The Director of the Kaldor Centre, Professor Jane McAdam AO, has been awarded a highly prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship to conduct research tackling a crucial issue of our time: evacuations from crises, including disasters, climate change, conflict, humanitarian emergencies and pandemics. 

Evacuations tend to be seen as benevolent ‘rescues’, but they can also lead to prolonged displacement. McAdam’s project is a 360-degree conceptual analysis that will challenge thinking about evacuations and create responses through every phase, to ensure they truly safeguard the rights of millions in need. 

The Australian Research Council (ARC) today announced 17 Laureate Fellowships, its most distinguished grants, to support internationally recognised researchers who can play a significant leadership and mentoring role in growing Australia’s research and innovation capacity. 

The $3.14 million awarded to Professor McAdam will support a five-year research program on ‘Evacuations in International Law: Disasters, Conflict & Humanitarian Crises’. 

‘It is such an honour to be named an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, and I am deeply grateful to the Australian Research Council for recognising the promise of this research program,’ McAdam said. 

‘The Fellowship will enable me to appoint and mentor a team of early-career researchers working in international law, forced migration studies and history, and provide them with opportunities for policy innovation and impact within the world-class research environment of the Kaldor Centre at UNSW Law & Justice. It is unbelievably wonderful to have the possibility to cultivate future research leaders in this way.’ 

The program’s novel interdisciplinary and comparative approach will deliver a nuanced and sophisticated analysis of evacuations, reflecting the perspectives of affected communities, governments, civil society and international organisations.  

‘The research program will lead to a cross-fertilisation of ideas from traditionally siloed fields, creating linkages and networks. A particular objective of the program is to develop meaningful research collaborations with scholars from the Global South,’ said Professor McAdam. 

‘We tend to think of evacuations only as a positive, lifesaving tool,’ she said. ‘But they can also displace people, often for prolonged periods, and at great social, economic and personal cost. This Fellowship will look across the range of contexts in which evacuations are used – from disasters to conflict to pandemics – to provide the first sustained, integrated legal analysis of how evacuations are carried out, and to ensure that ad hoc responses are replaced with systematic, sustainable solutions that safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods.’ 

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Nicholas Fisk commended McAdam on the Laureate Fellowship. ‘With the number of displaced people increasing globally – and likely to grow as the impacts of climate change are felt more intensely – this research is exceptionally timely,’ he said. ‘Its highly innovative, practical applications are set to be a game-changer in transforming how the international community understands, responds to and manages evacuations, be they from floods and fires in Australia, emergencies such as we have seen in Afghanistan and Ukraine, or sea-level rise in the Pacific.’