IAG2023: Travel Grant reports

14th August 2023
By Nicole Miller - Communications Officer, IAG


The recipient's of the IAG travel grants have shared their reports. Read about their conference experiences and how the funding made an impact.

Congratulations to this year's travel grant awardees.

Read the reports from:

  • Imogan Carr (The University of Melbourne)
  • Tara Elisabeth Jeyasingh (UNSW Canberra, ADFA)
  • Malcolm Johnson (The University of Tasmania)
  • Jessica Lemire (The University of Newcastle)
  • Mengyao Li (The University of Melbourne)
  • Teaniel Mifsud (University of Wollongong)
  • Rebecca Pearson (The University of Adelaide)
  • Sabrina Rahman Shanto (UNSW Canberra, ADFA)
  • Racheal Walshe (Curtin University)
  • Rachel Walters (Monash University)

Imogan Carr (The University of Melbourne)

The postgraduate travel grant kindly awarded by the IAG allowed me the opportunity to fly over to Perth for the Institute of Australian Geographers annual conference. Without this funding the conference would have been out of reach. The conference provided opportunities to connect with other scholars with both similar and different research interests through themed sessions and social events. As a PhD candidate nearing the end of my candidature, connecting with other scholars was an invaluable experience.

The focus of the conference on Coexistence, Collaboration and Geography stretched across theory, methodology, and ontology. It prompted expanded thinking around our coexistence, guided by more-than-human and First Nations ways of knowing which decentre our presence both in the research and the field, deeply acknowledging the interconnectedness of things. Across diverse sessions an important theme that emerged for me was care. I saw scholars thinking about how we care across species, for Country and for one another; thinking about how different spaces can act as infrastructures of care and conversely carelessness; thinking about how we might care in proximity and at a distance and thinking about how we practice research with care. It seems to me that foregrounding care in Geography is central to imagining futures in which we can coexist and collaborate to foster better environmental and social outcomes, outcomes which work towards more just and equitable worlds.

Thinking with First Nations perspectives on more-than-human geographies, I was particularly inspired by the work of Catherine Hamm whose work with children showed how we might practically decentre humans through the ways we communicate and connect with Country, taking time to observe and be in relation with place to foster a deeper sense of relationality and respect. Making sense of the interconnected ways in which we are a part of Country foregrounds care for Country as a reciprocal act. Aptly following this was a presentation by Elizabeth Murphy-May whose work considered the Country-led practice of digging for Garlaany (pippis), an embodied practice which connected her very literally with Country, she described wind on her face and sand and sea between her toes. Her descriptions showed how learning to listen to Country was a practice deeply embedded with care. She received care from Gumbaynggirr Country and community who shared their knowledge and she returned care by imbuing her research with an unhurried attentiveness.

Several scholars engaged with how different places shape practices of care. Ellen van Holstein’s work on community centres foregrounded how being together could transform the act of waiting into a generative space of care and in doing so changed the way waiting was framed. This insightful presentation engaged with ideas about agency and responsibility which can both enhance and disrupt the provision of care. And while Charishma Ratnam’s work didn’t explicitly engage with care, her multiscalar analysis showed how traces of memories (both happy and traumatic) connecting here and there shaped refugee and asylum seeker’s practices of making home. Charishma’s nuanced exploration of the complex interactions between memories, everyday objects and daily practices demonstrated how places and objects might be implicated in care work through evoking feelings of being at-home.

Finally, Willow Ross’s presentation demonstrated how research might be practiced with care. Willow presented their ethnographic research on dumpster diving which employed the innovative method of collaborative zine-making. This care-full methodology demonstrated a research approach which fostered co-creation, and the co-production of knowledge, decentring the researcher to foreground lived experiences and participant-led meaning-making.

Tara Elisabeth Jeyasingh (UNSW Canberra, ADFA)

I attended the IAG conference 2023 as a postgraduate member. This was the first time I had attended in-person, and I was fortunate to attend with a number of my colleagues, with whom I organised a session – ‘Think-Practice Geographies’. I attended the Postgraduate Day on Tuesday, and then a range of cultural geography sessions across the conference.

