Professor Elaine Stratford
The establishment of the Peter Underwood Centre in early 2015 was a unique moment in which Tasmanians came together to address a common purpose. As the inaugural Director from July 2015 to April 2017, Professor Elaine Stratford played a key role in delivering on the Centre’s early promise. Professor Stratford was Head of the School of Geography and Environmental Studies and then Deputy Director of the newly established Institute for the Study of Social Change before taking on the role of Director of the Peter Underwood Centre. She has earned an exceptional international reputation in the geographies of children and young people and island studies.
Under Professor Stratford’s leadership, the Centre’s growing team has clarified its key questions, interdisciplinary approach, and broad scope. An ambitious research agenda has been set, initially involving a number of longitudinal projects about different aspects of educational attainment; the workforce development strategy has gone from strength to strength; and Children’s University Tasmania and the Bigger Things project have touched the lives of hundreds of students, parents, schools, and community groups and organizations. A state-wide seminar series, Horizon, has been successfully launched, a distinguished visitors program has commenced, and a biennial conference series has been established. Over 225 individuals are now affiliated with the Centre and support its work in many ways.
Professor Stratford moved back to the Institute for the Study of Social Change in late April 2017 to focus on research, including those projects with the Centre that were started during her term as Director. She said that she had been inspired by the mission and promise of the Underwood Centre, and that her work with the team and with others around Tasmania consolidated her deep-seated belief in the power of education to lift people and the communities in which they live, and reaffirmed her profound commitment to this island place and its young people.