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Northern Institute

Postgraduate research opportunities

Research vehicle driving through Gawa country


Researcher Rachel Groom in Helicopter working in Marra Sea Country

Community & Industry Partnerships 

Anne Lowell and Elaine L Maypilama discussing project

Two-Way Learning 

Find a Scholarship

We are looking for researchers to join our knowledgeable teams. Discover our exciting postgraduate research opportunities and participate in active, community-focused, First-Nations-led research. Learn from our knowledgeable teams, recognised for their innovative methodologies, co-design and research outcomes.

CDU-NTG Scholarships give the 2024 Research Training Program (RTP) rate of 2024 $32,192 per annum. The RTP scholarship conditions for CDU can be located here.

CDU-NTG Scholarship
Improving NGO worker retention in the NT human services sector

Supervisor: Andrew Taylor

About: This project explores the long-faced issues in attracting and retaining skilled workers, including in the human services sector, to the NT. With the increasing demand for services, growing complexity of population needs and more complex service provisions, recruiting and retaining skilled staff continues to be a significant challenge. The candidate will engage with government and industry sectors to undertake qualitative and quantitative research, which enhances the capacity of the sector to improve the retention of human services workers in the NGO sector in the Territory.

CDU-NTG Scholarship
Indicators of social wellbeing in NT First Nations communities

Supervisor: Kim Humphery (contact)

About: The concept of social capital has, since the 1970s, been used to describe and measure the value of social connectedness. While social capital remains a useful term, it is conceptually limited and highly culturally bound. The candidate will investigate the cultural applicability of social capital concepts in assessing social outcomes in Aboriginal communities and as relevant to Aboriginal people.  This project explores if and how social capital in the context of the Northern Territory and whether mainstream concepts of social capital can meaningfully intersect with Aboriginal knowledges and socio-cultural understandings and be integrated within population-wide measures.

CDU-NTG Scholarship
The impact of alcohol prohibition in NT Aboriginal communities

Supervisor: Kim Humphery (contact)

About: This project explores the recent history and impact of NTG government-enforced alcohol prohibitions enforced in ‘prescribed areas’ in the NT (enabled under various Federal and NT Acts), including all land held under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, all Community Living Areas and all town camps. No specific Commonwealth reviews or evaluations have so far offered clear findings of any harm reduction resulting from these interventions. In this research, the candidate will engage with government, community and industry sectors to undertake qualitative and quantitative research enhancing the understanding of unilaterally imposed blanket alcohol prohibition measures in Aboriginal communities.

Human Faces of the NT Public Housing Continuum 

Supervisor: Michaela Spencer

About: This project explores the human faces of the NT public housing continuum, beginning with the lived experiences of public housing tenants and the recently housed or homeless and working from there to develop system-wide policy insights. You will have the opportunity to conduct Ground Up research in several Aboriginal urban and remote communities and homelands and develop a novel and locally negotiated research approach under the guidance of local elders and community members. ​​

Top End Language Lab
Keeping Indigenous Languages Strong in Northern Australia​​​​

Supervisors: Steven Bird, Bhanu Bhatia, Michaela Spencer, Michael Christie, James Bednall

Stipend: $40k pa + Domestic RTP Fee offset.

Location: CDU Casuarina Campus + 3-month internship at a Language Centre & remote research in NT Aboriginal communities

Funding: CDU's High Impact Scholarship Program's Domestic Excellence Scholars (CDUDES) Scholarship​​

About: This project is associated with an ARC Discovery Project, 'Investing in Aboriginal Languages,' which explores Aboriginal Language Centres as sites of cultural investment and exchange where Aboriginal language owners and users, researchers, and members of government and non-government agencies are participants. Diverse language and culture practices are at work in and around doing the business of Language Centres: work to fulfil obligations to kin and country that are at least partially invisible to outsiders, recognition of who are experts and the nature of different expertise, language documentation and preservation, work under contract, and more. There are diverse forms of accountability to differently situated participants, various forms of investment, and different values, agendas, aspirations, priorities and timelines. How do we understand, make visible and support healthy investments and generative exchanges? The PhD student will undertake field research in one or more Top End Language Centres as negotiated by supervisors, Indigenous Language workers and owners, and Language Centre management staff. Depending on the disciplinary background of the student, the project could involve ethnographic and/ or linguistic work with images and words in quantitative-qualitative multi- and transdisciplinary research. 

Apply: Send your EOI to Professor Steven Bird at or call 08 8946 6153 if you have any questions.

Faculty of Arts and Society
Mathematics in Indigenous Languages​​​​

Supervisors: Cris Edmonds-Wathen

Stipend: $40k pa + Domestic RTP Fee offset.

Location: CDU Casuarina Campus & remote research in NT Aboriginal communities

Funding: CDU's High Impact Scholarship Program's Domestic Excellence Scholars (CDUDES) Scholarship​​

About: This project investigates how to use Australian Indigenous languages to teach primary school mathematics. As part of a multi-site project focusing on several diverse languages, you will work closely and collaboratively with one or more specific schools and language communities. You will describe how mathematical structures are expressed in the language, how they are used in school mathematics teaching, and additional possibilities for mathematical language use. The aim is to improve remote Indigenous students' Program access to mathematics in their first language and contribute to understanding the relationship between language and mathematics while working in an interdisciplinary team with linguists and mathematics educators. Dr Cris Edmonds-Wathen has researched mathematical expression in diverse languages for 15 years, including languages from Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

Apply: Send your EOI to Dr Cris Edmonds-Wathen at or call 08 8946 6153 if you have any questions.

Higher Degree by Research Scholarships

Find a Project

Are you interested in joining a research project? If so, find out what projects we have available. If you’d rather bring your own idea, contact a supervisor working in that research area. Students must apply for a Higher Degree by Research scholarship if they need financial support to undertake research. 