The Postgraduate Day was helpful, and it was especially nice to get to talk to other PhD students from around Australia who are also studying geography. I was quite surprised at how different my research was from other participants – at the same time, the ‘speed dating’ activity forced us to come up with ‘common themes’ which ran across our various research, and this task really made me think about the vast ways in which geographers engage with concepts and terms such as ‘relations’ and ‘politics’. Even though often this takes place from very different starting points, I was quite struck at the role which these words do at holding such ideas and perhaps the discipline together via different understandings and uses.

One of the most interesting spaces of the conference was of the questions following individual presentations. From the feedback I received back on my own paper, I was especially grateful to receive a question from someone explicitly playing their ‘devil’s advocate card’, which really allowed me to realise the (at that point perhaps implicit) argument and contribution I was wanting to make to geography. Listening to questions in other sessions, this often felt like the space in which big disciplinary debates were made manifest – for example, in the feedback to Michele Lobo’s paper on the final day of the conference, feedback centred on a critical response to the concept of ‘wonder’, with some members arguing for a David Attenborough-esque claim about human failure to respond to the ‘wonder’ of the natural world with any meaningful action on climate change, while others pointed to Alfred North Whitehead’s distinction between ‘awe’ as that which fades, and ‘wonder’ as that which remains. The stakes of that argument seem especially timely.

The structure of the conference felt a little rushed and it would have been beneficial to have more time built into these to allow for questions relating to the overall theme of the session. From my own session, a question about the career pathways from creatively-engaged geographic research could have opened up an interesting debate between participants and audience members had the time-frame allowed for this.

Although quite jet-lagged due to arriving from England, I really value the conversations I had during the conference: being supported by colleagues through the pressures of organising a session; the chance to explore a new city with those I share an office with; becoming attuned to familiar faces from the Postgraduate day; and an unexpected burst of inspiration and confidence in my own research from an established academic interested, like me, in the work of Edouard Glissant and how his ideas are engaged in geography.

Malcolm Johnson (The University of Tasmania)

“Congratulations,” the email exclaims. With grant details amounting to just enough to offset travel costs and make the long journey to Perth that much more viable. Unfamiliar familiarity of an in-person conference after making peace with presenting on Teams or Zoom at midnight time and again. Suitcases, forgotten toothpaste, nametags, carbon offsets, dietary restrictions.

Conferences are full of expectations. Sitting in session after session listening, note taking, pondering, questioning, and half-listening while daydreaming of attending two sessions at the same time, only to snap back to attention when hearing a particularly thoughtful statement that immediately ends up in notes with a yet-to-be-determined future. Drinking too little water and too much coffee. Sleeping simultaneously too little and too much. Getting lost in conversations after getting lost between sessions. And skipping out on the occasional plenary to ‘recharge’, which really just means wanting to take a walk on the beach or have a cheeky happy hour pint.

Expectations to meet people. Like a lot of people. A room full of postgrads, familiar names from publications, unique encounters at morning tea. Some offered questions after presentations, others several words in those liminal spaces. Yet a few break expectancies to find a deep connecting solidarity for the mundane eccentrics of conferences. Like getting trapped outside during the welcome function or the knowing glance at why there’s only fruit on the plate or having life-affirming conversations proceeding comments about how unnecessarily far the main lecture hall is from everything else.

The biggest expectation, though, is being nervous all hours of the day and night for one’s presentation, despite having practiced ad nauseam in both waking and dreaming. It isn’t stress, per se, just that knowing feeling that comes with being slotted for the afternoon sessions on the last day. Then, after explaining what the presentation is about for the Nth time, being struck with seemingly-divine inspiration about the entire PhD. Leading to an inspired performance that makes all the nervousness really feel worth it.

And amongst all the structured chaos of the conference, plastic blocks turn profound, now familiar names become contacts, dancing gets tracked by smart watches, and field trips haunt the last words.

