Celebrate the International Day of the Tropics

Report Launch - The Digital Divide in the Tropics

29 June 2021 - Webinar

3.30pm AEST

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put the role of digital technology plays in our lives in stark relief. Trade, employment, learning leisure and communications rapidly shifted into the digital realm. More than 50% of the tropical population is not online so we decided to explore this digital divide further to understand the impact it has on poverty, education, equality and the economy.

Speakers include:
Ms Andrea Della Mattea – President, Microsoft Asia Pacific
Professor Ian Atkinson – Director E-Research, James Cook University
Associate Professor Tacisius Kabutaulaka – Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Hawaii
Ms Ann Penny – Project Manager, State of the Tropics (Moderator)

You can watch the webinar here:

In 2016 the State of the Tropics Alliance welcomed the United Nations decision to declare 29th June as the International Day of the Tropics. The initiative was spearheaded by the Australian Government in close collaboration with State of the Tropics alliance.

The International Day of the Tropics provides an opportunity to take stock of progress across the tropics, share tropical stories and celebrate the diversity and potential of the region.

About the Speakers

Ms Andrea Della Mattea is currently the President, Asia Pacific at Microsoft, where our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Based in Singapore, Andrea leads Microsoft's commercial and consumer products, services and support business across the region. Andrea also serves as a Non-Executive Director for Meals on Wheels and on the Business Advisory Committee for the Habitat for Humanity Australia.

Ms Della Mattea has more than 20 years' experience in the technology sector. Prior to joining Microsoft, Andrea served as the Managing Director, Asia Pacific and the Senior Vice President, North America Software, Insight Enterprises Inc. From 1996 - 2006, Ms Della Mattea served as Vice President, North American Sales & Marketing, and the Managing Director, Asia Pacific for Software Spectrum Inc. Prior roles included Queensland State Manager, The Essentially Group and Computer Systems Engineer, Trysoft Australia.

A student of James Cook University between 1989 and 1992, Andrea received her Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Systems) with Honours Class 1 in 1993. Andrea is also a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Professor Ian Atkinson is a Tropical Leader and Director of the eResearch Centre at James Cook University. His PhD studies were in chemical physics but nearly 20 years ago moved from experimental science into computational chemistry and high-performance computing.

Over the past decade the rapid expansion of the Internet, mass data storage and computing has impacted every area of research and academic activity. As Director of the JCU eResearch Centre he has the privilege of working with researchers to apply new and ever changing ICT tools and methods to their research and amplifying their impacts.

He has a long-standing interest in eResearch methods, tools, scientific data management and user interfaces for HPC tools. He is also actively involved in researching how new systems and software that connect the physical and virtual worlds, particularly focusing on environmental monitoring with sensor networks.

Tarcisius Kabutaulaka is a political scientist with a PhD from the Australian National University and undergraduate and MA degrees from the University of the South Pacific (USP). He joined the Center for Pacific Islands Studies in 2009 and has served as director since August 2018. Prior to that, he worked for six years as a Research Fellow at the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program. Before moving to Hawai’i in 2003, he taught history and political science at USP. Over the years, Kabutaulaka has also done consultancy work for governments, regional and international organizations and NGOs in the Pacific Islands. He is the editor the Pacific Islands Monograph Series (PIMS), the founding editor of Oceania Currents, and a member of the editorial board of The Contemporary Pacific. He has published extensively on the Solomon Islands civil unrest and the Australian-led regional intervention, the forestry industry in Solomon Islands, China in Oceania, and on governance issues in the Pacific Islands. He is the co-editor (with Greg Fry) of Intervention and State-building in the Pacific: the Legitimacy of ‘Cooperative Intervention’ (Manchester University Press, 2008). In 2000, following two years of conflicts in Solomon Islands, he participated in the peace talks in Townsville, Australia, as one of the chief negotiators. He is a regular commentator on Radio Australia. Kabutaulaka comes from the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands.

Past Events

Celebrate International Day of the Tropics with JCU

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

As part of celebrations for the UN International Day of the Tropics in 2020, the State of the Tropics consortium will be launching the State of the Tropics 2020 Report.

State of the Tropics Report Launch

View the launch video, featuring Professor Sandra Harding, Professor Peter Hotez, Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Bahka Dutt and hosted by national medical report Sophie Scott.

Partnering for impact on the SDGs: from local to global

A JCU Public seminar series

Cairns: Cairns Institute Lecture Theatre (D003-054). Townsville: Science Place Lecture Theatre (142-111)

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address global challenges: poverty, inequality, climate, environmental change, prosperity, peace and justice.

In 2016, JCU became the first Australian university signatory to the SDGs. Through this commitment, JCU seeks to support and promote the principles of the SDGs through its research, teaching, and operations.

