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Lisa Palmer

Associate Professor In Environmental Studies
life sciences & biomedicine
science & technology
social sciences
east timor
Lisa Palmer's Profile Picture

Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer's Profile Picture

Lisa Palmer


Dr Lisa Palmer is a human geographer who teaches and researches on human-environment relations and indigenous approaches to environmental and social governance. Her research takes a critical ecological approach and is focused on south-east Asia (particularly Timor Leste) and indigenous Australia.

She is currently working on two ARC funded research projects: ‘Spiritual Ecologies and Customary Governance in Post-conflict East Timor’ (2016-2019, led by Prof Andrew McWilliam, Anthropology, ANU/UWS) and ‘The Social Benefits of Market-based Policy Instruments for Carbon and Water' (2019-2021, led by Prof Lesley Head, Geography, UoM).

Her doctoral research examined ideas and practices of 'nature' and 'place' in the making of Kakadu National Park, while her post-doctoral work with Prof Marcia Langton and others investigated new approaches to treaty and agreement making between indigenous peoples and others in Australia and other settler states. In recent years she has concentrated her field research in Timor Leste examining the intersection of custom and modernity in the diverse governance approaches of this new nation state. She has published widely in geography, anthropology and multi-disciplinary journals and is the co-editor of two books (Settling with Indigenous Peoples (Federation Press, 2006) and Honour Among Nations? (MUP 2004)).

Her 2015 book, Water Politics and Spiritual Ecology: Custom, environmental governance and development (Routledge Explorations in Environmental Studies), is the culmination of a decade of ethnographic research in Timor Leste. It addresses a critical need for a sustained geographical and anthropological inquiry into the social issues of water governance. Exploring the ritual ecological practices, contexts and scales through which use, negotiation over and sharing of water occurs at the local level, the book shows the complex functioning and social, cultural, economic and environmental interdependencies of hydrological societies. It examines the difficulties local communities face in having their rights recognised and their efforts to maintain and assert control of their waterscapes in the face of rapidly changing water governance institutions.

In 2019, in collaboration with Balthasar Kehi and Timor's Lookeu community, she made the film, Wild Honey: Caring for bees in a divided land. The film is distributed by Ronin Films: with a group of Timorese and non-Timorese researchers she is developing an online digital oral history archive 'Culture and Ecology in Timor-Leste'. The archive will be launched in 2020.
Lisa teaches at the undergraduate and postgraduate level: GEOG30026/90025 East Timor Field Class, GEOG20012 Post-conflict Development and Difference and GEOG90021 Conservation and Cultural Environments.


Displaying the 14 most recent projects by Lisa Palmer.



Project Types


Research Grant


Research Contracts


Internal Research Grant

Scholarly Works

Displaying the 49 most recent scholarly works by Lisa Palmer.



Associate Professor In Environmental Studies


Ordinary Member

Australian Institute of Geographers

Ordinary Member

Institute of Australian Anthropologists


Doctor of Philosophy

Northern Territory University