BA (UNSW), B. As Stud (Hons 1) (ANU), PhD (Wollongong)


Michele Ford is a Southeast Asia specialist who studies draws on methodologies from sociology, politics, history and industrial relations to study social movements. She has a particular interest in the intersection between international labour movement and the labour movements of Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste. Her work has contributed to understandings of Global Unions’ role as global production network actors; their contribution to campaigns for migrant labour rights in East and Southeast Asia; and how they support (and sometimes hinder) labour movements in the Global South. The second key focus of her work has been on how national labour movements re-establish themselves after periods of deep authoritarianism; how unions engage in the political sphere; and how they leverage, and manage, support from their international allies. She is currently the lead CI on a number of projects in this area including “Employment Relations in Indonesia’s Commercial Fishing Industry” (ARC DP22), “Better Responses to Gender-based Violence in Cambodia’s Construction Sector” (ARC LP20) and “Global Production Networks and Worker Representation in Myanmar” (ARC DP18). Michele also researches women and work in Southeast Asia, with a focus on informal sector occupations (domestic work, sex work) as well as industrial employment (garments, electronics) and women’s roles within trade unions, and has written about Indonesia’s gig economy, specifically platform-based transport services.

Michele’s research has had real-world impact via a long list of project evaluations and research consultancies for the international labour movement and the International Labour Organization. The Global Unions and Trade Union Solidarity Support Organisations in the Netherlands, Germany and Finland have used her reports and academic publications to educate their staff and inform their work in the region. In several cases, her work has directly influenced their strategies for engaging with their partner organisations in Southeast Asia. Union Aid Abroad–APHEDA, the Solidarity Centre (US) and Building and Woodworkers’ International (the Global Union Federation in the construction industry) are all partners on her current ARC Linkage Project.

Michele has also made a substantial contribution to the promotion of Asian Studies in Australia through her work as Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney, and through disciplinary service. She served as President of the Indonesia Council from 2005 to 2010 and as Secretary of the Asian Studies Association (ASAA) from 2006 to 2011. She also convened major conferences for both associations, including the largest-ever ASAA conference in 2018 (1,142 participants) and two conferences of the Indonesia Council (2005 and 2009). She initiated the push for the establishment of the Indonesia Council and the Association of Mainland Southeast Asia Scholars (AMSEAS), the first academic association in Australia for Mainland Southeast Asia, and mentored a group of more junior scholars through its establishment process. In addition, she has served as President of the Research Committee on Labour Movements (RC44) for the International Sociological Association (ISA) from 2018.

President, Research Committee on Labour Movements (RC44), international Sociological Association

Member, Royal Society of NSW

University of Sydney Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Mentoring and Leadership

University of Sydney Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Supervision

University of Sydney Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Educational Engagement and Innovation

1. Ford, Michele and Thushara Dibley. 2022. Panties for Peace: Reflexivity in the Deployment of a Hyper-Local Campaign Trope from Myanmar. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 27 (3): 319–334. 

2. Ford, Michele, Michael Gillan and Kristy Ward. 2021. Authoritarian Innovations in Labor Governance: The Case of Cambodia. Governance 34 (4): 1255-1271.

3. Caraway, Teri and Michele Ford. 2020. Labor and Politics in Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

4. Ford, Michele. 2019. From Migrant to Worker: Global Unions and Temporary Labor Migration in Asia. Ithaca: Cornell ILR Press.

5. Dibley, Thushara and Michele Ford (eds). 2019. Activists in Transition: Progressive Politics in Democratic Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.