Inspiring Women of CAP: Associate Professor Bina D'Costa

08 March 2018

To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the professional and academic staff who make our College a world-leading institution for research and teaching on Asia and the Pacific.

In this piece, we chat to International Relations expert Associate Professor Bina D’Costa.


What inspired you to get into your field of research and why?

Like many others, my life has been profoundly shaped by the experiences of displacement and migration. My family experienced the Partition violence of India in 1947 and the vicious war that eventually created Bangladesh in 1971. I was only a year old when my parents became internally displaced and then refugees across the border in ‘71. These memories of forced displacement that I grew up with were eventually replaced by more recent narratives of my own and my sisters' journeys as migrants to different parts of the world. It wasn't easy but we were lucky because well-informed policies on displacement and migration benefitted us. I strongly believe in research-led policy advocacy. This is what inspires me to do my work and I would like to contribute to global policies on displacement and migration that have a positive impact on children and their families’ lives and well-being. 

Who is a woman in your field that you look up to?

I admire my interlocutor and my friend, Dr Swati Parashar, an Associate Professor at the department of International Relations at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. At this time of global uncertainty, when so many academics are either actively part of or are complicit in their silence to academic masculine hierarchical systems, Swati does not hesitate to stand up to wrongdoing. Swati is incredibly kind to her students, and is involved in community work in India, Australia and Sweden.  

What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?

I am deeply involved in a particular research project on statelessness and Rohingya displacement. I have recently returned after spending some intense weeks working with children and young people in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Beyond their trauma and their sadness, what I have also seen is an incredible amount of resilience. I also realise, there is a lot to do, and there are people who look up to researchers like us to advocate on their behalf. What else does a researcher need as motivation? Making a positive impact in the lives of vulnerable communities is what motivates me in this and in all other research projects I have been involved with. I have also tried my best to motivate my students to use their sense of compassion and empathy in their learning activities. 

What are you most proud of?

When I see my students graduate, my children’s kindness to others and the Socceroos qualifying for the 2018 World Cup! I am also proud of my own achievements as a woman of colour and as a representative of a minority community from Bangladesh, who is now teaching at the Department of International Relations in one of the top universities in the world. I am also proud of being able to make an impact through my current work at UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti as its lead migration specialist. 

What’s your advice to your younger self about choosing the right path and juggling life’s different demands?

The advice to my younger self is to be patient and to be kind to oneself. 

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team