This seminar series seeks to demonstrate JCU’s impact on the SDGs from the local to the global. This series celebrates the applied research of JCU researchers and their external partners across Cairns, Townsville, the Wet Tropics, Northern Australia, and the Asia-Pacific. The 6-month program will include presentations on JCU’s large-scale projects led by senior researchers and our professorial team, and new and emergent projects being undertaken by PhD Candidates and Early Career Researchers.

Seminar 6 - Educational possibilities for the Sustainable Development Goals

4 - 5pm 26 September 2019 - followed by refreshments. This seminar will be presented from Cairns, video linked to Townsville.


Presentation 1 -  Transformational Learning and Global Citizenship Education for the SDGs: Evaluating International Service Learning Best Practice

Dr Kearrin Sims, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, College of Science and Engineering.

International Service Learning (ISL) has become a prevalent feature of both secondary and higher education in Australia. Motivations for engaging in ISL are diverse, but much of the recent enthusiasm in higher education stems from federal government funding schemes such as the New Colombo Plan and Endeavour Awards. In this presentation I consider what 'best practice’ in ISL might look like, as well as how ISL can contributed to the advancement of the SDGs. A wide body of literature demonstrates that ISL can offer transformative learning experiences that foster inclusive ‘cosmopolitan’ values of a shared sense of humanity and respect across (and for) socio/cultural difference. However, an equally wide body of literature contends that ISL programs have the potential to reinforce problematic, Eurocentric, understandings of race, culture, and inequality that position the non-Western ‘Other’ as inferior and/or dependent on Western charity. Approaching ISL from the normative standpoint that inclusive leadership requires an openness to alternative ways of knowing, interpreting and being in the world, this paper explores some of the key opportunities and pitfalls that must be negotiated in order for ISL to serve as a vehicle for advancing the SDGs - and particular Goal 4, Target 7. Deliberations presented in this paper draw on my ongoing research partnership with ISL provider Rustic Pathways Travel. Each year approximately 10,000 students undertake Rustic programs across 93 community projects in 19 countries. To date, research for this project has included case study analysis of two Rustic programs; interviewing with Rustic senior staff and program leaders, as well as students and participating teachers; participant observation, and; deconstructive analysis of Rustic’s learning resources and marketing materials. At the heart of this presentation is the question of how ISL may begin students on a journey towards more active and engaged citizenship for inclusive sustainable development.

Dr. Kearrin Sims is a critical development scholar with a particular interest in exclusionary forces, social equity, and connectivity in the Asian region. He is also interested in development studies pedagogy, South-South cooperation, decolonising development and urban transformations. Kearrin convenes James Cook University’s Master of Global Development and is the Chair of JCU’s Sustainable Development Working Group.

Presentation 2 - International Collaboration for Effective Inclusive Leadership within the Higher Education Sector of Papua New Guinea

Nicholas Roberts, PhD Candidate, The Cairns Institute James, Cook University
Dr. Scott R. Davis, Project Contributor, The Cairns Institute James, Cook University  
Murray Prideaux, Lecturer,  College of Business, Law & Governance, James Cook University
Dr Ora Renagi, Acting Vice Chancellor at PNG University of Technology

This paper considers how partnerships between international higher education institutions can enhance effective leadership within Papua New Guinea’s higher education sector. It will also consider the role of leadership in the development and maintenance of academic integrity and quality assurance processes to enrich teaching quality and graduate outcomes. The paper is based on the outcomes and learnings from a ‘twinning program’ between James Cook University (JCU) and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (PNG UoT); a partnership that has been working to enhance academic quality in teaching and learning and institutional systemic capacity at the PNG UoT since 2016. This twinning partnership is focused on several outcomes/ areas, but notably: (1) strengthening systems, processes, structures and capabilities within PNG UoT for continuous academic quality improvement, and; (2) identifying ‘champions’ within the institution as future leaders of meaningful and sustainable long-term institutional strengthening and capacity development.
Building strong partnerships is integral to developing sustainable and realistic institutional change, as well as enhancing transparency through ongoing information exchange to strengthen governance and accountability systems and processes. However, promoting effective and sustainable leadership within PNG UoT and other academic institutions within Papua New Guinea is, challenged by post-independence national power structures, the cultural complexities of the WonTok system, and the rapid national social, cultural, and economic change occurring in a country experience significant transitions.  Accordingly, in this paper we reflexively interrogate our efforts to navigate the historical, cultural, and political context of the twinning program, in order to deliver more effective leadership for the enhancement of high-quality academic teaching and learning.

