Academy of the Social Sciences Recognises Australia’s Brightest Emerging Scholars

Four of Australia’s most promising early career researchers have been named recipients of the 2023 Paul Bourke Awards for Early Career Research, presented by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Academy President Professor Richard Holden extended his congratulations to the recipients, as well as all the nominees, acknowledging their dedication to advancing knowledge through their social science research.

‘The Academy takes great pride in nurturing the next generation of social scientists and highlighting their invaluable contributions. These awards recognise the most exceptional early- and mid-career researchers in Australia,’ Professor Holden said.

‘The work these researchers are doing will help us better understand local language ecologies among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, develop new and innovative approaches to climate change law and energy policy, take a world-leading approach to managing Hepatitis C in prisons, and develop new econometric models with wide and practical applications. The award winners demonstrate innovation and dedication in their work.’

‘We extend our congratulations to the recipients and thank them for their contributions to the social sciences,’ Professor Holden acknowledged.


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In 2024, the four award winners will present public lectures on their research during Social Sciences Week (2-8 September 2024), offering an opportunity for the broader community to engage with their research and work.

View more information on the Paul Bourke Awards and previous winners at:

The 2023 recipients are:

Dr Denise Angelo (Linguistics), Australian National University

Dr Denise Angelo is a distinguished researcher working at the intersection of linguistics, education and policy, who is recognised for her collaborations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators and their communities. She earned the Penny McKay award for her PhD thesis focusing on the misrecognition of Indigenous contact languages in Australia, the ramifications of their invisibility for these language communities and pathways to build awareness and recognition. This work aims to shine a light on the largest Indigenous languages today, Yumplatok/CapeYork Creole in the north-east and Kriol in the north and north-west, as well as more localised contact languages such as Yarrabah Creole.

Dr Angelo has a particular interest in Indigenous language ecologies and the extent to which traditional languages, contact languages and Englishes are spoken in a local community and whether and how policy and services are attuned to this. Her contributions include to the National Indigenous Languages Report (Pillar 2, commissioned by the Federal Office for the Arts) and an OECD-commissioned study on Indigenous languages in education.

Dr Arjuna Dibley (Law and Legal Studies), The University of Melbourne

Dr Arjuna Dibley is a law and economics expert whose research focuses on global sustainability issues, including climate change policy, sustainable finance, and energy innovation. Previously a corporate lawyer, strategy adviser and policy analyst at leading private and public sector organisations in Australia, Asia and the US, Dr Dibley is also a Board Member and Company Secretary of Environmental Justice Australia, a Board Member of CarbonPlan and a Fellow at the Centre for Policy Development.

Dr Dibley holds undergraduate honours degrees in law and Asian studies from the Australian National University and in 2016 was a Sir General John Monash Scholar, earning a doctorate in climate change law and economics from Stanford University.

His work has appeared in Nature, Harvard Environmental Law ReviewJournal of Cleaner Production and Foreign Policy, he was a lead author on the United Nations Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report.

Dr Lise Lafferty (Health Sciences), University of New South Wales

Dr Lise Lafferty is an internationally renowned researcher who has made significant contributions to the field of infectious diseases, with a particular focus on hepatitis C in the challenging context of prison settings. Employing qualitative research methods, Dr Lafferty delves into the complex world of patient and healthcare provider perceptions of hepatitis C, spanning risk factors, transmission dynamics, testing, and treatment uptake. Her groundbreaking research explores the crucial role social capital plays in engaging prison populations with care strategies for hepatitis C.

Dr Lafferty’s work has led to the development of innovative tools such as the Inmate Social Capital Questionnaire, and she was the first social science researcher to be recognised by the Levinia Crooks Emerging Leaders Award, achieving a Special Mention in the Viral Hepatitis category in 2022.

Dr Ruben Loaiza-Maya (Economics), Monash University 

Dr Ruben Loaiza-Maya is a distinguished econometrician whose research has made substantial contributions in three key areas of econometrics: copula modelling, variational inference, and forecasting. His innovative copula models effectively capture complex economic time series patterns and have been applied to macroeconomics and finance. In variational inference, he developed methods to estimate intricate models using large datasets, with wide-ranging benefits from the fields of advertising to forecasting.

Practical applications of his copula-based framework enabled the Central Bank of Colombia to assess currency vulnerability during exchange rate fluctuations in Latin American countries.

Recognised nationally and internationally, he received the prestigious Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the Australian Research Council in 2022.

Dr Loaiza-Maya’s research showcases innovation and versatility in addressing critical issues in computational statistics and economics.

History of the Paul Bourke Awards

The Paul Bourke Awards for Early Career Research are named in honour of the Academy’s past president Paul Francis Bourke (1938–1999) who was a product of the History school at the University of Melbourne and went on to become one of the first Australian historians to obtain American style doctoral training.

While at Flinders University, he served as Professor of American Studies and also as Pro-Vice Chancellor. From Flinders University, he went on to become the Director of the RSSS at ANU and also served as the President of ASSA (1993-1997). Amongst scholars, the contribution Paul Bourke made to the field of performance measurement is considered invaluable.

Four Paul Bourke Award recipients are selected each year by members of the Academy’s Panel Committees. The awards are presented to social science researchers who, at the time of nomination, do not yet hold an Associate Professor or Professorial appointment and who are normally within five years of receiving their doctorate (with allowances for career interruptions).

The Awards comprise a Citation and Medallion presented to each recipient. With the agreement of the recipients’ home universities, a jointly sponsored lecture by each recipient is also arranged for delivery during the following year