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Dr Michael Askew

Project Director

Office PVC - Education and Arts

The Centre for Social Research and Regional Futures is informing the future of regional Australia

Across Australia, economic, social and environmental developments have meant people are looking for answers to what the future holds for our regional and rural areas. With changes to traditional land uses, industry, community and ecological structures, will our regions continue to grow and thrive?

CSRRF members

From left: CSRRF members Ms Jessica O'Neil, Dr Michael Askew, Dr Hedda Askland and Dr Jo Hanley at Morpeth, NSW

The University of Newcastle’s (UON) newly formed Centre for Social Research and Regional Futures (CSRRF) is working directly with government, industry and community partners to answer such questions through an innovative service model that provides not only methodologically-sound social research, but also community engagement, professional development training, and policy and planning services.

Project Director of CSRRF, Dr Michael Askew, explained that previously, government or industry would approach a researcher in one niche area who would provide them with assistance through a PhD student or Research Assistant. CSRRF takes a different approach by providing a professional, systematic and academically rigorous service to government and industry.

“Our researchers work at the ground level, conducting in-depth interviews and longitudinal studies of people living in these areas to provide evidence of how government, industry and communities can find better ways forward for everyone involved.”

Michael, a Newcastle local, describes himself as someone who is concerned with making sure our regional areas flourish. He also has the unique experience of previously being both a researcher and working in private consultancy, as well as past roles in government and manufacturing organisations.

While the Centre currently has a number of members in the areas of anthropology and sociology, it also acts as a hub for research activities across the social sciences and education – connecting a diversity of UON researchers with government and industry.

In addition, CSRRF is part of the International Centre for Balanced Land Use – a joint initiative between the NSW Government and the University through the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) – and works collaboratively with the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies in UON’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences.

“It is essential to look at the full picture of what is happening in these regional areas, particularly when it comes to land use change and structural adjustment,” Michael said.

“We can’t say: ‘we are doing well now so everything is okay.’ You have to base policy and planning on solid evidence. This requires research into land use, economic and social change to understand people’s relationship to what’s happening around them and visions of the future. What will the economy look like? How will we keep young people in these areas and sustain growth? How do we maintain a sense of place and wellbeing?”

This is a fact that government and industry seem well aware of, as CSRRF is already undertaking projects for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and is in the process of securing a number of other major projects with government and industry partners.

The Centre is currently working with the DPI on the Narrabri Project – a pilot project that will be the first site of a possible state-wide exploration of changing attitudes to land use in rural and regional areas.

“Many towns in NSW and elsewhere have been experiencing rapid land use changes as governments globally seek to ensure food and energy security,” Michael said.

“This project will explore the social, cultural and economic processes that shape community attitudes towards changing land use in the Narrabri shire, and will determine what government can do to support the ongoing viability of regional communities in the context of changing land use.”

CSRRF’s Small Holdings Project was also commissioned by the DPI to explore the situation of small holdings with dwelling entitlements in two case study areas of NSW: the Tweed and Cabonne Shires.

The project explores the implications of small holdings use and management for the agriculture sector and communities, and seeks to identify best practice approaches for policy and planning decision making.

“To better understand the current use of small holdings and how they form part of agricultural practice further evidence on the role they play in regional areas is needed to inform local communities, Councils and the State Government,” Michael said.

CSRRF researchers are working with partners from State and Federal governments to expand both the Narrabri and Small Holdings Projects and to develop new research into planning decision making and ageing in rural communities.

They also hope to work with a range of partners in the thoroughbred breeding industry to develop research into the future contribution of the industry to the Hunter Region.

Michael predicts a bright and connected future for the Centre: “CSRRF is engaged in research that will help to shape regional futures, and that is exciting for our researchers and our study partners.”

The Centre for Social Research and Regional Futures is informing the future of regional Australia

Project Director of CSRRF, Dr Michael Askew, coordinates the network's professional, systematic and academically rigorous service to government and industry.

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Career Summary

Biography

Dr Michael Askew is a socio-environmental planner with expertise in the coordination and delivery of sustainability strategies and engagement programs. Michael has a detailed knowledge of and practical experience with, issues affecting  regional Australia, including land use conflict, vulnerable communities, economic diversification and resilience, environmental degradation, social impacts and mitigation, and transition to a post-mining future. He developed an innovative approach to socio-environmental research and strategy that better maps whole-system behaviours and better accounts for people and their interactions with their environments. Michael has vast experience working with industry, businesses, government agencies, NGOs and communities in the Hunter Region to deliver strategic advice on developing planning practices that contribute to more resilient communities.

