Our people



Associate Professor Chris Roche

Chris is Associate Professor and the Director of the Institute for Human Security and Social Change as well as the Chair in International Development & Senior Research Partner with the Developmental Leadership Program. He joined La Trobe University in 2012. Chris has over 25 years' experience working for International NGOs as a project manager, evaluator, policy researcher and director. He is particularly interested in understanding how social change happens, who is involved, and how the effectiveness of attempts to promote change is assessed. Chris is keen to develop new linkages between academia and development agencies and is keen to hear ideas and proposals about how best to make this happen.

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Dr Linda Kelly

Linda's role at the Institute focuses on the 'practice' of thinking and working politically. As part of this, she contributes to the field methods course in the Master of International Development, works with others at La Trobe to take up opportunities for practice that reflect our approach and fields of interest and supports research and identification of effective development practice. Linda also shares responsibility with Chris Roche to support the development and direction of the Institute.

Linda has worked widely in the international development sector. She has held senior management positions at World Vision and Oxfam Australia and is an established trainer and facilitator. Her specialisations include community development and capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, gender, disability, and international NGO development.

Since 2001 she has been Director of Praxis Consultants, a privately owned company specialising in strategic management, program design, and research and evaluation for international and domestic organisations. More recently she has begun working on monitoring and evaluation with Indigenous organisations.

Programs and Partnerships Manager

Yeshe Smith

Yeshe's primary focus is to broker relationships between academics interested in working through the Institute's frameworks, and practitioners who are actively working on social change projects.

Yeshe comes to us after eleven years at AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). She has worked across governance and social change programs during her time at DFAT, including three years establishing the Pacific Leadership Program across the Pacific. Yeshe is accredited as a partnership broker with The Partnering Initiative in the UK, and has developed, managed and reviewed partnerships for AusAID and DFAT in many countries across the Pacific and South Asia. Yeshe is also accredited as a partnering skills trainer, and has delivered training to DFAT staff and to civil society organisations in Australia.

Prior to joining DFAT, Yeshe was based in Papua New Guinea and Ghana, working for Australian and Canadian non-government organisations.

Project Coordinator, Contracts and Administration

Ann Pearson

Ann manages and administers the Institute's projects and contracts providing high-level support to the team. She came to La Trobe in 2008 after many years experience in senior management roles in the packaging industry. At La Trobe, she has worked across various departments including in the Faculty of Education, Ethics, Biosafety and Integrity as well as in the Consulting and Contracts team. She is also accreditated as a Research Manager (Foundation) with Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS). Ann has been with the Institute and an integral part of the team since November 2015.

Senior Administration Coordinator

Eileen Christou

Eileen provides high-level administrative support to the Institute. She comes to us after twelve years at Department of Home Affairs. With a strong background in financial administration and stakeholder management, combined with a Bachelor of Commerce (Human Resource Management and Marketing) qualification, she has worked across various Federal Government Program’s including the Diversity and Social Cohesion, Settlement Grants and Humanitarian Settlement Services' Programs.

International Development Storyteller

Susanne Newton

Susanne is a Councillor at the City of Darebin representing the Bundoora and Reservoir area. Her passions are gender equality, politics and development. She is co-founder and co-convener of Women’s Melbourne Network and has worked for UN Women in Kenya and Uganda. She has also lived and worked in Samoa, Japan and the UK.


Senior Research Fellow

Dr Andrea Babon

Andrea is be working on our Papua New Guinea – Australia partnership with Research Fellows Stephanie Lusby and Paul Kelly.

Dr Babon is an environmental policy and governance specialist with an interest in the equity implications of markets for environmental services. She has over 15 years’ experience working in research, policy analysis and advocacy for sustainable natural resource management in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region including Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Research Fellow (Research, Planning & Management)

Dr John Cox

John comes to us from the Australian National University and is an anthropologist who studies the middle class of Papua New Guinea. He has worked across the Pacific in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Fiji, with twenty years experience as an NGO program manager, consultant, academic, and volunteer.

John completed his PhD in anthropology at the University of Melbourne in 2012 and was awarded the Australian Anthropological Society's 2012 Prize for Best PhD Thesis. John's thesis was an anthropological study of Papua New Guinea's biggest and longest-lived Ponzi scheme.