Conferences are like that… IAG23 was like that. Deeply intellectual constructions where the unrecognisable turns intimate, etched into notebooks and memories that phase in and out of existence. Or, perhaps, it was something much simpler than that. A brief moment where the word “geographer” sat comfortably and proudly in the air.

Sitting on the plane post-conference sorting through those very notes and memories, you feel accomplished and fulfilled, before adding “IAG24 in Adelaide” to the calendar.

Jessica Lemire (The University of Newcastle)

My name is Jessica and I am a PhD student at the University of Newcastle in Human Geography. My research is grounded by my place in Yanama Budyari Gumada, an Indigenous-led, more-than-human research collaboration at Darug Country. My participation within this collaboration involves the documentation and enactment of dance. I came to know and understand dance through the relationalities of Darug Country. Here, dance is more-than-human, guided and enacted through the relationalities of place. Through the lens of more-than-human dance, I have come into relationship with Sensual Dance Meditation, a practice offered by African American sexuality doula, author, facilitator, and sensualist, Ev’Yan Whitney. Sensual Dance Meditation holds space for participants, who are predominantly Black women and non-binary folks, to move their body to music in ways that feel good for them. While open to people outside of this demographic, it is ontologically Black, healing work that foregrounds the body, community, and our interconnections with and as a part of a more-than-human world. Sensual Dance Meditation is the practice that grounds my PhD research and what I offered at the IAG. My presentation drew attention to more-than-human dance as a Black healing praxis and invited the audience to stand up and shimmy in an exercise that came from Ev’Yan’s work.

Dance is something that evokes a wide array of emotions and responses from people. And I am hyper aware of the visibility that comes with dance, so inviting people to dance, especially in a conference is something that I try to do with gentleness and the utmost care. Like Ev’Yan, I try to open a space for people to move in ways that feel good for them. What was particularly exciting for me was the experiences that the audience generously shared with me throughout the rest of the conference, that dance helped to move through stress, tension and some of the big feelings that emerged throughout the conference. Shimmying as Ev’Yan puts it, helps to “shake that shit out”, to come back to your body. Similarly, in moments of unease, tiredness or headiness I would find a quiet place and shimmy. This practice helped me better show up and attend to my relationships and open space for me to get out of my own head with a renewed sense of body awareness.

I was excited to witness and be a part of the ways that the conference itself danced. I found dance as I weaved between session rooms, in the to-and-fro at the food station, in conversations and in silence. I found dance in the performance of sharing knowledge and was excited to see the ways that research itself can and does dance. What I was most inspired by was the ethic embedded in these exchanges; the generative, creative and caring ways that people attend to their work and to each other. This invited me to deeper think about research as an act of care and consider the ethic that research as dance embeds. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the IAG and am delighted to continue to apply the knowledge that I gained from it.

Mengyao Li (The University of Melbourne)

The theme of the IAG 2023 is Coexistence, Collaboration and Geography, which clearly illuminates the discipline’s inclusiveness and interdisciplinarity. As a PhD candidate researching on the topic of Collaborative Water Governance, the IAG conference is an amazing and timely opportunity for me to communicate with other geographers and polish my research directions.

On July 2, I participated in the Urban Geographies Study Group and met with many urban geographers. Through a Zine activity, the group had an in-depth discussion on the academic impact on the context of urban crises. From July 4 to July 6, the intensive conference offered all participants with the chances to learn from extensive research outcomes and share ideas with geographers from other disciplines. For me, I joined several presentations from the “Rethinking collaboration in more-than-human world” session, “Examining nature-based solutions: Connecting people and nature” session, and “New directions in Political Geography” session.

As one of the presenters at the “China Water Network – new environmental geographies of China” session, I not only supported the organisation of this network, but also shared my most updated research findings from my fieldwork. The audience from both on-site and online conference rooms gave me very insightful suggestions, which are very helpful for my next-step research.

Reflections on the conference

As for the organisation of the conference, thanks to all the staff and volunteers, the IAG conference was a big success. I spent a very fruitful week and met with many old and new friends.

