Per annum, for four years. Fee relief additional.

Opening date

Closing date



Who is it for?

Future PhD candidates, Australian Citizen, International Student, New Zealand Citizen, Permanent Resident

Where is it available?

Albury-Wodonga Campus, Bendigo Campus, Melbourne Campus, Mildura Campus, Shepparton Campus

How is it paid?

Fortnightly stipend


La Trobe University in conjunction with the State Government of Victoria established the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Research Scholarship following the tragic events in January 2019. This prestigious scholarship is offered in memory of Aiia to raise awareness and focus on the safety of women and girls.

A number of research projects have been developed with a focus on women’s safety and we welcome applications from researchers who have an interest in this area.

The scholarship will offer a generous stipend and tuition fee scholarship for a financially disadvantaged graduate researcher to support their PhD. Applications are open to Australian and New Zealand citizens, Australian permanent residents, and international applicants and will close on 31 March 2024.

If you are interested in this opportunity, review the list of available projects below and contact the supervisor to express your interest and obtain support before applying.

The selection of the successful applicant will be determined by La Trobe University in conjunction with the Victorian Government.

Available projects

Contact the supervisor of your preferred project listed below to express your interest in applying. If you are invited to apply, refer to the How to Apply section below for instructions.

All projects have been developed to research an aspect of women’s safety, and many projects have a focus on public transport.

Project: Rural Women’s Experiences of Sexual Violence and Harassment on Public Transport in Victoria (AIIA-24001)

Supervisors: Professor Leesa Hooker, Dr Jessica Ison

Public transport is a known hotspot for sexual violence and harassment. To date, research has focused on exploring women's and girls’ experiences in metro areas with less attention paid to rural women and other marginalised communities. This research project would build on our successful TramLab project, which focused on women's and girls’ safety on public transport in metro Melbourne. The proposed project will be a study of rural community’s experience of sexual violence and harassment in regional and rural Victoria. The project phases will include a global evidence review, qualitative exploration of lived experience and engagement with industry to raise awareness of rural women’s experiences and work to improve service delivery.

This project is cross-disciplinary across the La Trobe Rural Health School and the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Project: Empowering Women for Safe Public Transport Usage: A Holistic Approach through Social Marketing Interventions (AIIA-24002)

Supervisors: Professor Clare D'Souza, Dr Malliga Marimuthu

This research addresses the safety challenges faced by women in urban public transport. Access to affordable and reliable transport remains a global barrier for women. Existing travel safety apps lack efficacy due to low awareness and trust. The research seeks to empower women by understanding their needs, encouraging app adoption, and enhancing safety during travel. The study will apply social marketing theories to tailor interventions for diverse women initiating positive behavioural changes. The proposed solutions expected to prioritize app development and aim to bridge the awareness gap, contributing to global women's empowerment and fostering a safer, inclusive public transport environment.

Project: Voices in Motion: Empowering CALD Females in Outdoor Physical Activity and Sport Participation (AIIA-24003)

Supervisors: Professor Bircan Erbas, Dr Corina Modderman

This proposed study aims to address the underrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) females in outdoor physical activity (PA) and sports, especially in inner urban and regional areas with limited access to safe greenspace. By investigating perceived barriers, including personal safety and sociocultural factors, among CALD girls/females in inner Melbourne, Bendigo, and Shepparton, the study seeks to inform local planners and youth sporting groups. Immediate impacts may include better-connected public parks to transport routes and multilingual event information to reduce language barriers. Long-term solutions may involve expanding safe access to safe greenspace in inner urban and regional areas. Led by Professor Bircan Erbas, an expert in public health and CALD issues, and co-supervised by Dr. Corina Modderman, senior lecturer in social work with strong community ties, the project engages with CALD communities in Melbourne and regional Victoria. This proposed study underscores the importance of co-creation in amplifying the voices of those involved. It aims to improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged females, aligning with strategic goals of community transformation and research excellence. Findings will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals, national/international conferences, and local industry engagements, honouring Aiia's memory and contributing to positive change.