Adaptive Social Protection for Climate Change and Disaster Management

Disaster Management team

Supervisors: Jonatan Lassa (Contact) & Kerstin Zander

Stipend: $29,863 p.a. (Domestic RTP Scholarship)

Location: Australia, Indonesia, Solomon Island, the Philippines (TBC)​​​​​​


About: Social protection programs for disaster management - such as cash transfers, payments and basic income - are often executed after disasters. Scholars, governments and NGOs are aware of the limitations. However, it is not easy to change the existing practices that are often reactive. The lack of anticipatory action makes the existing social protection program, despite being delivered, become less effective and very often too late to protect the most vulnerable groups, including indigenous communities, women and children, smallholder farmers and marginalised labourers. This research asks how existing social protection programs can be more adaptive and anticipatory under climate change and future disaster scenarios. This research is relevant for Australia and the nations around the world, with a focus on Oceania, Southern Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Application note: The candidates still need to develop a proposal as part of their assessment for the HDR scholarship

Estimating the Demographic Characteristics of Subnational Populations

Demography and Growth Planning team

Supervisors: Sigurd Dyrting (Contact) & Andrew Taylor

Stipend: $29,863 p.a. (Domestic RTP Scholarship)

Location: CDU Casuarina Campus/Darwin (Negotiable)

Image of large crowd and people walking

 About: The Twentieth Century saw significant changes in national mortality, fertility, and internal migration rates through advances in global wealth, science, and public policy. However, there is recognition that these changes have not been uniform across populations, with inequalities persisting within countries. Understanding the characteristics and causes of subnational heterogeneity in key demographic rates, therefore, remains a focus for demographers, the private sector, and governments at all levels.

Demographers have developed methods for estimating rates and populations at the national level where heterogeneity is averaged out, age resolution is high, and noise is low. However, when applied at the subnational level, these methods can sometimes fail to account for local variations from the national age structure adequately or produce implausible profiles because ages are grouped and/or noise levels are high. This project will develop new methods for estimating key demographic rates and populations at the subnational level that are flexible, produce plausible profiles, and are robust in the presence of reduced age resolution and potentially large levels of sample or anonymization noise.

Examining waste as a socio-technical system in regional and remote Australia

Risk, Resilience and Sustainability

Supervisor: Deepika Mathur (Contact)

Stipend: $29,863 p.a. (Domestic RTP Scholarship) + extra funding for the right candidate & the possibility of working on paid research with the team

Location: CDU Casuarina Campus/ Alice Springs

CDU researchers tackle remote waste management in remote communities.

About: How can we expand the understanding of waste production through a social lens? The aim of the project is to examine various aspects influencing waste generation and its management. Waste management is very different in regional and remote Australia because of the lack of economies of scale, vast distances and little infrastructure. This study is not limited to any one waste stream or one waste sector and explorations of waste from construction, renewable energy systems or the general waste sector are all welcome.

Mobile-Assisted Oral Language Learning

Top End Language Lab

Supervisor: Steven Bird (contact)

Stipend: $29,863 p.a. (Domestic RTP Scholarship)

Location: CDU Casuarina Campus/Darwin

Mobile Assisted Learning

About: Community workers who engage with linguistic minorities usually operate through a vehicular or contact language. Some choose to learn the local vernacular language because it promises greater access and insights into the society they have entered. This pattern is found across the world, in disaster and relief settings, and closer to home in urban minorities and in remote indigenous communities. As Dixon and Deak (2010) have observed, "the desire of non-Indigenous people (such as teachers, nurses and other community workers) to learn a Pilbara language was recognised as having the potential for positive flow-on effects throughout the community, in terms of improved provision of key services (especially in the health and education spheres), as well as increased awareness of Indigenous people’s language rights." In many such places, the local language is primarily oral; there may be a writing system, but it is not in widespread use or irrelevant to the work newcomers are performing. In this project, the PhD student will work with local people to co-design new oral language learning methods. Of particular interest are mobile technologies, which can serve to capture key pieces of language in context and support the learning of those pieces through guided repetition. The project will leverage the interactional context, such as the opportunities for two-way language learning, and the desire of newcomers and locals to work together more effectively. For example, in a healthcare setting, how can mobile technologies support medical professionals and their clients in acquiring concepts and practices in both directions when understanding of disease and risk may be radically different? Similar opportunities are common wherever people seek to work together across a linguistic and cultural barrier and where well-established, simplistic approaches to translation break down. The ideal candidate would be a First Nations Australian or an Indigenous person from outside Australia, or someone who has established connections in an Indigenous community.

Reducing Waste in Regional Towns

Risk, Resilience and Sustainability

Supervisor: Deepika Mathur (Contact)

Stipend: $29,863 p.a. (Domestic RTP Scholarship) + extra funding for the right candidate & the possibility of working on paid research with the team

Location: CDU Casuarina Campus/ Alice Springs

Remote waste in regional township

About: Regional and remote communities face several challenges in managing waste and recovering and reusing resources. These challenges include access to markets for recyclables, distances and road conditions between towns and waste facilities and the recruitment and retention of staff. Demographic and geographic factors strongly influence waste reduction and management strategies in regional and remote areas.

We are seeking passionate and skilled students to work on projects exploring the social construction of waste in regional areas, particularly the materiality of waste. Moving away from the technical perspective, we want to examine waste from a social science perspective, an approach more suited to regional Australia.
Understanding Causes and Consequences of Population Change in Australia’s North

Project details are coming soon.

Understanding links between social outcomes, social capital and demographic change

Project details are coming soon.

Understanding Migration and Social Change from COVID-19 and Other Disasters in Australia

Project details are coming soon.

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