GEOGRAPHY CAREERS: DR MICHELE LOBO
23rd October 2023
By Nicole Miller - Communications Officer, IAG
Dr Michele Lobo is an honorary Deakin University researcher and Councillor of the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) Councillor. She is also the Chair of the IAG Equity Reference Group.
She spoke to us about her geography career, the impact of mentors, and shared funding tips for early career researchers.
Tell us your IAG job title and what you do in this role.
As an IAG Councillor and Chair of the IAG Equity Reference Group I use this leadership role to do lots of things.
I promote the importance of geography to contribute to debates and action on contemporary global and planetary challenges. Some of these issues include climate change, extinction, racialised inequalities, equity, belonging and human and more-than-human justice.
I work collegially with the IAG President and leadership team to strengthen knowledge exchange within and between universities as well as international geography societies, professional institutions, schools, government organisations and NGOs.
I privilege Indigenous, Black, diasporic, and southern ways of thinking, learning, and doing in creating the IAG as an inclusive and diverse space. I also engage in daring and fearless practices of speaking and writing (including in collectives) to advance an agenda that decolonises the white western academy/white institutions in ways that might make these spaces more inclusive and just.
There are many other aspects of my role – reviewing funding applications, managing projects and collaborating at meetings – the above are the big ‘meaty’ pieces of my work. I’m in my second term now, and there is never a dull moment.
Credit: Dr Michele Lobo encourages geographers to be fearless, daring and take up public speaking opportunities wherever possible. Credit: Canva.
Where do you work and what is your job title?
I’m an Honorary Fellow in the School of School of Humanities and Social Sciences within the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University, Melbourne.
What’s your speciality within the field of geography?
Social and cultural geography – racialised inequalities, affective encounters, climate change science, biodiversity loss, decolonial oceanic knowledges and more-than-human belongings
What geography research are you working on right now?
Projects that span climate change science, racialised inequalities and decolonial oceanic knowledges.
Why and how did you get into your field of expertise?
There are many reasons. Experiences of everyday and institutional racism/exclusion and the struggle to belong shared by disadvantaged, displaced and dispossessed Indigenous peoples and ethnic/ethno-religious minority migrants of colour (including Muslims, international students, refugees and asylum seekers) in Australian cities/suburbia.
Another reason was my own experiences of everyday and institutional racism/exclusion and the struggle to belong as a first generation ethnic-minority migrant woman of colour in Australian academia/cities/suburbia.
I’ve been inspired by nourishing atmospheres of Sea Country, encounters with Larrakia rangers, Tiwi Islanders who ‘live rough’ and asylum seekers who arrived by boat in Garramilla/Darwin.
Finally, exceptional support from my doctoral supervisors, ongoing support from exceptional geography mentors/leaders as well as Indigenous and ethnic minority residents/groups at research sites in Australia, India, France and USA.
Tell us about one of your most memorable field trips or research experiences and why this stands out.
Fieldwork on Indigenous-ethnic minority encounters and shared belonging in Darwin as an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Fellow. It stands out because I learnt about the politics and ethics of fearlessness, humility, generosity and responsibility in human and more-than-human worlds. I tried my best to give back to the most disadvantaged, displaced and dispossessed peoples who struggle with racialised inequalities.
I was touched by the sentience of Sea Country and became curious about diverse cosmologies of ocean space – Indigenous/Adivasi, southern (including Islamic, Dalit), feminist, Black and diasporic cosmologies.
Caption: Michele encourages geographers to get involved in environmental campaigns. She attended a rally against seismic blasting in the Otway Basin in Victoria. Credit: Dr Michele Lobo
What are you most proud of in your geography career and why?
The capacity to engage in humble co-learning with geographers, interdisciplinary scholars, postgraduate and undergraduate students in universities and beyond.
The opportunity to work with the most disadvantaged, displaced and dispossessed peoples in Darwin, Melbourne, Detroit, Paris and beyond e.g. Indigenous peoples and ethnic/ethno-religious minority migrants of colour (including Muslims, international students, refugees and asylum seekers).
