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Sarina Kilham


Sarina commenced as a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures in 2009 after nearly a decade working in international development. Sarina's research is focused on social sustainability in biodiesel production, specifically looking at the autonomy of smallholder farmers. .

Sarina is also interested in Australia's role and potential purchasing power in the region and believes that there is a responsibility to ensure the impacts of biofuel production and consumption are not shifted 'off-shore' to our developing neighbours.

Sarina has a double-degree Bachelor in Social Science and in International Studies (Indonesian) (University of Technology Sydney 2000) and spent a year studying in Indonesia (Universitas Gadjah Mada and Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang), undertaking research in Central Java on self-perceptions of street children. Sarina has a Masters of Sustainable Agriculture (University of Sydney 2005) completing her dissertation on Challenges to Effective Coordination for Sustainable Agriculture: A Case Study on East Timor. Sarina has worked in Timor-Leste (formally East Timor) since 2000 in range of development positions with the United Nations, International NGOs and the Government of Timor-Leste. She speaks all four of the Timor-Leste national languages (Tetun, English, Portuguese and Indonesian).

Sarina is interested in entrepeneurship and the translation of academic research into real world outcomes. Sarina eagerly welcomes any comments, ideas or expressions of interest regarding her research.

Image of Sarina Kilham
Research Assistant, Institute for Sustainable Futures
International Studies (Indonesian), Sustainable Agriculture

Research Interests

-Social Sustainability -Biofuels -Agricultural Policy -Rural Development -International Development


Kilham, S. & Willetts, J.R. 2009, 'Transdisciplinary Research: a new opportunity for understanding Timor-Leste', Understanding Timor-Leste, Timor-Leste Studies Association's Understanding Timor-Leste: A Research Conference, Swinburne Press, Dili, Timor-Leste, pp. 335-340.
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This paper will provide a broad overview of transdisciplinary research, wicked problems and the potential opportunities that may be associated with using a transdisciplinary approach in Timor-Leste. To illustrate the potential challenges of conducting research in Timor-Leste, and the potential benefits of a transdisciplinary framework, the authors use one of the author`s research topic of Social Sustainability in Biofuel Production: a study of Timor-Leste and Brazil to provide examples and illustrate points.

Journal articles

Palmer, J.M., Fam, D.M., Smith, T. & Kilham, S. 2014, 'Ethics in Fieldwork: Reflections on the Unexpected', The Qualitative Report, vol. 19, no. 28, pp. 1-13.
Research involving fieldwork can present the researcher with ethical dilemmas not anticipated in institutional ethics approval processes, and which offer profound personal and methodological challenges. The authors' experiences of conducting qualitative fieldwork in four distinctly different contexts are used to illustrate some of these unexpected consequences and ethical dilemmas. Issues encountered included: compromised relationships with informants which develop in unforeseen ways; engagement with traumatized informants which lead to unexpected roles for the researcher such as confidante, dealing with new information that is critical to informants' futures but could undermine the research project, and the implications of ethical decisions for research design and analysis. In our shared reflection on the four case studies in this paper, we examine anticipatory rather than reactive ways of dealing with such ethical dilemmas. Preparation and critical reflection are found to be key tools in relating to field informants, dealing with the personal challenges of undertaking field work, and developing useful research outcomes after returning home. We conclude by suggesting some issues for field researchers to consider in addition to the concerns addressed in a standard university ethics approval process.


Kilham, S. 2014, 'Bushfire planning leaves behind people with disabilities', The Conversation.


Kilham, S., Camargo, C. & Willetts, J.R. Institute for Sustainable Futures 2010, Biodiesel: Farmers perspectives from Bahia Brazil, pp. 1-39, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.
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