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Research Fellow

Tait Brimacombe

Tait holds a bachelor's in Development Studies and Law from the University of Adelaide. She began her PhD in 2012 with the Discipline for Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Adelaide investigating the intersection of communication for development and gender in the Pacific.

Tait has also contributed to research for AusAID (now DFAT) and the Australian Civil Military Centre (ACMC) on communication for development in fragile states and the role of communication in complex emergencies. In addition, she has been engaged in research and consultancy on a number of community development and service provision topics including employment services and youth disadvantage.

Tait's current research interests include women's leadership, coalitions and collective action in the Pacific. She has been employed as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Human Security and Social Change since 2015.

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Research Fellow (Analysis and Communications)

Paul Kelly

Paul is working on our Papua New Guinea – Australia partnership alongside Senior Research Fellow Dr Andrea Babon and Research Fellow Stephanie Lusby.

Paul is from Lancaster University in the UK, where he has been researching impact evaluation and data/knowledge management in the development sector since 2013, as part of a PhD program.

Paul holds a bachelor degree in Philosophy and two master degrees, one in Digital Innovation and the other in ICTs for Education. Over the last 20 years, his career has seen him work with universities, the British Council, the UNDP, numerous NGOs and private sector organisations on projects related to international development, education and socio-digital change in organisations.

His recent research looks at how different people view the use of data and knowledge in their work.

Research Fellow (Field-based Inquiry)

Stephanie Lusby

Stephanie is working on our Papua New Guinea – Australia partnership alongside Senior Research Fellow Dr Andrea Babon and Research Fellow Paul Kelly. The partnership focusses on knowledge, analytics and learning processes which support evidence informed programming. A PhD candidate with the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU, Stephanie brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to the Institute team including 12 years working on research and campaign projects related to development in the Asia Pacific. Most recently, Stephanie was based at IWDA as the Program Manager – Pacific. She has extensive experience working in Papua New Guinea at the East New Britain Sexual Health Improvement Project (ENB SHIP) in Kokopo, in Madang at the Burnet Institute Centre for International Health, and conducted electoral monitoring research in Kokopo District during the 2012 national elections.

Honorary Research Associates

The Institute is proud to work with our honorary research associates from the University of the South Pacific (USP).

Glen Finau

Glen is an Assistant Lecturer in Accounting at the University of the South Pacific (USP). He previously worked as an auditor with Ernst & Young (Fiji) Ltd before joining USP and is a member of CPA Australia and the Fiji Institute of Accountants. He completed his Masters of Commerce at USP, with his thesis examining the factors that lead to successful ICT implementation in the public sector in Pacific Island Countries. His research focuses on a range of areas from Accounting, Information Systems, Mobile Money and Social Media. His work has been published in Pacific Asia Journal of the Association of Information Systems, Accounting History and Journal of Pacific Studies. His current research work explores the use and potential of social media in collective activism and political participation in the South Pacific.

Jope Tarai

Jope is a Teaching Assistant in Ethics and Governance, and a Masters student of Politics, Diplomacy and International Affairs, at the University of the South Pacific (USP). His Masters research focusses on collective diplomacy in the context of The South Pacific Tuna Treaty. In addition, his research interests are: Pacific regionalism, tuna politics, social media and politics in Fiji. His work has been published in Pacific Studies and the Journal of Pacific Studies. More recently his research has focused on the use of social media and digital technologies for activism and collective action.

Romitesh Kant

Romitesh is a teaching assistant and a research Masters student with the School of Government, Development and International Affairs at the University of the South Pacific (USP). His Masters research focusses on democracy and constitutional processes in Fiji. His current research interests are politics of ethnicity and constitutional developments in Fiji, human rights, and digital media and politics in the Pacific. His work has been published in Pacific Studies and the Journal of Pacific Studies. More recently his research has focused on online activism and digital feminism.

Jason Titifanue

Jason is a Teaching Assistant at the University of the South Pacific (USP). He is currently a Masters candidate at USP undertaking research into how migration and remittances affect family livelihoods in small island communities. He is a member of a research team that examines the role that Information and Communications technologies (ICTs) play in contemporary Pacific politics and advocacy. He has co-authored papers examining the role that ICTs have played in activism, political campaigning and as a tool for empowerment. Two of these papers have been accepted for publication in Pacific Studies and the Journal of Pacific Studies. His current research interests focus on contemporary politics and how ICTs can be leveraged as tools for citizen empowerment, activism, and political engagement in the South Pacific.