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Lesley Head

Head Of School, Geography
climate change
invasive species
ethnicity and sustainability
social sciences
science & technology
life sciences & biomedicine
Lesley Head's Profile Picture

Lesley Head

Primary Interest
cultures of nature
Lesley Head's Profile Picture

Lesley Head


I am a geographer whose research examines human-environment relations, both conceptual and material. Since 2015, I have been Head of the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne.

Our aim is to build a world-leading School in which both human and physical geography are strong and can collaborate to help meet pressing social and environmental challenges.
I came to this position from many years at the University of Wollongong where, from 2009-2014, I was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER). Before that, from 2007-2009, I was Head of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. In 2005-06 I was King Carl XVI Gustaf Visiting Professor of Environmental Science, Kristianstad University, Sweden, and have been a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (2012-14).

My research – focused on long term changes in the Australian landscape and the interactions of both prehistoric and contemporary peoples with these environments – has positioned me as an international leader in geographical debates about the relationship between humans and nature. My work has used concepts and analytical methods from physical geography, archaeology and cultural geography, meeting international standards of excellence across these three disciplinary areas. Central to my contributions is the concept – and challenge – of coming to terms with landscapes that have been peopled for many thousands of years. Paradoxically, although it is now widely understood that human influences pervade all Earth surface processes, ideals of pristine past landscapes without people continue to dominate environmental management. My scholarship focuses on first articulating, then finding ways to overcome, these contradictions. My theoretical contributions are grounded in the empirical findings of fieldwork projects across tropical, temperate, arid and urban Australia.
In recent years I have worked mostly in cultural geography, with projects on ethnically-diverse environmental knowledge, backyard gardens, wheat and invasive plants. This developed from my earlier interest in Aboriginal land use, ethnobotany and fire. I started my research career using palaeoecology and archaeology to study long term changes in the Australian landscape, and the interactions of prehistoric peoples with their environments.

My latest ARC-funded research is investigating with colleagues the social and cultural benefits of market-based environmental policy instruments for carbon and water. Case study areas include the Murray-Darling Basin, Kakadu and Timor Leste.

Scholarly Works

Displaying the 108 most recent scholarly works by Lesley Head.

Honours, Awards and Fellowships


Vega Medal

Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography


NOTINLIST - Not in List


FASSA - Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia


FAHA - Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities





Head Of School, Geography



Institute of Australian Geographers



Monash University