After the formal conference session, I also joined the post-conference fieldtrip to Nowanup, which I felt very meaningful and important for geography study. I am very grateful that Professor Alison Browne from the University of Manchester organized this amazing trip.

Nowanup was once a degenerated sheep farm surrounded by red ochre in the ancient country. Growing up in a completely different cultural background, I was curious about this completely unknown place I first set foot on. When I met with Uncle Eugene Eades, the Noongar elder who has been at the heart of Nowanup since 2006, I somehow found a connection with this land through his firm and affable eyes. It was Eugene's generosity, kindness and wisdom that ensured that everyone who visited here was listened to and found some degree of belonging.

Accompanied by the Noongar people and Friends of Nowanup, we spent three days on this stunningly beautiful land. Meeting with new friends from different backgrounds, sitting around the campfire and singing the traditional Noongar songs together, sharing reflections under the stars, roaming along the bush trails…everything that happened in this miracle community is an expression of Healing Country, Healing People. As a researcher and practitioner in water protection, I was greatly touched and inspired by the Elders’ persistence in integrating Noongar’s ecological and cultural wisdom on the sustainable development of this land, and maintaining the harmony between human and nature.

On the way back to the city area, I felt enriched and humbled. This immersive experience allowed me to feel the spirit of the land and people here, and embrace the boodja (land) with an open heart. I was lucky to have this opportunity to bring the story of Nowanup to other indigenous groups I work with, and create potential communication and collaboration among them to learn from each other and respect each other’s values and efforts.

Teaniel Mifsud (University of Wollongong)

My initial thoughts when reflecting on the IAG is that it was a great experience. As this was my first IAG and in-person conference I found everyone was welcoming and eager to not only hear about my research but also discuss interesting research areas. My nerves about presenting were quickly put at ease by this environment.

Attending the Postgrad Day before the official conference was a great experience. The idea of having photos representing individual students' research was a good idea as they acted as good icebreakers when meeting new people and allowed people to talk about their research in an interesting way. The couple of speakers throughout the day were very good. Not only did they offer a range of different advice both within the academy and outside of it. I particularly enjoyed the afternoon session which was a panel discussion from 3 graduates from both Curtin University and UWA. Each graduate offered their own experiences about finishing their PhD and transitioning into the workforce. One of the best parts of the postgrad day was the multiple opportunities to network with other postgrad students. In both formal and informal events throughout the day, there was plenty of time to talk about our own experiences and approaches to research, writing and analysis.

The conference days itself was very good. I particularly enjoyed the plenary lecture given by Professor Jo McDonald and the Fay Gale Memorial Lecture by Emma Ligtermoet. Both these lectures were very insightful and reflected the themes of the overall conference. The individual sessions throughout the conference were very enjoyable and varied, which illustrated the scope and depth of geography as a discipline. However, I felt that there were a lot of sessions I missed due to the scheduling and sessions clashing with one another. If the conference had been longer, I may have had a chance to see more sessions that were relevant to my research areas.

Presenting on the final day of the conference was both good and bad. While I was left to dwell on the presentation itself, I was also able to meet and connect with a lot of other researchers which meant there was a larger audience than I was expecting. The session was unique in its format and enjoyed this approach immensely. Not only did it encourage greater audience participation and discussion among presenters rather than just 1-2 questions after each presentation. This format and wider panel discussion have expanded my thinking towards not only the paper I presented but also my wider PhD research. Much of which I will take away and incorporate into future writing.

Overall, the conference was interesting in its focus and the sessions were thought-provoking. The location of the conference also offered me the opportunity to travel to Perth for the first time and enjoy a part of Australia I had not travelled to before. Plus, it also allowed me to see Quokkas on Rottenest Island.

Rebecca Pearson (The University of Adelaide)

The 2023 IAG Conference in Perth themed ‘Coexistence, Collaboration and Geography’ was both an insightful, highly engaging and thought-provoking conference. This was the first conference I have had the pleasure of attending in-person, having completed majority of my PhD during pandemic times, and it was absolutely fantastic to be able to meet with fellow geographers from across Australia and the globe in a ‘face-to-face’ format.

