Victoria Stead

Staff member

Victoria Stead is a settler scholar whose research critically examines that nature of Australian coloniality, both within the settler state and across the Pacific region. She is an anthropologist with a strong interest in history, and combines ethnography, archival research, oral history, and political-economic analysis to examine the reverberations of colonial relations in the present. Currently, Victoria is leading two major projects: the first examines race, labour relations, and belonging in the Australian horticultural industry, including in relation to the temporary labour migrations of Pacific Islander seasonal workers; the second project explores postcolonial relationships between Australians and Papua New Guineans in the context of Kokoda and the war tourism industry in Oro Province, PNG. From 2015-2018, Victoria led the project ‘Women Remember the War’, with Oro women Margaret Embahe and Mavis Manuda Tongia, as part of the PNG Oral History Project. Victoria is currently a DECRA Senior Research Fellow based in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation. She is Secretary of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies, and a member of the board of directors of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania. Her most recent book is Labour Lines and Colonial Power: Indigenous and Pacific Islander Labour Mobility in Australia (co-edited with Jon Altman, ANU Press, 2019).

  • Research

    Current projects

    • Labour, Race and Belonging: Strengthening Rural Workforces and Communities, 2018-21.

    This project explores race and labour relations in the Australian horticultural industry, combining anthropological and historical methods, with fieldwork in the Victorian regional centre of Shepparton. The project asks: how does race structure and inform labour relations, practices, and discourses in the horticultural industry? How, and for whom, does horticultural labour generate belonging (and inversely, exclusion)? How do the contested histories of labour practices, relations, and discourses inform contemporary attitudes and understandings of labour within the horticulture sector and the rural communities dependent on it? This project is funded through an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA).


    • Beyond Recognition: Postcolonial Relationality Across Difference, 2018-21.

    This international, comparative project examines the intersections of recognition politics and coloniality, and possibilities for more just and equitable forms of postcolonial relationships in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Kenya. Victoria runs the Papua New Guinea case study, based on Australian-PNG relationships in the war tourism industry at and around Kokoda. This project is funded through an Australian Research Council Discovery (chief investigators Prof Yin Paradies, Dr Victoria Stead, Dr Samantha Balaton-Chrimes).


    Completed projects

    • The Visitants Project, 2019.

    This pilot project investigated local impacts and experiences of the cruise ship industry in Milne Bay Province, PNG, including the ways in which the WWII Battle for Milne Bay is, and could be, memorialised. Funded through the Major Grants Funding Scheme, Deakin University. With Dr Jonathan Ritchie, A/Prof Helen Gardner, and Prof Matthew Clarke.

    • Mobile Labour and the Meaning of Land: The Australian Farm as a Site of Encounter, 2016-18.

    This project investigated seasonal labour, migration, and race relations in rural Australia. Funded through an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Deakin University.

    • Labour Migration, Transnational Farm Ownership, and the Transformation of Global Agriculture: Identifying Pathways to Intercultural Connection and Shared Belonging in Changing Rural Spaces, 2016-17.

    Funded through the Toyota Foundation Research Grants Program.

    • Women Remember the War, 2015-18.

    This project was run as part of the PNG Oral History Project, funded through the DFAT Strongim Pipol, Strongim Nesen program. It involved documenting oral histories about Oro people’s wartime experience, with a particular focus on the experiences of Oro women. Local collaborators: Margaret Embahe, Mavis Manuda Tongia.

    • War Memories: Papua New Guineans, Australians, and the Taim Pait, 2015.

    This pilot project investigated the contemporary significance of wartime memories in Oro Province, PNG, and informed the subsequent PNG Oral History Project. Funded through the Central Research Grants Scheme, Deakin University, with Jonathan Ritchie and Kirstie Close.

  • Selected publications

    • 2019. Victoria Stead and Jon Altman (eds), Labour Lines and Colonial Power: Indigenous and Pacific Islander Labour Mobility in Australia. Canberra: ANU Press.
    • 2018. Victoria Stead, ‘History as Resource: Moral Reckonings with Place and with the Wartime Past’, Anthropological Forum 28(1): 16-31 (special issue edited by Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy).
    • 2017. Victoria Stead, Becoming Landowners: Entanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
    • 2017. Victoria Stead, ‘Violent Histories and the Ambivalences of Recognition in Postcolonial Papua New Guinea’, Postcolonial Studies 20(1): 68-85.
    • 2017. Samantha Balaton-Chrimes and Victoria Stead, ‘Recognition, Power and Coloniality’, Postcolonial Studies 20(1): 1-17.
    • 2017. Victoria Stead, ‘Doing “Social Cohesion”: Cultural Policy and Practice in Outer Metropolitan Melbourne’, Critical Social Policy 37(3): 405-424.
    • 2015. Victoria Stead, ‘Homeland, Territory, Property: Contesting Land, State and Nation in Urban Timor-Leste’, Political Geography 45: 79-89.
    • 2013. Victoria Stead, ‘Greeting the State: Entanglements of Custom and Modernity on Papua New Guinea’s Rai Coast’, Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology 23(1): 16-35.
    • 2012. Victoria Stead, ‘Embedded in the Land: Customary Social Relations and Practices of Resilience in an East Timorese Community’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23(2): 229-247.
    • 2012. Paul James, Yaso Nadarajah, Karen Haive, and Victoria Stead, Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Development: Other Paths for Papua New Guinea, Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press.
  • Supervision

    Victoria is available to supervise Honours, Masters, and PhD projects in the areas of Pacific studies, historical anthropology, Pacific colonial histories, Australian and Pacific postcolonial relations, labour studies, and Australian and Pacific race relations.

    Current supervisions

    • Lorayma So’otuli Taula, PhD in Sociology. Tama’ita’i Samoa: Transnational Place-making and Experiences of Young Samoan Women in Australia and Samoa (co-supervisor, with Vince Marotta)
    • Zoe Coombe, PhD in Anthropology. Thoughts of the Forest: An Ethnographic Study of Val Plumwood’s Environmental Philosophy (executive co-supervisor, with Eben Kirksey)
    • Bronwyn Shepherd, PhD in History and Anthropology. The Unfolding Mission Space at Milingimbi: 1923-1943 (associate supervisor, with Emma Kowal, Joanna Cruikshank, and Helen Gardner)
    • Martin Korokan, PhD in Development Studies and History. Church and Development in Papua New Guinea: Health Services Delivery in Enga Province from 1947-Present (associate supervisor, with Helen Gardner, Matthew Clarke, and Jonathan Ritchie)
    • Alice Bellette, PhD. ‘Beyond Recognition’ in Indigenous Literature (associate supervisor, with Yin Paradies, Emily Potter, and Cameo Dalley)


    Completed supervisions

    Naba Rubaie, Honours in Sociology. Gender Quotas and Postcolonial Development in Papua New Guinea. 2016.


  • Awards, fellowships, and honours

    • 2018. Faculty of Arts and Education, Early Career Researcher Award, Deakin University
  • Media and public events

Australian Policy
 and History

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