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India Research Centre

IRC PhD Project on South Asian Migration

IRC and Macquarie University's Commitment to Community Outreach: a funded PhD on 'A demographic and social profile of South Asian communities in Sydney since the 1960s.'

The IRC is pioneering a unique model of collaboration between the university, the community and supervision across very different faculties.

In 2010 the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research Professor Piper supported IRC's request to allocate a Macquarie University Research Excellence PhD scholarship for exploring the changing demographic as well as social character of the South Asian community in Sydney since the 1960s. The study is a response to a request by a community sector organisation SEVA (Social Entrepreneurial Ventures of Australian South Asians) for research that will help identify long term social trends and pressing social issues in areas such as health, education and employment, supplementing the demographic data with a detailed case study in an area of the candidate's choice.

IRC put together a team of senior scholars to supervise this unusual project which combines Demography, Anthropology and Social Policy, with the expertise of , Associate Professor Kalpana Ram (Anthropology), Dr. Fei Guo (Demography), and, in the final phases of the project, Dr. Amanda Wise (Centre for Research on Social Inclusion).

The scholarship was advertised widely in South Asian community newspapers and attracted much attention and support.

The IRC is pleased to announce that it has found a well qualified candidate in Ms. Nila Sharma to undertake this project which will form the basis of her doctoral PhD. Ms. Sharma is of South Asian background (from Nepal). She has already completed a masters thesis that examined how migration has altered Nepali women's gender status and work load in Sydney. She has embarked on the first phase of her thesis under Dr. Fei Guo from Demography, and is upgrading her skills in demographic methods in order to analyse census and other data for South Asian migration to Sydney.


Nila Sharma IRC PHD Candidate

Nila Sharma 1

Nila's interest in gender and migration emerged during her undergraduate training in agricultural economics at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Nepal.  In 2008 she relocated to Thailand to complete a Masters in Gender and Development at the Asian Institute of Technology before joining the IRC in 2011. Her masters thesis, a demographic profile of the Nepalese community in Sydney, describes  the new kinds of economic dependencies created by migration for Nepal women, and the effects of this on their integration into Australian society.  Upon relocating to Australia permanently, Nila decided to continue her research, widening the focus to include South Asian communities in Sydney since the 1960s.

The project, which is being carried out under the supervision of Associate Professor Kalpana Ram from the Faculty of Arts and Dr Fei Guo from the Faculty of Economics and Business, reflects the interdisciplinary opportunities for researchers working through the Centre.  This research design will also allow Nila to use her training in both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Nila has suggested that her own experiences as a South Asian migrant have informed her research question. She hopes that the results of the study will assist the community and policy makers to meet the challenges of migration so as to reap the benefits of such a move. When asked how her own experiences of migration have already shaped the project, Nila replied  "Being myself a South Asian I feel like I am part of the community and there is a saying that people learn in two ways, either by studying or by experiencing; in my research I am doing both - it's plus point for my research!"