Law
Grant: Australian Research Council (ARC)/Future Fellowship

Professor Simon Butt is examining the operation and performance of Indonesia’s regional anti-corruption courts. Established in 2011, these courts can be found in each of Indonesia’s 34 provincial capitals. Each court has heard all of Indonesia’s corruption trials for the past five years, but we know very little about how they are faring.

Indonesia has notoriously high levels of public-sector corruption that are eroding support for democracy and decentralisation, and threatening stability in the country. Simon’s project will be the first to examine the effectiveness of the country’s regional anti-corruption courts.

If prosecutors present convincing evidence, are these courts convicting defendants; and, if so, are they sentencing them to significant prison terms? Simon’s research focuses on the operation and performance of five of these courts, located in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Papua.