La Trobe’s DECRA funding success

The Australian Research Council has awarded four La Trobe University researchers a combined $1.6 million in funding in the 2021 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

The projects address equitable access to reproductive health care, sexual exploitation and abuse in humanitarian operations, the historic and contemporary importance of Himalayan ice, and the impacts of plant nutrients on their biological defences.

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds said the announcement reflects the dedication of La Trobe researchers to tackling challenges locally and globally.

“These prestigious and highly sought-after grants will ensure that these researchers can focus on projects that will translate to real-world impact in their fields,” Professor Dodds said.

“I’m particularly pleased to see three women in the humanities and social sciences – Dr Millar, Dr Westendorf and Dr Gamble – receive such support. I also look forward to welcoming Dr Khan when he joins our School of Life Sciences next year.”

Discovery Early Career Research Awards

Dr Erica Millar (Social Inquiry, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) - $431,891

Dr Millar aims to understand how, despite progressive law reform, access to abortion in Australia remains uneven and discriminates against the most marginal women. Her project will look into the nature and extent of institutional abortion stigma in law, government, medical training and health care. Dr Millar expects to identify the institutional-level change required for more equitable access to reproductive health care.

Dr Jasmine-Kim Westendorf (Politics, Media and Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) - $437,994

Dr Westendorf will conduct the first systematic study of the nature, scale and impacts of sexual exploitation and abuse by civilian interveners in humanitarian operations. Her project will generate data on the nature and effects of such abuses and evaluate current policy responses. Dr Westendorf’s project will contribute to more effective international engagement in humanitarian and conflict contexts, leading to better protection for vulnerable communities and will help address the legitimacy crisis facing humanitarian action and peacekeeping.

Dr Ruth Gamble (Archeology and History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) - $369,913

Dr Gamble will focus on the historic and contemporary importance of Himalayan ice. This ice has underpinned Asia’s climate and water supply for millennia and is now disappearing. By looking at the ice’s history, Dr Gamble aims to create a forecast of how the melting ice will affect the billions of people who depend on it.

Dr Ghazanfar Khan (La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food, School of Life Sciences, commencing 2021) - $453,675

Dr Khan aims to transform our understanding of the relationship between nutrient availability and plant defence. His ambition is to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying this process, aiming to provide new approaches to breeding crop plants with improved nitrogen use efficiency and disease resistance. The project will benefit agriculture by reducing the use of costly fertilisers and pesticides and mitigate the huge environmental damage they cause.

Media Contact: Dragana Mrkaja – – 0447 508 171