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New researchers on track for success

New researchers on track for success

Two of the Alfred Deakin Institute’s newest research fellows are taking advantage of a unique opportunity open only to early career researchers.

Dr Sherene Idriss and Dr James Scambary have joined Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) as DECRA Track Research Fellows, a position unique to the Institute that allows early career researchers the time and resources to prepare a competitive grant application.

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme, funded by the Australian Research Council, awards funding to talented and promising researchers who have recently completed their PhD to help advance their research careers.

During their one- and two-year positions with ADI, Dr Idriss and Dr Scambary will have the opportunity to develop their DECRA applications, a chance very few early career researchers have open to them at this stage in their careers.

“It’s amazing to get a funded position that offers mentorship and institutional support to prepare a DECRA application. I don’t know if it exists anywhere else in Australia, but it’s a really great opportunity and I’m so grateful,” said Dr Idriss.

Dr Idriss is in the process of moving to Melbourne from Sydney, where she completed her PhD on the creative vocational aspirations of young Arab-Australian men from disadvantaged or low-socio-economic communities in Western Sydney.

With greater government investment in creative industries, she investigated the barriers that these young Arab-Australian men faced when trying to break into this purportedly equitable and non-hierarchical industry. However, what she found was that not only does racism and discrimination still exist, in some instances it was actually intensified by the nature of the work being sought.

“You can’t separate your body – your ‘self’ – from the kind of creative work that you do. If you want to be hired as an actor you’re judged by how you look. Young Arab-Australian male actors from the Western suburbs may be able to find work, but they’ll be hired to play stereotypes – terrorists, drug-dealers, gang members.”


Building upon her PhD, Dr Idriss is planning research into the aspirations around entrepreneurship for Muslim urban professionals, also known as ‘Muppies’.

She’s particularly interested in how these upwardly-mobile young adults are navigating and exploiting global markets and economies to become successful, as well as their uses of social media and new technologies in the process. She points to high profile women like Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founding editor-in-chief of, a website aimed at disrupting the mainstream narratives about women and Islam to provide a firsthand account of Muslim women living in today’s modern society.

Dr Scambary’s research focuses on the political economy of East Timor. He lived in the nation for four years in the mid-2000s, working in media development and radio documentary training for a range of organisations like UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme and Internews.

It was from here that Dr Scambary moved into research looking at gangs and instances of communal violence in the region, and over the next ten years was increasingly taking consultancies to undertake research in the areas of corruption, organised crime and governance.

While unravelling these webs of informal relationships is fascinating and rewarding, it can often be difficult, and sometimes dangerous. Few sources would speak on the record and Dr Scambary needed to draw on his own personal and professional networks formed over more than a decade. Facebook, surprisingly enough, proved an invaluable research tool.

“People post all sorts of incriminating information on there, and even seemingly innocuous wedding photos with the wrong person can tell you a lot.” 


“In the 2012 election, the government had increased their vote substantially. Yet in last year’s election, the government lost with a dramatic fall in votes. The question I’m asking is why they did not continue to build on their previous success.”

In explaining this phenomenon, he points to what is known as ‘clientelism,’ and its effect on public spending. Whereas during the first period leading up to 2012 mass public spending was directed at the electorate, in the next phase it was instead focused on ‘mega-projects’ where the bulk of the benefit went to foreign companies and party donors.

The Alfred Deakin Institute has recently opened applications for the next round of three-year DECRA Track Research Fellow positions. You can find more information here:


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