Project: Ensuring Women’s Safety in Digital Spaces: Leveraging AI for Enhanced Protection Against Technology-assisted Abuse and Violence (AIIA-24004)

Supervisors: Dr ASM Kayes, Professor Wenny Rahayu, Dr Ahmad Salehi Shahraki, Dr Hooman Alavizadeh

Data and evidence from eSafety Australia highlight a concerning issue: women are affected by technology-facilitated gender-based abuse and violence, such as women in situations of family violence experiencing image/text-based exploitation and trolling/harassing women in the workplace or public spaces, including public transport. Women constantly face significant safety challenges both at home and in public, with incidents of technology-assisted harassment and violence being prevalent. The anticipated goal of this project is to utilise artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technologies in analysing historical data to predict high-risk zones and times for such incidents, enabling early detection and rapid response mechanisms tailored to women’s safety needs. By leveraging AI techniques such as deep reinforcement learning, we aim to develop robust and resilient analytics and monitoring tools to prevent and address instances of abuse, harassment, and violence against women in real time. This initiative will explore AI’s role in strengthening emergency response systems and support services against tech-based incidents by reviewing existing literature and case studies. Furthermore, the project will emphasise the importance of social awareness, respecting and upholding women’s privacy and data rights, and ensuring the protection of women from digital technologies used against them. This project will benefit societies globally by developing new AI models and tools to address incidents related to women’s safety and security within public spaces.

Project: In a Station of the Metro: CALD Schoolgirls, Public Transit, and Intersectional Violence in an Australian City (AIIA-24005)

Supervisor: Dr Scarlet Luk

We often judge the quality of our public transport by how safe our more vulnerable populations feel using them. The project proposes a study on the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) schoolgirls on public transport – an understudied group of people with respect to gender-based violence – and explores the politics and pragmatics of preventing gender and race-based violences. The project will engage an ethnographic and intersectional feminist approach, as well as engaging with urban transport politics and policies. This project offers the idea of public transport as a para-educational space for an increasingly growing number of students, particularly students of colour.

Project: Exploring Safety for Women and Girls in Public Transient Spaces (AIIA-24006)

Supervisors: Dr Helena Menih, Dr Kirsty Duncanson

This research aims to investigate safety of women and girls, with a specific focus on public transient space, including parks, transport stations, and underpasses. Recent studies highlight the disproportionate vulnerability of women to harassment and violence in such spaces. This project seeks to address this critical issue by examining the factors contributing to unsafe environments and proposing evidence-based interventions. The study will employ a multi-method approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Surveys and interviews will be conducted to understand the lived experiences of women and girls using these public areas, identifying specific safety concerns and gauging the effectiveness of existing safety measures. Urban environments and amenities must be planned and supervised to instil a sense of security among citizens, shielding them from the threats of violence and criminal activities.This study is crucial for fostering a safer and more inclusive public space, ultimately contributing to the well-being and empowerment of women and girls. The findings will provide actionable insights for policymakers and stakeholders, guiding the development of policies and practices that prioritize the safety of this vulnerable demographic.

Benefits of the scholarship include:

  • a La Trobe Research Scholarship for up to four years, with a value of $35,000 per annum (pro-rata), to support your living costs
  • a Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset scholarship or La Trobe Full Fee Research scholarship (LTUFFRS) for up to four years
  • opportunities to work with La Trobe’s outstanding researchers and have access to our suite of professional development programs.

Are you eligible to apply?

To be eligible to apply for this scholarship, applicants must:

Recipient obligations

  • be required to provide a brief written report to the donors and family of Aiia Maasarwe each year on their activities and progress on their research project
  • be required to attend joint promotional events or participate in promotional activities in keeping with the spirit of the scholarship as reasonably required between the donors and the family of Aiia Maasarwe and La Trobe University
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress

How to apply

  1. review the scholarship eligibility requirements above
  2. review the entry requirement for the PhD
  3. contact the nominated supervisor of your preferred project to express your interest. Please ensure that you do this before 31 March 2024 to allow enough time to submit your application by the closing date if you are then invited to apply
  4. review and follow the steps in how to apply
  5. for domestic applicants - when prompted during the application, select the 'Graduate Research – Specialist Research Scholarship' and indicate the relevant project code as listed above (AIIA-24---)
  6. for international applicants – when prompted during the application select the ‘Project-based PhD Scholarship OR La Trobe Industry Research Scholarship’ and indicate the relevant project code as listed above (AIIA-24---)
  7. complete and submit your application by 31 March 2024

Who to contact for further information

For questions on the project, and to express your interest and request an invitation to apply, contact the supervisor as listed above.

For questions about the scholarship and application process, please contact