Dr Elise Stephenson

GAICD, PhD, BAsIntSt, BComn, BGovIntRelHons (I)
Deputy Director
T: +61 409 210 131

Areas of expertise

  • Gender And Politics 440806
  • International Relations 440808
  • Government And Politics Of Asia And The Pacific 440807
  • Gender, Policy And Administration 440705
  • Australian Government And Politics 440801
  • Public Policy 440709

Research interests

  • Women in leadership, gender equality & sexuality
  • Diplomacy and public diplomacy
  • National security and intelligence
  • Outer space policy and leadership
  • Asia Pacific engagement


2022 Fulbright Scholar and Overall Outstanding Young Alumnus for 2020, Dr Elise Stephenson is a researcher-practitioner with expertise across diplomacy, national security, government, entrepreneurship, and diversity and inclusion.

Dr Stephenson is the Deputy Director of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, founded and chaired by former prime minister Julia Gillard. She is a multi award-winning gender researcher with an entrepreneurial background, whose work focuses on intervening at critical junctures to ensure equality in ‘frontier’ international affairs and grand challenges. She is a collaborative leader dedicated to excellence and innovation, recognized by Google as one of Australia's Top 50 Outstanding LGBTIQ+ Leaders, the United Nations Australia Association as a  Community Awardee, and myriad other external and academic awards, including being recipient of the Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in PhD Research, the University Medal for Excellence in Honours/Masters Research, and the Politics, Asian Studies and International Relations Medal for Excellence in her Undergraduate Studies.

Elise's research focuses on gender, sexuality and leadership in frontier international relations, from researching space policy, to diplomacy, national security, intelligence, security vetting, international representation, and the Asia Pacific. She is interested in how Australia engages with the world - as well as whom is at the forefront of that engagement. 

Elise has international experience across Sweden to the United States, Hong Kong, China, Japan and ASEAN. Elise has published internationally, lead multi-scaled research and engagement projects in public diplomacy and national security, and has a deep embedded understanding of the Australian context for leadership, governance, and international affairs. 

In collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she was the curator of the Young Entrepreneurs & Leaders Speaker Series throughout the Asia Pacific, and co-director of the Australia-ASEAN Council's flagship program, the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (A2ELP). She was awarded the Foundation for Young Australian's Spotlight Award for policy change, and is currently working on projects around women's leadership in Vietnam and Japan, as well as inclusion practices security vetting in Australian national security and intelligence. 

Prior to joining the ANU, Elise was a researcher in the Policy Innovation Hub and $5 million Climate Action Beacon at Griffith University, working around climate justice and climate adaptation, particularly focusing on women, youth, rural communities and the Asia Pacific. She is the board director of design and strategy studio, Social Good Outpost Pty Ltd.

Researcher's projects


  • Investing in Women: Inclusive, Sustainable Economic Recovery, Abt Assoc & Department of Foreing Affairs and Trade, $1.1 million, of a total $80 million project (2023-2028)
  • Inclusive Leadership Program (Mekong Region & Laos Alumni): Leadership for Gender Inclusion, Laos Australia Institute, $415,270, researcher with Andrea Haefner, Dhara Shah (CIs), Griffith Asia Institute (2022)
  • Report on the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation, Workplace Gender Equality Agency, $47,729, with Miriam Glennie (CI), Gosia Mikolajczak, Global Institute for Women's Leadership (2022)
  • Evaluation Framework for Women in Leadership Programs, Office for Women, Victoria, $45,000, CI (2022).
  • Inclusive Recruitment and Security Vetting, $273,891.36, CI with Professor Susan Harris Rimmer (2021-2026)
  • Making the Future Change Agents Today, Australia-Japan Foundation (AJF) Grant, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, $58,098, with Professor Naomi Birdthistle, Professor Susan Harris Rimmer, Professor Caitlin Byrne, Professor Kerry Bodle, and others. (2021-2022)
  • Developing women in knowledge-intensive industries – A Platform for Change, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, $96,187, with Professor Naomi Birdthistle, Professor Susan Harris Rimmer, Professor Caitlin Byrne, and others. (2021-2022)
  • Flourish! Interdisciplinary Solutions for a Thriving Planet - Theo Murphy Initiative (Australia) - Australian Academy of Sciences, $46,200, with Esther Onyango and others (2022).



  • Climate Action Beacon, Griffith University, $5 million (2020-2025)
  • Gender and Leadership Program in Laos, Lao Australia Institute and Coffey International, $211,596 (2021)
  • Evaluating the Queensland 2020 State Election- Strategic Insights Paper on Threats to Democracy, Electoral Commission of Queensland and Nous, $20,000
  • Foundations of Policy and Governance: A Professional Learning Program to Support the Political-Administrative Interface, Queensland State Government, $70,000 (2020-2021)
  • Wayfinding: Students as Researchers, Griffith University, $19,000 (2021)

Current student projects

  • Jenny Cheng, Honours, 2024, Diversity in National Security and Intelligence.
  • Melissa Hitchman, Doctor of Philosophy, 2023. Women in Fives Eyes Diplomacy
  • Renee O'Shannassy, Doctor of Philosophy, 2023. Feminist Multilateralism.
  • Jack Hayes, Doctor of Philosophy, 2022. Queer Diplomacy.
  • Anthony Auditore, Doctor of Philosophy, 2021. Culturally safe care for LGBTQI+ older Australians in residential aged care facilities.


Past student projects

  • Supervisor, Mr Anthony Auditore, Doctor of Philosophy, 2021. Culturally safe care for LGBTQI+ older Australians in residential aged care facilities.
  • Advisor, Ms Nellie Blitz, Bachelor of Government and International Relations with Honours, 2020. Dissertation titled: How has the Australian Defence Force responded to the issue of sexual violence since the review into the treatment of women in defence?
  • Supervisor, Ms Allison Muzyka, Masters internship program with the University of Victoria, Canada, 2021. Research topic: threats to democracy.
  • Supervisor, Ms Zoe Davidson, Bachelor of Government and International Relations, research internship, 2021. Research topic: Australian politics.
  • Supervisor, Ms Lucille Heath-Morris, Bachelor of Government and International Relations, research internship, 2021. Research topic: Australia-Asia engagement.

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  13 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers