Dr Michaela Spencer

Ph.D, M.A., B.Sc/B.A

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Michaela is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University. Her background is in environmental science, sociology, geography and Science and Technology Studies (STS), with her doctoral studies focusing on recent practices of environmental management and governance in Tasmania.

Her current research involves working from the ‘GroundUP’ with Indigenous knowledge authorities, and differing traditions of knowledge and governance. This involves collaborative research for policy development, and engaging with government, service providers, university staff and Indigenous people in remote communities. So far this research has been focused around issues such as disaster resilience, emergency management, governance and leadership, remote engagement and coordination, volunteering and women’s health and wellbeing. Michaela also facilitates the Indigenous Community-based Researcher Micro-credential program/s. 

This work drives her current interest in how social science may recognise itself as an active participant in contemporary governance practices, and as working at the interface of differing means for knowing and governing Australian people-places.  

Research Interests

  • Contemporary practices of knowledge and governance
  • Contemporary environmental politics
  • Indigenous research development
  • Collaborative services design
  • Ethnography
  • STS

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Research Projects

Current Projects

Remote Engagement Coordination - Indigenous Evaluation Research (Project Manager and Researcher, 2016-2017): Collaborative development of evaluation enabling people in remote Aboriginal communities to provide feed back on government engagement practices. 

Indigenous Researcher Initiative (Lead Investigator, 2016): Supporting the recognition of Indigenous experts in the contemporary NT knowledge services economy through the development of profiles, e-portfolios and a web presence for Indigenous researchers.

Landscapes of Democracy (Co-Lead Investigator, 2016): Ethnographic research in Germany and Arnhem Land focused on the practice of parliamentary politics, and conjunctions between Yolŋu and Western political traditions. 

‘Gurrukurrkurru Manapanmirr’ (Researcher): This project has been developed by a group of Yolŋu women in Milingimbi who are interested in supporting the strength and well-being of young Yolŋu women by working through connections of family groups and relations. 

Mattering Press (Editor): Mattering Press is a scholar led Open Access publishing initiative dedicated to the publication of empirical studies in STS and related disciplines, www.matteringpress.org

Recent Projects

Helping & caring, not only our family: Northern Territory Indigenous perspectives on volunteering (2015-2016): Research around the definition and practice of volunteering in three Aboriginal communities. Recognising the role that volunteering plays in constituting community and how it might be adequately supported through future collaborations with NGO’S, www.cdu.edu.au/centres/groundup

Disaster Resilience and Emergency Management in Indigenous Communities in Darwin and Palmerston (Researcher, 2015-2016): Research in Town Communities and in the Long Grass into ways in which people manage during emergencies, and how these practices may be supported by government agencies and non-government organisations in the future, http://www.cdu.edu.au/northern-institute/research-reports

Indigenous Governance and Leadership Project (Researcher, 2013-2015): Collaborative work supporting governance and leadership in five Indigenous communities, focusing on locally identified problems-of-the-moment as loci for development and learning, in particular within an through differing governance traditions, https://www.cdu.edu.au/centres/groundup/igld/

Governance Research Lunchtime Discussions (Coordinator, 2014-2015): Facilitating cross- and Inter-disciplinary discussions around governance research amongst scholars in northern Australia, http://www.cdu.edu.au/centres/grld/

Publications & Resources

Book Chapters

Spencer, M. (2016). Emplacing and Economising: Neoliberalising Australian Landscapes of Democracy. In T. Neale & E. Vincent (eds.), Unstable Relations: Indigeneity and Environmentalism in Contemporary Australia. University of Western Australia.

Journal Articles

Spencer, M., & Christie, M. (2017). Collaboratively rethinking the nature and practice of voluntary service in three North Australian Aboriginal communities. Third Sector Review, 9-27.

Oppermann, E., Spencer, M., & Brearley, M. (2015). Emotional Athletes, Brainy Workers and other Hot New Developments: Multiple (re)problematizations of Heat Stress as an object of governance in northern Australia. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Edition: Objects of Governance], 15, 32-39. doi: 10.18793/LCJ2015.15.06.

Conference Proceedings

Spencer, M., & Verran., H. (2015). Developing Collaborative Learning Technologies in Association with the Creation of Local Indigenous Services Products. Refereed Proceedings of the 18th New Zealand Association for Cooperative Education Conference, 15th – 17th April, 2015, hosted by Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Conference Papers & Presentations

Spencer, M., ‘Disaster Resilience, Management and Preparedness in Aboriginal Communities in Darwin and Palmerston’ at Darwin Forum: Indigenous Health, Wellbeing and Climate Change: Resilience and Vulnerability,16 September, 2016.