Commencing the conference with the postgraduate workshop day was an incredible way to meet and build connections with postgrad peers, to hear about and draw parallels between the diverse research fields being explored, and to share ideas and experiences. I particularly enjoyed seeing the photographic display, which visualised the diversity of postgraduate research. I also enjoyed the interactive nature of the day’s activities, which embraced the ‘collaborative’ dimension of the conference’s theme. The day left me feeling energised and enthused for the conference ahead.

The conference as a whole was a great opportunity to hear the wide-ranging and fascinating work being undertaken across geographic studies. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to present and share a segment of my PhD research on regenerative development in Australian wine tourism regions on the first official conference day and it was fantastic to be able to attend an entire day filled with tourism geography sessions!

Throughout the remainder of the conference I enjoyed hearing the immensely varied presentations, which enabled me to broaden my understanding on a range of issues, particularly in the field of rural studies. I was really struck by the expansive breadth of topics, yet within each session, it was possible to find something that connects us all, whether that be empirical, methodological or conceptual – or simply a passion for that which we call geography!

Post-conference I was lucky to attend the’ Refine and Wine’ field trip hosted by the Economic Geography Study Group. This was an engaging and memorable way to round out the IAG conference experience. I enjoyed hearing, seeing and conversing about the interesting histories of Western Australia’s socio-economic evolution as we toured the Western Trade Coast. I found the sheer scale of interconnectivity and innovation emerging from this region incredible, as the region transitions towards industrial scale decarbonisation and a renewable energy future. The second part of the day was also particularly enjoyable as we heard about and experienced WA’s agriculture and the emergence of wineries and experiential agritourism. Having previously focussed on renewable energy transitions throughout my Honours research, and now researching wine tourism and multifunctional rural landscapes throughout my PhD, this immersive fieldtrip was the perfect combination of events, and enabled me to gain a wider understanding of my research interests in the context of WA.

I wish to send my heartfelt thanks to the IAG council and conference committee for making the IAG conference possible and for supporting me to attend in Perth this year. I am already looking forward to attending the next IAG conference in Adelaide!

Sabrina Rahman Shanto (UNSW Canberra, ADFA)

The IAG conference in 2023 is the first international conference I have attended so far. I had been selected and presented in the session named ‘Mobile bodies in Urban Spaces', as my paper was on ‘The affective intensities of (dis)comfort on public transport in Dhaka, Bangladesh'. This was a very interactive session. I have also had the opportunity to show my fieldwork outcomes to my audience. This was the first time I got the chance to explain my research on a big platform. The conference was really organised, and the sessions perfectly reflected the themes of Coexistence, Collaboration, and Geography. It was a very unique experience for me as I presented in front of some of the scholars in my field (Cultural Geography). I have received some productive feedback and a lot of appreciation from the audience. This motivates me to analyse in detail some of the themes in my project and differentiate some concepts from each other (like comfort and discomfort). The conference paper I have presented will be one of the chapters of my final thesis, which is a huge contribution of this conference to my research.

The welcome session activities and discussion were very helpful. I got to know a lot of people and their interesting research at different universities. The conference helped me socialise with a lot of people, which is one of my key goals when attending any conference. Finding similarities is a huge task. The activity the welcome session organised to find a common word among the 6–7 research projects was very interesting. This big task has been done as a game. There are some more aspects to reflect on from the conference. First, the conference helped me attend some of the sessions that were helpful in the field of cultural geography. Secondly, the IAG team was supportive and helpful if I had any questions. Thirdly, the cultural diversity was admirable, and people were respectful to each other. Lastly, the food diversity was appreciable, as they maintained a lot of variety based on people's diets. The only limitation I felt was that a couple of sessions were running at the same time, which restricted my ability to join some sessions I felt might be interesting. Presenting for one of the sessions was one of the milestones of my PhD's second-year Annual Progress Review (APR). I did quite a lot of preparation to answer any question at the conference while I was preparing to present my paper. This helped me get a clear visual idea of the topic on which I am working. Some things I started to see through the lenses of other people. This gives me confidence to answer any kind of query regarding the topic.

