09 March 2011

Celebrating a decade of Handbury Fellowships

RMIT University's Helen and Geoff Handbury Fellowship Program is marking 10 years of support for innovative research projects across Western Victoria.

Dr Martin Mulligan and Dr Yaso Nadarajah (second from right) with community members.

Lisa McIntyre headed a project in Dunkeld on the European Wasp, with the support of the fellowship program.

Applications for the 2011 program open this week, with successful applicants eligible for financial support of up to $10,000.

Launched 10 years ago by RMIT, the program is named after sponsors Geoff Handbury and his late wife, Helen.

Handbury Fellowship founder and principal investigator Dr Yaso Nadarajah, a Senior Research Fellow in RMIT's Globalism Research Centre, said the program aimed to support research ideas that provided direct and tangible benefits for the sustainability of the Western Victorian region, through a strong community-research partnership.

"We are particularly interested in supporting the ideas and efforts of local people who would not typically be involved in applying for funding grants, or who might fall outside the boundaries of other grant processes," Dr Nadarajah said.

"This program is also providing valuable research materials for my own research in rethinking the idea of community engagement, and the sustainability of local global communities in the context of globalisation."

Since the program was launched, 20 fellowships have funded local projects ranging from the development of strategies for addressing skills shortages in the red meat and wool industries to evaluating the benefit of arts festivals to community wellbeing.

In 2011, the principal sponsor Geoff Handbury has continued his commitment to the program while also seeking matching funds from government, with the Commonwealth Government having previously provided funding of $250,000 to further develop the research program.

Dr Nadarajah said a longitudinal evaluation of the program since 2009 had emphasised how much the fellowship had contributed to building personal capacity and had led to a deeper appreciation for embarking on applied and innovative research.

"Key to this has been partnering community researchers with contemporary and relevant networks and researchers," she said.

"Projects such as Dunkeld European Wasp Response, Hamilton Standing Tall Mentorship, Warrnambool Volunteering Victoria, and the Balmoral Chameleon Arts further affirm the value of local-global networks and expertise, which have become part of the mutual benefits for the recipient and the broader community that have flowed on from the fellowship projects.

"The outcomes of the waste water, mushroom and biofuel fellowship projects at Coleraine and Hamilton are currently driving the development of a much larger integrated ARC linkage project application, which if successful, will have a positive impact on a whole town community.

"This integrated project is bringing together community researchers, local and international university researchers, local government and statutory organisations in working towards local sustainability questions and responses."

Applications for the 2011 Helen and Geoff Handbury Fellowship Program open on 10 March and close on 10 June.

Research projects in the new round may work towards five priority areas:

  • economy and livelihoods
  • community health
  • cultural diversity
  • food security
  • ecology

The prospectus, application forms and details of previous Fellowship projects will be available on the Handbury Fellowships website from 10 March.

Dr Nadarajah and past fellowship recipients will visit towns in the region in May to discuss ideas and share some of the helpful processes that past recipients have undertaken.

For more information about the program and application forms, phone Priyanka Patel on (03) 9925 2684.

Local schoolchildren were involved with the European Wasp project.

Fellowship recipient John Kane at his wastewater project in Coleraine.

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