CASS early career researchers awarded $1.3M in ARC funding

Image Caption: L to R, Dr Francis Markham, Dr Millicent Weber and Dr James O'Donnell from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.

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The ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) has received funding for three groundbreaking research projects through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

Dr Francis Markham, Dr James O’Donnell and Dr Millicent Weber are among the 200 early career researchers to receive an ARC DECRA nationwide.

Together, they have secured $1.3m in combined funding to help advance their individual projects in the fields of human geography, demography and digital literature, respectively.

The DECRA scheme supports outstanding early career researchers to undertake excellent and innovative research designed to address a significant problem or gap in knowledge.

Dr Markham, from the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) in the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS), has been awarded $404,053 for his project On the wealth of First Nations: Examining the Indigenous-settler wealth gap.

By investigating disparities between First Nations and non-Indigenous financial wealth, the project aims to revise understandings of First Nations economic circumstances, generating new knowledge about the Indigenous-settler wealth gap.

“I will study how the theft of First Nations’ land and wages influences the distribution of financial wealth in Australia today — and into the future,” Dr Markham explained.

“I’m very grateful to have been granted the time to focus on this project that addresses a silence in the academic literature on the intergenerational economic effects of First Nations dispossession.”

Dr O’Donnell, from the School of Demography in the Research School of Social Sciences, has been awarded $431,704 for his project Demographic and life course drivers of social cohesion.

“The project is all about who we are and how we connect with another in society, uncovering the processes through time that influence a person’s sense of identity and belonging in society, their personal wellbeing and their social and civic engagement in their communities,” Dr O’Donnell said.

“I’m very excited to be embarking on this research project. The DECRA recognises the critical importance of population studies and the centrality of people and place in understanding how societies tick, how they become and remain connected, cohesive, harmonious and vibrant places.”

“Ultimately, the project is aiming to contribute to community and public efforts to strengthen individual and collective wellbeing and cohesion.”

Dr Weber, a Senior Lecturer in English from the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics in the Research School of Humanities and the Arts, has been awarded $467,463 for her project Audiobooks and digital book culture.

“My project explores how Australian audiobooks are published and read. I will use this as a springboard to investigate the impact of digital technology on book publishing and reading – in Australia and internationally,” Dr Weber said.

“Winning the DECRA is brilliant. This fellowship is a really exciting acknowledgement of how important research into books and contemporary publishing is, and I can’t wait to see how this field grows in the future.”

The CASS success rate in this scheme rose to 43% for this round, more than doubling the national average of 20%.

The three projects join another 15 from The Australian National University to complete an extraordinary list that not only highlights the research prowess of the University but also fosters the growth of Australia’s research and innovation capacity.

“It is gratifying to see some of our best Early Career Researchers be acknowledged with a DECRA Fellowship. The research they will engage in promises to be transformative and impactful. They are each tackling some urgent issues for the academy, but also for the nation,“ CASS Associate Dean (Research) Professor Darren Halpin said.


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Dr Francis Markham 

Francis is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University. His research aims to integrate critical geographic theory with quantitative methods, in particular the social applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Markham takes geographical approaches to investigate questions related to Indigenous public policy. He regularly works with First Nations organisations to undertake research that is of benefit to Indigenous peoples in Australia. His current research aims to understand the "wealth gap" between First Nations and non-Indigenous people in Australia. It will link contemporary economic disparities to the stolen wealth of First Nations, and will investigate the role of intergenerational wealth transfers in reproducing economic inequalities.

Dr James O'Donnell

James is a Lecturer in the School of Demography at the Australian National University. James’ teaching and research focuses on the major social and population challenges in Australia and the world today, most especially related to immigration, housing, homelessness, social justice and cohesion. James is the lead author of the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion Study, the pre-eminent study of social cohesion in Australia. He is a member of the ANU’s Social Cohesion Grand Challenge, a multidisciplinary team of researchers identifying and studying approaches to strengthen social cohesion in Australia, an Associate Editor for the Journal of Population Research and a frequent contributor to public and media debates around social justice and cohesion. James is the lead author of the forthcoming Australian Cohesion Index 2023 and is an incoming ARC DECRA Fellow (commencing in 2024). James holds a PhD in Demography from the Australian National University and Masters Degrees in Economics and Social Research.

Dr Millicent Weber

Millicent is a Senior Lecturer in English in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics. She researches how people engage with books and literary culture: everything from prizes and book reviews, to audience experience at literary festivals, to social media trolling of authors, to amateur production of audiobooks, podcasts, and fan-fiction. She has a particular interest in the role technology plays in how books are written, published and read. She has also worked as an archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives and the National Library of Australia. Her first book, Literary Festivals and Contemporary Book Culture, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.


Dr Francis Markham's, Dr James O'Donnell's and Dr Millicent Weber's research projects are supported by the Australian Government through the DECRA scheme (projects DE240100120DE240100232 and DE240100466, respectively). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or the ARC.

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