State of the Tropics’ Special Event at JITMM 2018

Case Studies of Tropical Health
1pm to 5pm 11 December 2018
Room C@7, Level 7, Amari Watergate, Bangkok, Thailand

Join us for a special Joint International Tropical Medicine Meeting 2018 (JITMM2018) pre-Meeting event that explores case studies of tropical health – what is working, what hasn’t and what do we hope the future will hold?  Hosted by State of the Tropics alliance partners James Cook University and Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, this forum will bring together researchers, policy-makers, doctors, scientists, public-health professionals, and students to discuss shared tropical health challenges and build ongoing partnerships.

This event is free - please RSVP for catering purposes:


  • Mr Humpress Harrington - James Cook University, Australia  and Atofi Health Research Group, Solomon Islands.
  • Professor Banchob Sripa - Head of Tropical Disease Research Laboratory (TDRL) at Khon Kaen University in Khon Kaen, Thailand.
  • Professor Jetsumon Sattabongkot Prachumsri - Mahidol Vivax Research Unit (MVRU)
  • Associate Professor Narisara Chantratita - Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit
  • Dr Masum Billah - International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
  • Professor Maxine Whittaker (Chair) - Dean, Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences James Cook University, Townsville

About the speakers:

Humpress Harrington

Humpress Harrington is a lecturer at Pacific Adventist University Atoifi Campus East Kwaio, Solomon Islands. He is involved in lymphatic Filariasis, Soil Transmitted Helminth, TB, and Malaria research and health research capacity building activities in Solomon Islands. Currently a PhD candidate at James Cook University.

Professor Banchob Sripa

Dr. Banchob Sripa is a professor and chair of Tropical Medicine Graduate Program, and the Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Control of Opisthorchiasis (Southeast Asian Liver Fluke Disease), the Tropical Disease Research Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Thailand. He got a highest doctoral degree in Tropical Health from the University of Queensland (Australia) and experienced several post-graduate trainings in pathology and global health.  He has been working for >30 years and his research focus is mainly on human liver fluke in several aspects and cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), the bile duct cancer as well as other tropical diseases. Dr.Sripa is a world expert in pathology, pathogenesis and control of liver fluke infection and CCA.

Professor Jetsumon Sattabongkot Prachumsri - Mahidol Vivax Research Unit (MVRU)

As the Director of the Mahidol Vivax Research Unit (MVRU), part of the Center of Excellence for Malaria Research, Dr Jetsumon Prachumsri leads a research team of 30 staff including junior scientists, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and research technologists. With MVRU she has a wide range of international collaborations, including with the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, Australia; Pennsylvania State University, USA and Osaka University, Japan. Dr. Jetsumon Prachumsri’s primary research area is the biology and transmission of Plasmodium vivax. This includes studies of the mosquito vectors, establishing in vitro / ex vivo systems and conducting research to support development of new drugs and vaccines.

Associate Professor Narisara Chantratita

Dr Narisara Chantratita is involved in both teaching and research. She teaches students from the Diploma, MSc and PhD courses at the Bangkok School of Tropical Medicine and is the Principal Investigator on two current melioidosis projects. In her research she works with international colleagues from the University of Washington, USA and the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit as well as having strong connection to the Thai research community. Her primary research area is melioidosis, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. She is especially interested in the development of improved methods of diagnosis and treatment for this neglected tropical disease.

Professor Maxine Whittaker (Chair)

Maxine A. Whittaker, MBBS,  MPH , PhD, FAFPHM is the Dean of the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences at James Cook University (Feb 2016), She is also co-Director of the World Health Organisation's Collaborating Centre for Vector Borne Diseases and Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Maxine Whittaker has lived and worked in Bangladesh, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea and worked extensively in China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Thailand , Tonga, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.  She has extensive experience in project and programme design in health and development, especially in infectious diseases, One Health, and sexual and reproductive health and gender analysis, and using rapid formative research and anthropological methods and for a variety of international development partner and NGO organizations. She has developed local research teams in social sciences methods in Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Northern Queensland remote communities, and Vanuatu, and participated in the development of training materials and activities to support this capacity development.

Sustainable Infrastructure Development in the Tropics Forum

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Challenges and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region

Join us for a special event that explores the challenges and opportunities for sustainable infrastructure development in the world’s tropical zone. Hosted by State of the Tropics alliance partners James Cook University and Mahidol University, the forum will bring together business leaders, academics, policy makers and other stakeholders from throughout the Asia-Pacific to explore the critical role the region has to play as the world redefines the global development agenda.

State of the Tropics is a global alliance of leading research institutions providing in-depth coverage and analysis of key social, economic and environmental issues affecting the tropical world. With the support of the Australian Government’s Australia-ASEAN Council this forum is part of a series of events exploring key development issues in the Asia-Pacific region and its significance to the tropics and beyond.

» Download the Conference Program (PDF, 719 KB)