Michael has demonstrated expertise in bridging research and consulting in areas of community development and engagement, social impact, corporate social responsibility and organisational research, and program evaluation and review. He has worked in the government sector (NSW Government), universities (Newcastle and Macquarie) and in the private sector (consulting; organisational change; and, mining services manufacturing). He has experience creating bridges between these sectors.

Michael's interdisciplinary background spans the fields of environmental studies, planning and development, organisational change, and business. His PhD research explored the opportunities, barriers and policy options for workplace travel management in Sydney, and his Masters research explored discourses of sustainability in the framing of NSW urban planning policy. His research interest has increasingly moved towards the challenges facing regional Australia and he is currently involved in two research projects that engages with the question of land use and regional futures. Michael has detailed knowledge of and practical experience with issues affecting regional Australia, including climate change and related impacts, land use conflict, vulnerable communities, economic diversification and resilience, environmental degradation, social impacts and mitigation, and transition to a post-mining boom future. He has developed and actively promotes an approach to socio-environmental research and strategy that maps whole system behaviours and better accounts for people and their interactions with their environment. He has a genuine passion for regional Australia and its future socio-economic, environmental and community health.

Michael has been teaching across the university at undergraduate and postgraduate levels since 1999, having held casual teaching positions in the School of Environment and Life Sciences (UON), the Department of Environment and Geography (Macquarie University), the Newcastle Business School (UON), the School of Architecture and Built Environment (UON), and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (UON). Courses that he has developed, delivered and coordinated include: sustainability; disaster management; organisational change; sustainable urban regions; business communications; industrial relations; environmental impact assessment; management and organisational behaviour; human resource management; business and the natural environment; organisational structures and design; and, research methods.

Qualifications

  • PhD, Macquarie University
  • Master of Environmental Studies, University of Newcastle

Keywords

  • Community development and engagement
  • Land use change
  • Land use conflict
  • Regional Australia
  • Resilience
  • Social impact analysis
  • Social research
  • Socio-environmental planning
  • Sustainability
  • System theory
  • Transport planning
  • Work-place travel plans

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/2011 - 30/12/2011 Research Associate Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment - The University of Newcastle (Australia)
Australia

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
4/12/2014 -  Project Director, Centre for Social Research in Energy and Resources University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
1/01/2013 - 3/12/2014 Principal Consultant

  • Director and Principal Consultant for boutique socio-environmental consultancy, with a focus on providing comprehensive research services to government, industry and NGOs
  • Program and policy evaluation services for urban and regional planning, environmental management and community development initiatives
  • Provided high-level strategic advice to councils, government agencies, and business on stakeholder engagement and social impact assessment.

Socium
Australia
1/01/2013 - 3/12/2014 Senior Planner EMGA Mitchell McLennan
Australia
1/01/2012 - 30/12/2012 Principal Consultant Coakes Consulting
Australia
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 2
Total funding $102,807

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20152 grants / $102,807

Small Holdings Project$52,884

Funding body: NSW Department of Primary Industries

Funding body NSW Department of Primary Industries
Project Team

Askland, Hedda

Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - State
Category 2OPS
UON N

Attitudes to Changing Land Use - the Narrabri Shire$49,923

Funding body: NSW Department of Primary Industries

Funding body NSW Department of Primary Industries
Project Team Doctor Hedda Askland, Doctor David Farrugia, Doctor Meg Sherval, Doctor Julia Coffey, Doctor Steven Threadgold, Doctor Michael Askew
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1401491
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - State
Category 2OPS
UON Y
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News

FEDUA's Centre for Social Research and Regional Futures wins tender

August 24, 2016

A research team drawn from three Faculties and four Schools and led by FEDUA’s Centre for Social Research and Regional Futures (CSRRF) successfully tendered for a position on the Australian Government Department of Employment’s panel for research and evaluation services.

Dr Michael Askew

Positions

Project Director
Centre for Social Research
Office PVC - Education and Arts
Faculty of Education and Arts

Casual Academic
Centre for Social Research
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email michael.askew@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 7324

Office

Room GP1-36
Building General Purpose
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