Racheal Walshe (Curtin University)

Attending the IAG conference as a postgraduate student at Curtin University in Perth was an enriching and invigorating experience that left a lasting impact on both my academic and personal growth. One of the most striking aspects of the conference was the palpable sense of collegiality and camaraderie among the attendees. Everyone was as excited as they were supportive to be attending a conference not gripped by COVID-19. As I navigated through the diverse array of presentations, I found myself in the company of like-minded peers, especially the other postgraduates, who shared a passion for pushing the boundaries in their research.

The opportunity to connect with fellow scholars, exchange ideas, and engage in thoughtful discussions created a nurturing environment that fostered intellectual growth and mutual support. It was truly heartening to witness the spirit of collaboration that permeated the conference, transcending institutional boundaries and uniting scholars from various academic and personal backgrounds. A shout out to the caterers for the excellent selection of coeliac friendly food – it’s been too long since I had a samosa and the IAG 2023 supplied!

Amidst the numerous academic sessions, what also stood out were the art-based practices thoughtfully woven throughout the conference. The Cultural Geography group showcased their creativity through the beautiful quilting workshop. These art pieces served as visual and physical reminders of the diverse cultural landscapes and unceded lands we explore as geographers, and they added an element of aesthetic and mental calming to what could otherwise be seen as an intense environment.

The connections I made and the insights I gained have motivated me to approach my research with renewed passion and a more interdisciplinary perspective. In conclusion, attending the IAG conference at Curtin University was an inspiring journey filled with intellectual stimulation, collegiality, and artistic exploration. The experience of connecting with like-minded peers and witnessing the convergence of academia and art has left an indelible mark on my academic journey, and I look forward to embracing the spirit of camaraderie and creativity in my future endeavours as a geographer

Rachel Walters (Monash University)

I was extremely grateful to be awarded a IAG Postgraduate Travel Grant to assist with attending the annual IAG conference in Perth, July 2023.

This was my first opportunity to attend the IAG annual conference, in fact this was my first conference presenting my research. My accepted abstract focused on the work-up for my first study as part of my thesis, which involved news framing research. The aim of which is to better understand the media framing around the discourse of just energy and just transitions language used in the Australian context, this study involves a qualitative text analysis of Australian newspaper articles using a news framing method. I was grateful to be able to gain some insights and positive feedback following my presentation. I was also able to illicit conversations and form some connections from attendees and other experts in my research area who have reached out to me since.

The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet and hear from expert presenters, and a diverse group of doctoral researchers. To gain practical skills, expand and strengthen my knowledge, build networking capabilities, and impactful communication skills. Additionally, to learn about the variety of methodological approaches being undertaken in the field. Insights learned from research study groups, collaborations, interactions with experts and other likeminded early career researchers being undertaken within a collaborative, interactive environment was an invaluable experience. Additionally, the wonderful pre and post conference activities, as well as during the conference such as the collaborative quilting workshop and discussion opportunity.

Due to the generous funding, I was able to extend my stay to participate not only for the duration of the conference, but also for the dedicated postgraduate day and opening ceremony on 4th July. As well as attend the post-conference fieldtrip day on Saturday 8th July, both of which were invaluable experiences. The postgraduate day was a wonderful introduction to the conference and opportunity to hear from and meet Professor Elaine Stratford, IAG Council members, post PhD panel members and other HDR attendees. I felt very privileged to attend the post-conference Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) IAG cultural fieldtrip led by a Whadjuk Noongar Elder. To have the opportunity to hear Uncle Herbert Bropho, whose knowledge and connection in living story sharing as a Whadjuk Noongar Traditional Owner, was truly an unforgettable experience.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IAG for the IAG Postgraduate Travel Grant to support my attendance at the IAG Conference and experiences in Perth. Which, without this financial support would not have been possible.

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