Professor Margaret Alston


Professor of Social Work and Head of Department

PhD (UNSW 1993); M.Litt (UNE 1990); Dip. Comp. Applic. (RMIHE 1989); B.Soc. Stud. (U Syd 1982).


Telephone: +61 3 9903 1120
Facsimile: +61 3 9903 1141


Research areas – gender, climate and environmental disasters, rural women, social work.

Margaret Alston is Professor of Social Work and Head of Department at Monash University. At Monash University she has established the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit which has attracted an extensive number of PhD students. Previously she was at Charles Sturt University for 21 years, most recently as Professor of Social Work.

In 2010 she was awarded an Order of Australia for her services to social work and to rural women.

She is a past-Chair of the Australian Heads of Schools of Social Work (ACHSSW) and was appointed a Foundation Fellow of the Australian College of Social Work in 2011. She is currently CI on an ARC project on social sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin area and on the ARC Invisible Farmer project with the Victorian Museum to develop awareness of rural women’s contribution to Australian society.

She has completed projects on gender and climate change in Bangladesh with Oxfam; with UNESCO in the Pacific in 2010; with ACIAR in Laos; and was engaged as a UN gender expert by the Gender Division of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) studying gender and climate change in India for 2008. She has been a resident gender expert at the FAO’s offices in Rome in 2009, 2007 and 2003. In 2009 she was also appointed as a UN gender expert by UN-Habitat to advise on the detailed report on the impact of climate change on global cities. Most recently (2012-13) she worked as a gender expert for UNEP in Geneva training field staff on gender sensitive practice.

She has given a number of keynote presentations including the Inaugural Sidney Myer lecture in Adelaide in 2012, and the 2014 International Social Work and Social Policy conference and the National Climate conference in Adelaide in July 2016.

Awards, honours and fellowship

  • an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for services to rural women and to social work (2010).
  • Nominated for Monash Research Excellence award 2015
  • appointed a Foundation Fellow of the Australian College of Social Work (July 2011).
  • featured in a book sponsored by Westpac for the Centenary of Women's Suffrage. Titled 1 in 100 it outlines the 100 women selected as having made a contribution to  the shaping of Australia over the last 100 years (April 2011).
  • nominated by the Australian government's Office for Women to be on the gender expert panel for the 2012 Commission for the Status of Women meeting in New York (November 2011).
  • a member of the Australian delegation to the UN's Commission for the Status of Women in 2008 in New York (February / March 2008).
  • nominated by local member of Parliament to represent the electorate in the Premiers award for NSW Woman of the Year for research exposing the drought hardships (2007).
  • received the award of Researcher of the Year for the Faculty of Arts at CSU (2004 and 2005)
  • received a NSW Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) Edna award for services to early career researchers and postgraduate students in mentoring and encouraging their work (2002).

Professional outreach

Over many years Professor Alston has served on a number of high-level university committees. Currently this includes Monash's Academic Board, Social Inclusion Board, Faculty Executive Committee, Faculty Board, and School Executive Committee. She is Chair of the University's Disability Committee.

She has had an extensive role in social science curriculum development and has written and co-written textbooks, perhaps the best known being Research for Social Workers (with Wendy Bowles). This book is in third edition and has a wide readership in Australia, the US and the UK.

Keynote papers, conference papers (limited to 2009 to current)

Professor Alston gives a number of keynote papers and engages in high-level consultations each year.

  • Keynote address at the Australian Climate conference, July 2016.
  • Keynote to women, agriculture and environment symposium, Penn State University, June 2016
  • Keynote address to Centrelink National Social Work conference March 2016.
  • Keynote address to National Women in Procurement conference, Melbourne March 2016.
  • Invited paper to Canadian Symposium on Gender and Climate Change, June, 2015
  • Paper to International Conference on Mental Health and the Law, Vienna, July 2015
  • Video presentations into the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, symposium on eco-social work May  2015
  • Video presentation - University of Bergen, Sweden August 2015 - gender and climate change
  • Keynote address International Social Work and Social Policy conference, July, Melbourne
  • Address to National Water Conference, July 2013 Sydney
  • Address to ANU College of the Asia-Pacific November 2013, Canberra
  • Inaugural Sydney Myer Lecture on Rural Education March 2012, Adelaide
  • Paper to International Social Work conference, Stockholm, July 2012
  • Paper to International Rural Sociology conference, Lisbon, July 2012
  • Keynote public lecture to  Australian Academy of Science, November 2012
  • Organise and Chair International conference on Gender and Climate Change - Prato, Italy, 24  countries represented, 60 papers presented. (September 2011)
  • Member of World Universities Network - Limits to Adaptation group - paper to workshop at Penn State University, (June 2011)
  • Keynote speaker - the  National Climate Change Research strategy for Primary Industries (CCRSPI) Conference, Melbourne, (March 2011)
  • Keynote speaker, Dubbo - Murray-Darling Basin Conference, (March 2011)
  • Keynote speaker Women and Leadership Forum, Melbourne, (April 2011)
  • Keynote speaker, Gender Equity forum, Maryborough, Victoria (June 2011)
  • Paper to the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers conference, London, (September 2011)
  • Paper to the European Rural Sociology Conference, Crete (August 2011)
  • Paper to the Gender and Climate Change Conference, Prato, (September 2011)
  • Workshop presentation Social work department, Queen's University, Belfast (September 2011)
  • Paper to World Universities Network, Climate Change summit - Oceanography centre, University of Southampton, September 2011
  • Keynote speech - AASW conference, Queensland, November
  • Address to Primary Industry women and agriculture representative group, Melbourne, (November  2011)
  • Address to Social Work Centrelink national meeting, Melbourne, (November 2011)
  • Keynote speaker, Murray Hut, CWA, Finley, (March 2010)
  • Keynote speaker, Women in Dairy National Forum, Melbourne (April 2010)
  • Gender and Climate Change Workshop paper, Penn State, USA, (April 2010)
  • Keynote speaker, Integrating Development and Climate Change Ethics Conference, Penn State, (April 2010)
  • Keynote speaker, A.N.U. Forum on Gender and Climate Change (May 2010)
  • Paper, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne Conference (2010)
  • Keynote speaker, Food, Farming & Health Conference. Lardner Park, Warragul (2010)
  • Pennsylvania State University Virtual Presentation Series, virtual seminar on gender and climate change (2010)
  • Keynote speaker, 5th Lake Eyre Basin Biennial Conference, Alice Springs, (September 2010)
  • Keynote speaker, 40th Annual Conference Public Health Association of Australia, Adelaide, (September 2010)
  • Keynote speaker, National Centre for Farmer Health Conference, Hamilton (2010)
  • Paper, Agrifood Conference, Gippsland, (November 2010)
  • Keynote address Children's Rights and the Law conference, Prato, Italy, (September 2009)
  • Paper to Agri-foods conference, Auckland, NZ (November 2009)
  • Guest lecture, University Ballarat, (November 2009)
  • Keynote to Rural Health Conference, Renmark (2009)
  • Paper to Rural Social Work conference, Geelong (2009)
  • Keynote to Natural Hazards conference, Melbourne, Gender and Climate change (2009)
  • Keynote paper on sex trafficking to Conference on children and the Law, Prato (2009)

Margaret Alston Research: Monash University Research