Lesley Potter's picture

Lesley Potter

Honorary Associate Professor, Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program


BA, Dip Ed, MA (Melb) PhD (McGill)

Contact details

I retired as Associate Professor from the Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies, University of Adelaide in December 2003 and became a Visiting fellow at ANU in March 2004, initially in Human Geography, then later in RMAP. My PhD research (for McGill University) was conducted in Guyana: I was Senior Lecturer and Head of the Geography Department at the University of Guyana from 1976-79. After a year at the University of Canterbury (NZ), I joined the University of Adelaide in 1981 and began research in Indonesia, particularly Kalimantan. I pursued aspects of that research for 23 years, in between stints as Head of Department, a range of consultancies (for example with the Centre for International Forestry Research [CIFOR],WWF, USAID, FAO and AusAid), undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and supervision. At the ANU I have continued my research and writing, plus postgraduate supervision. I have collaborated with the Canadian project ‘Challenging the Agrarian Transition in Southeast Asia’ and have undertaken new consultancies with the World Bank and CIFOR.

Career highlights

Winning several large ARC grants, which enabled me to conduct field and archival research in Southeast Asia and archival work in Holland, France, Spain, the USA and the UK. More recently, the oil palm project with CIFOR and the associated fieldwork in Latin America and Africa.

Research interests

My research has been on two fronts: a) historical analysis of forests, grasslands and land-use change in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, examining colonial and postcolonial impacts of government policies on small farmers; and b) current ethnographic studies at village level in Indonesia, particularly in parts of Kalimantan and Sumatra. The recent focus has been on smallholder producers of tree-based commodities such as oil palm, rubber and coffee, with oil palm presently receiving the most attention. A desk study of alternative pathways for oil palm smallholders in Latin America and Central Africa was undertaken for CIFOR, which was followed by fieldwork on the ground in Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador. This work is currently being written up, together with some detailed updating of the Indonesian scene, especially impacts of the new transmigration program.

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