Department of Social Inquiry Leadership

The Department of Social Inquiry is led by a team who understand the importance of an outstanding student experience and transformative research outcomes.

Associate Professor Raelene Wilding

Associate Professor Raelene Wilding is Head of the Department of Social Inquiry, Deputy Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Acting Discipline Convenor of Aboriginal Studies. She teaches Sociology, including supervising Honours, Masters and PhD candidates, and teaching into undergraduate subjects including 'Sociology of Relationships', 'Introduction to Sociology' and 'Social Research Methods'. Associate Professor Wilding has published numerous journal articles, book chapters and books, and is regularly invited to present her research findings to both academic and non-academic audiences. Her recent projects include an exploration of the role of virtual reality in enhancing the lives of older adults, the potential for digital tools to better communicate health information in Languages Other Than English, and an examination of how older migrants use mobile phones and social media to maintain their relationships.

Dr Nicolas Smith

Dr Nicholas Smith is Coordinator of the Higher Degree Research program in the Department of Social Inquiry, overseeing the progress of Masters and PhD candidates. He is also an anthropologist whose expertise spans the intersections of Australian nationalism, Aboriginality and environmentalism. Dr Smith’s research examines intercultural aspects of Aboriginal lifeworlds in the western Pilbara region of Western Australia and he teaches subjects that explore anthropological approaches to the environment, food and eating. Dr Smith is also an experienced Native Title anthropologist.

Dr John Taylor

Dr John Taylor is Discipline Convenor of Anthropology in the Department of Social Inquiry and Chair of the La Trobe University Pacific Research Community. He teaches two undergraduate subjects, 'Transforming Local Communities', and 'Culture, Health and Healing', and has extensive experience supervising Honours, Masters and PhD candidates. His work as an anthropologist is guided by the power of ethnography to directly engage the dilemmas and struggles of everyday life and reveal deep understandings of ourselves in relation to others. Dr Taylor’s research spans social and cultural anthropology, gender studies, religious studies, critical theory and medical anthropology. Alongside an enduring interest in tourism and cultural performance, his recent work explores medical pluralism and the social power of storytelling in the context of illness and the healthcare experience. He recently completed an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, ‘Sorcery and Human Security in Vanuatu’.

Dr Tarryn Phillips

Dr Tarryn Phillips is Discipline Convenor of Crime, Justice and Legal Studies in the Department of Social Inquiry and Co-coordinator of the Criminology degree with the La Trobe Law School. She teaches a range of undergraduate subjects including 'Victimology and Law and (Dis) Order', and supervises Honours, Masters and PhD candidates. Her research spans socio-legal studies, anthropology and critical public health. Collaborating with communities, she examines the governance of emergent diseases in Australia and the Pacific including environmental illnesses, diabetes and COVID-19. She has published numerous journal articles, book chapters and a book, and is regularly invited to share her research findings beyond the academy, with policy makers, medical and legal professionals, and communities.

Dr Brooke Wilmsen

Dr Brooke Wilmsen is Discipline Convenor of Sustainability and Development Studies and Coordinator of the Master of International Development in the Department of Social Inquiry. She is a former development practitioner, having consulted for the World Bank and Asian Development Bank before joining academia. Dr Wilmsen is an elected member of the Development Studies Association of Australia, a World Social Science Fellow of the International Social Science Council and Co-lead of the Climate Cluster at La Trobe University. She has extensive experience in designing and teaching undergraduate and postgraduate development courses. Her research spans forced displacement, resettlement, climate adaptation, refugee resettlement and agrarian change. Dr Wilmsen held a Discovery Early Career Research Award (2012-2017) and is Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, ‘Remaking Rural China’, researching agrarian change in rural China. Dr Wilmsen has published in the top refereed journals in her field including World Development, Global Environmental Change, Geoforum and Progress in Human Geography.

Dr Kiran Shinde

Dr Kiran Shinde is Discipline Convener of Planning in the Department of Social Inquiry. He leads the delivery of professional degrees in Planning (undergraduate and postgraduate) accredited by the Planning Institute of Australia. He combines his research training as an academic, and professional practice as a planner, with experience in a range of planning sectors in India and Australia. Dr Shinde teaches environmental planning and urban design subjects at La Trobe and is a leading scholar in religious, cultural and heritage tourism, and their intersections with urban planning and management. He has published three books and over 60 journal articles. In 2017, Dr Shinde received the United Nations-Habitat’s coveted Asian Townscape Award for the project ‘Adaptive Reuse of Historic Bund Garden Bridge into Arts Plaza, Pune, India’. He serves as the Academic Program Director for the IIT Kanpur-La Trobe University Research Academy that offers a joint PhD program between the two institutions.

Dr Matt Wade

Dr Matt Wade is Discipline Convenor of Sociology and Lecturer in Social Inquiry (Sociology and Crime, Justice and Legal Studies) in the Department of Social Inquiry. He coordinates the first-year subject, ‘Sociology in Action’, the second-year subject ‘Drugs, Governance, and Modern Society’, and the Honours subject ‘Key Issues in Social Theory’. Matt’s current work primarily lies within the sociology of technology, morality, and health, particularly in critically exploring expected practices around proving our ‘moral worthiness’. This includes investigating ethical, political, and cultural tensions within social cause crowdfunding, charitable causes, and philanthropic agendas, and governance dilemmas on social media platforms more broadly. Along with academic publications, Matt is a frequent contributor to popular outlets, seeking to engage wider audiences on topical issues of urgent public importance.