Spencer, M., & Danyi, E, ‘NT Landscapes Research: Visualizing the Governing Gaze’ at ‘Visualising Top End Research’, Darwin, 8 September – 10 September 2016

Danyi, E., & Spencer, M., ‘Common ground: Centres, scales, and a politics of difference’ at EASST/4S Conference ‘Science and Technology by Other Means’, Barcelona, 31 August – 3 September 2016

Spencer, M., ‘Originary’ and ‘valuable’ Tasmanian natures: Looking to experience in unearthing the political within emerging environmental services markets. Invited presentation at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, June 2016

Spencer, M., ‘Collaboratively rethinking the nature and practice of voluntary service in three North Australian Aboriginal communities’ at National Volunteering Conference, Canberra, April 2016

Spencer, M., ‘Reading Shifts in Knowing and Managing Tasmanian Forests: STS as Political Theory’ at 4S Conference, Denver, November 2015

Spencer, M., ‘Strange New Techniques And Familiar Friends: Current Trends In Anthropology Research Methods’ at the American Anthropological Association Conference, Denver, November 2015

Spencer, M., ‘Environmental Politics amidst changing natures’ at People, Policy and Place Seminar Series, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University, Feb 2015

Spencer, M., ‘A story of a Tasmanian Nature (and nature politics)’ at Occasional Seminar Series, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Melbourne University, 18 October, 2013

Spencer, M., ‘Different times, different forests: The Tasmanian Forests Agreement and a moment of temporal disjuncture’ at Asia-Pacific Science, Technology & Society Network Biennial Conference, Tembusu College, National University of Singapore, 15 - 17 July, 2013

Spencer, M., ‘Telling a Mountain as an Event: Working analysis in the midst of environmental problems’ at Songlines vs Pipelines: Mining and Tourism Industries in Remote Australia, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW 28-29 February, 2012

Spencer, M., ‘On meeting the Bay of Fires, and learning how to see nature as ‘people-place(s)’ at Occasional Seminar Series, School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Social Inquiry, Melbourne University, 15 October, 2011

Research Reports

Spencer, M., Campbell, M., Christie, M., & Verran, H. (2019). Tangentyere’s Integrated Support Program (ISP) Evaluation. Final Report 05/2019. Charles Darwin University.

Spencer, M., Christie, M., & Verran, H. (2017). Indigenous Languages, Culture and Knowledge Services Workforce: Business Opportunities in an Emergent NT Services Economy. Working paper 02/2017. Charles Darwin University. 

Spencer, M., Christie, M. (2017). Disaster Resilience, Management and Preparedness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities in Darwin and Palmerston, Stage 2 Report: Indigenous Researcher Development. Charles Darwin University. 

Spencer, M., Christie, M., Lee, A., & Wallace, R. (2016). Helping and caring, not only our family: NT Indigenous perspectives on volunteering, Final Report. Charles Darwin University.

Spencer, M., Christie, M., & Wallace, R. (2016). Disaster Resilience, Management and Preparedness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities in Darwin and Palmerston, Final Report. Charles Darwin University. 

Christie, M., Verran, H., Cathcart, J., van Weeren, T., Spencer, M., et al. (2015). Indigenous Governance and Leadership Development Project: Final Report and Evaluation. Charles Darwin University.

Book Reviews

Dányi, E., & Spencer, M. (2016). Pictures at an Exhibition–and Beyond. Review of the ‘Reset Modernity!’exhibition, 16.04. 2016–21.08. 2016, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany. Science & Technology Studies.

Spencer, M. (2016). Book Review: Experiments in Holism: Anthropology and the Predicaments of Holism by Otto Ton & Bubandt Nils (eds). Science and Technology Studies, 29(1), 83-5

Spencer, M. (2013). Book Review: Alien Oceans by Stephan Helmreich. Science and Technology Studies, 26(3), 127-9

Professional Positions, Memberships & Awards


  • Asia Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network (APSTSN)
  • Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)
  • European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST)
  • American Anthropological Association (AAA)
  • The Higher Education Academy, United Kingdom


  • Australian Postgraduate Award, Melbourne University
  • Overseas Research Students Award Scheme (ORSAS), Lancaster University
  • Commonwealth Scholarship, Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, UK
  • Ronayne Prize for the equal best First Class Honours result in the Bachelor of Arts in Science and Technology Studies, UNSW

Media Coverage

Radio, TV, News Paper & Web Interviews

STS Making and Doing is an annual event which showcases engaged and practice-based academic work. It is an integral part of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) conference. 2018 STS Making and Doing Co-Chairs were Teun Zuiderent-Jerak (Linköping University) and Michaela Spencer (Charles Darwin University) and featured in this video package.

Michaela Spencer


T: +61 8 8946 7251
E: michaela.spencer@cdu.edu.au

Darwin, NT 


CDU Research Webportal