Ellis Mackenzie is a research consultant at Sustineo and has made significant contribution to the successful completion of a range of projects. He’s a graduate of the Australian National University’s College of Arts and Social Sciences, where he specialised in environmental and development studies. Sustineo congratulates him on his one-year anniversary with us. In an interview with Asenati Liki he shares his experiences from working on a variety of Sustineo projects over the past year.
You’ve just completed your first year with Sustineo (congratulations!). What are the highlights from this year?
A year ago I never could have imagined the places that I have got to visit as part of my work. My trips to Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea would have to be a highlight. Getting to travel to the Pacific for the first time has provided me with opportunities to visit incredible places, meet amazing people and work on meaningful projects. There is a distinct richness and beauty to the Pacific and the many diverse Pacific Islanders that live there. Working on several projects that are focused on the Pacific has definitely made me more aware of the complex development challenges that exist in the region which warrant increased attention.
What has been your biggest learning experience?
I have found myself learning something new on every project. Whether that be working with leading academics at the Australian National University who I admire or working with in-country partners in the Pacific who are experts in their field, I am constantly reflecting on the ways in which I can approach research differently.
Going to a foreign country to work with in-country partners is always an eye opening and inspiring experience. An example that really influenced me was working on ACIAR’s socio-economic impact study of pearl-based livelihoods with the Ministry of Fisheries in Tonga and Fiji. I got to learn about the importance of sustainable rural livelihood opportunities, which are heightened in climate vulnerable areas like the Islands of Fiji and Tonga.
This trip also provided me with an opportunity to hone my touch footy skills… thankfully it was only touch!
What are you most proud of from your time at Sustineo?
On a local scale I have really enjoyed being involved as a supervisor for student projects at the Australian National University. I know as a student at ANU, I really appreciated my internship opportunities where I worked on real world projects and learned a stack from several memorable supervisors and mentors. Having an opportunity to return the favour to an extent and provide guidance to students is something I have really enjoyed and learned a lot from.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
When I am not working I love to practice mixed martial arts, and I am also enjoying learning to speak Khmer with some very patient Cambodian friends of mine.
What can we expect from you over the next year?
While I can’t predict the future, I hope to be able to continue the line of work that I am doing and build on the skills and experiences I have developed over the last year. Within Sustineo, I am really interested in seeing the next phase of work (i.e. household surveys and broader project Monitoring and Evaluation) on the ACIAR Climate Smart Agriculture project with the Australian National University Climate Change Institute get underway. The project is designed to understand local social networks (how people share and receive information with each other) and Indigenous farming systems and then work to introduce new climate forecasting technology in a manner that is contextually appropriate and locally accessible.
Outside of this, I am hoping to publish some academic research I have been involved in in Cambodia, and pending travel restrictions, potentially travel there again!