Dr Kiah Smith

UQ Amplify Senior Research Fellow

Centre for Policy Futures
Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


Kiah Smith is a Sociologist with expertise in environment, development and critical food studies. With a strong record of international publications on food justice, food security, resilience, financialisation, ethical trade, green economy, sustainable livelihoods, gender empowerment and food system governance, Kiah’s work contributes new understandings of the social dimensions of food system transformation at the intersection of multiple crises. Using mostly qualitative, participatory methodologies (such as action research and future scenario planning), her research emphasises the role that civil society plays in transformative policy making that is systems-focused and inclusive of social-ecological perspectives. For example, she currently leads an ARC DECRA study - Fair Food, Civil Society and the Sustainable Development Goals - that examines how civic stakeholders are able to resist, reshape or redefine what a just and sustainable food system might look like, based on co-design and collaboration with civil society, local government, advocacy groups and grassroots food actors (food hubs, community gardens, and food charities) in Australia. This interdisciplinary research agenda can best be summarised as one where ‘food futures’ are closely connected with ‘deep’ sustainability, rights, justice and empowerment, within the growing field of ‘sustainability transitions’. Other past and present studies include: Multifunctional horticulture - land, labour and environments; Ethical consumption and COVID; Responsible innovation in digital agriculture; Employment policy and indigenous food sovereignty in remote Australia; Financialisation of food and farmland in Australia; Resilience and governance of Australian food systems during crisis; and Mapping civil society, human rights and the SDGs. Kiah has conducted research in Australia and internationally, she has worked with local NGOs (in Africa and Australia), with the United Nations Research Institute in Geneva, and in multidisciplinary research teams spanning the social and natural sciences both here and abroad. Kiah is also a Future Earth Fellow, treasurer of the Australasian Agrifood Research Network, and executive member of the RC40 on Food and Agriculture in the International Sociological Association. Her work at the nexus of academia and policy/advocacy contributes to the growing movement for the right to food in Australia and globally.

Research Interests

  • Food Justice
    Civic/ alternative food networks; Fair Food organising; Community food policy making; Food citizenship; Social solidarity economy; Environmental justice; Right to food
  • Agrifood Political Economy
    'Financialisation of Food and Farming' in Australia, with a focus on agribusiness investment in the the North Queensland sugar industry; Supermarket power and industry 'greening'; Food crisis, multiple crises (food, climate, economic); Horticulture and regional development
  • Sustainable Development
    SDGs; Social dimensions of green economy; UN policy processes; Research translation
  • Food systems governance
    Resilience of long and short food chains; Adaptive, reflexive governance; Food systems in 'crisis', e.g. flooding, climate change; Food systems transformation; Multi-stakeholder participation and power; climate change
  • Gender and Ethical Trade
    Fair and ethical trade, e.g. 'ethical consumption and production' networks; Ecofeminism; Smallholder food production/trade in the Global South; Sustainable livelihoods Gender empowerment; Conventions, standards, multistakeholder regulation

Research Impacts

Over the past decade, Kiah has collaborated with FIAN International on the right to food, UN Women on their ‘Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice’, UNRISD programmes on ‘A new eco-social contract’ and ‘Localising the SDGs’, and Future Earth through her ‘Fair Food Futures’ podcast and animation. She has provided expertise to global food security policy making through participation in the UN High Level Panel on the Sustainable Development Goals (2018), UN Food Systems Summit Civic Dialogues (2021), and the 2022 People’s Summit in the lead up to the next SDG Summit in 2023. Kiah's research has informed recent submissions to the Australian government, including to the Senate inquiry on resilience and flooding (2013), Australia's progress on the SDGs (2018), Financial Investment (2020), Food Pricing and Food Security in Remote Indigenous Communities (2020), and Food Security (2022), as well as to civic initiatives such as the AFSA People’s Food Plan (2023) and CSIRO's discussion paper on ‘Transforming Australian Food Systems’ (2022). At the Centre for Policy Futures, Kiah’s expertise in justice, rights and empowerment will contribute across the focal areas, and help to build the Centre’s capacity for research as social action, non-traditional research translation and impact, and policy engagement with the SDGs.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • I am interested in supervising Honours or RHD students with a focus on food, human rights and civil society. Please contact me directly for more details.

View all Available Projects


Featured Publications


Book Chapter

  • Lawrence, Geoffrey and Smith, Kiah (2020). Neoliberal Globalization and Beyond: Food, Farming, and the Environment. The Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Sociology. (pp. 411-428) edited by Katherine Legun, Michael Bell and J. Keller. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781108554558.026

  • Lawrence, Geoffrey and Smith, Kiah (2018). The concept of 'financialization': criticisms and insights. The financialization of agri-food systems: contested transformations. (pp. 23-41) edited by Hilde Bjørkhaug, André Magnan and Geoffrey Lawrence. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315157887-2

  • Smith, Kiah (2018). Zero Hunger discourse: neoliberal, progressive, reformist or radical?. Contested sustainability discourses in the agrifood system. (pp. 89-110) edited by Douglas H. Constance, Jason Konefal and Maki Hatanaka. Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315161297

  • Smith, Kiah (2016). Food Systems Failure: Can we Avert Future Crises?. Routledge International Handbook of Rural Studies. (pp. 250-262) edited by Mark Shucksmith and David L. Brown. London: Routledge.

  • Smith, Kiah and Lyons, Kristen (2012). Negotiating organic, fair and ethical trade: Lessons from smallholders in Uganda and Kenya. Food systems failure: The global food crisis and the future of agriculture. (pp. 182-202) edited by Christopher Rosin, Paul Stock and Hugh Campbell. London, United Kingdom: Earthscan.

  • Campbell, Hugh, Lawrence, Geofffrey and Smith, Kiah (2006). Audit Cultures and the Antipodes: The Implications of EurepGAP for New Zealand and Australian Agri-food Industries. Between the Local and the Global: confronting complexity in the contemporary Agri-food sector. (pp. 69-94) edited by T. Marsden and J. Murdoch. Oxford, England: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/S1057-1922(06)12004-1

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Note for students: Dr Kiah Smith is not currently available to take on new students.

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

Dr Kiah Smith is not currently available to take on new students.

  • I am interested in supervising Honours or RHD students with a focus on food, human rights and civil society. Please contact me directly for more details.