To learn how to feel/spread the love from Country/Sea Country and work collectively to give back/support Indigenous peoples and ethno-religious minority migrants, if and when they need me.
What would you say to someone considering studying anything within the field of geography?
The openness of Geography gives you hope and teaches you how to collectively strive for socio-ecological change (without burnout!) so that everyday places, Country and the planet continue to thrive.
Caption: Michele believes a career in geography “teaches you how to collectively strive for socio-ecological change”. Credit: Canva.
Are you a member of an IAG Study Group? Members can join up to three groups.
Yes, the Cultural Geography Study Group, Urban Geography Study Group, Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledge and Rights Study Group.
Why are IAG Study Groups important?
The Study Group members nourish cutting-edge geographical thought and action to drive change that matters. They nurture collegiality, generosity, leadership and shared responsibility.
There are mentoring opportunities for postgraduate students, early career researchers and those in precarious positions within universities.
There are leadership role opportunities – to coordinate research events during the year, create stimulating conference sessions and mentoring workshops. There are also opportunities for co-organising/co-learning with field trips during the year.
Journal articles published by Study Groups bring together postgraduate students, early career researchers, mid-career researchers and leaders in the discipline. There are also collaborative activities and co-learning opportunities with Indigenous peoples, minority groups/diverse groups NGOs, teachers, policy makers, private institutions, think-tanks in Australia and overseas.
Caption: Mentors can help their mentees by listening, encouraging and inspiring. Credit: Canva.
Have you had any formal or informal mentors throughout your career?
Yes, formal mentors at Deakin University and informal IAG mentors/geography mentors from overseas (members of the American and British Geography Associations). At Deakin University I’ve served as a postgraduate mentor (Postgraduate Convenor, 3 years). I’ve also engaged in mentoring early career researchers as a Senior Research Fellow.
Mentors listen, inspire confidence, encourage and build the capacity to struggle on with generosity and responsibility rather than despair, selfishness, cruelty and brutality in academia.
Mentors are important, particularly in white institutional space where many (who refuse the accumulation of whiteness) are yet to learn how to move and advance their career in ethical ways.
Do you have any tips for early career researchers about how to get research funding?
Follow your passion for research, have fun, write every day, publish widely, work collegially with others, present your work at academic/other forums, participate in grant writing workshops, apply for as many grants as possible and never give up!
Tips out there which I’ve heard are: ‘be strategic’, ‘be focused’, ‘build your own research strength’, but I don’t really like these tips and have never followed them.
Caption: Michele suggests that geographers write daily and focus on research they are passionate about. Credit: Canva
Do you have any tips for early career researchers about how to get published?
Do research that you are passionate about, write every day, participate in writing workshops/retreats, take joy and pride in small achievements and always aim super-high.
Why should people join the IAG?
I’ve been an IAG member since I was a PhD student. It’s an institution that supports geographers to strive for excellence individually and collectively.
It’s a collegial and fun space. It’s a place to meet others and learn from Country. Being a member is an opportunity to engage in scholar-activism on global/planetary issues and to influence policy making on crucial issues e.g. Indigenous sovereignty, climate change politics, academic freedom, academic precarity, energy politics, housing, geography school curriculum and more!
Geographers work with generosity, enthusiasm and respect to make place, Country and the planet a thriving place for all – join us!
What have you personally got out of being an IAG member?
Joy, confidence, enthusiasm, collegiality, love, leadership skills, learning how to strive for excellence with generosity and responsibility. Learning the importance of giving even when I’m ‘running on empty’. The opportunity to meet a diversity of scholars (including postgraduate students) who do cutting-edge research, learn, feel and love Country and all the gifts she offers.
Caption: Michele says the IAG is an opportunity to meet a diverse group of scholars who do cutting-edge research that centre the energies of place in addressing contemporary political, economic, social and environmental challenges. Image credit: Canva.
DR MICHELE LOBO’S RESEARCH
Read more about Dr Michele Lobo’s research on her website.
Find out more about the diverse career opportunities within the field of geography.
Find out which Australian universities offer geography.
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