Scholarship allows busy student more flexibility when juggling work and research into labour diversification

Gavin Williams has been awarded the inaugural Samuel and June Hordern Scholarship in Rural and Regional Economics for 2023.

Williams joins fellow students Jacklyn Lee and Diego Machillanda Flechas as the first cohort of University of Melbourne students to win the award generously donated by the descendants of the late Samuel and June Hordern, noted pastoralists.

The scholarship is open to students whose research is informed by rural and regional economics and who have been accepted into either the Honours in Economics or the Master of Economics programs.

In the final year of his Master of Economics, Williams’ research project explores the extent to which existing diversification of employment across industries impacts the effect of economic shocks in Australia’s regions’ labour markets.

“The scholarship is supporting me to juggle the challenges of a busy consulting career and study commitments,” says Williams, a part-time student also working as a public policy management consultant.

The support from the scholarship has also strengthened his motivation and he expressed his gratitude to the donors of the Samuel and June Hordern Scholarship in Rural and Regional Economics.

“Taking time away from my career to focus on academic studies and research has been a big but rewarding step.”

His research narrows in on the effect of coal-fired power plant closures on local employment and incomes such as the approximately 750 Latrobe Valley workers who lost their jobs following the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station in March 2017.

One policy proposal in response to such shocks, to better manage economic outcomes in the regions, is to diversify regional workers or commodities across sectors and minimise reliance on primary industries or single commodities.

“Good policy development requires well-evidenced economic analysis.

“However, empirical evidence in Australia supporting diversification is limited, due to the difficulty in identifying an effect distinct from other contributing economic factors.”

As Australia continues to deliver on decarbonisation strategies, regional and rural areas will continue to be affected by power plant closures.

“I am hoping my regional-focused research can stimulate additional thinking and support to policymakers developing government response to pending plant closures, and ultimately improve economic outcomes of Australia’s regional and rural population.”

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