Our People

Emphasising resilience and trust.

Core Team

Professor Rodrigo Praino - Centre Director

Dr Rodrigo Praino is Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy.

He holds a PhD in Political Science and has received several prestigious fellowships, scholarships and awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship. In 2018 he became the first political scientist to win a Tall Poppy Science Award for excellence is scientific research and communication.

A/Professor Praino is an expert in decision-making and political behaviour, conducting research on elections, voting, and how voters make decisions in a context of low-information. His publications in this area cover a wide range of issues, including the effect of political scandals and corruption, the political behaviour of young voters, the political representation of women, and the role of candidate physical appearance.

A/Professor Praino is also one of few scholars in Australia engaged in research on space politics and space policy. He is particularly interested in understanding and analysing the importance of space assets for defence, economic development, international relations, and decision-making.

A/Prof Praino’s research has been published by top peer-reviewed academic journals in the Social Sciences, and has attracted funding from various sources, including the Australian Research Council, SmartSat CRC, Defence, the Australian Space Agency, and UNICEF. 


Theme Leads

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Dr Melissa-Ellen Dowling

Lead, AI, Social Media & Disruptive Technologies


Dr Rob Manwaring

Lead, Democracy, Participation & Human Rights


Dr Stacey Henderson

Lead, Defence, Security & Space


Joel Lisk  

Joel Lisk is a Research Associate - Space and Regulation at Flinders University. Joel principally researches the laws applicable to private and commercial activities in new operating domains with a particular focus on the use of outer space. Joel’s main research focuses on how domestic laws are designed and their consequential impacts on commercial activities.

Joel is a qualified lawyer, having previously worked in the areas of consumer and competition law, privacy and data, not-for-profits, and complex regulatory regimes. Joel continues to provide advice in these areas. Joel is also the Secretary of the Space Law Council of Australia and New Zealand.

Joel has also presented at numerous domestic and international conferences on the topic of legislative compliance and regulatory burdens in the commercial space sector and published technical and broad-audience commentaries on Australian and foreign domestic space law issues.

Joel is also a PhD Candidate researching how nations legislate for commercial activities in outer space.


Dr Leoni Connah

Dr Leoni Connah is a Lecturer in Government here at Flinders University. Dr Connah holds a PhD in International Relations from Lancaster University in the UK.

Her PhD thesis and ongoing research explores the changing nature of the conflict in Kashmir in recent years and the impact this has had for regional South Asian security, as well as human security. Dr Connah’s publications cover a wide range of issues on South Asian security, from US intervention in Afghanistan, to the conflict in the Indian Northeast. Such publications can be found in peer-reviewed academic journals including South Asia Research, Peace Review, Global Change, Peace & Security and others. Dr Connah has broader research and teaching interests in postcolonial politics, human rights, feminism, and conflict studies.

Dr Connah is currently the Student Success Lead for Government and is now also the JBC Teaching Lead.


Katrina Lee

Katrina Lee assumed the role of Centre Manager at the Jeff Bleich Centre in October 2023, bringing a diverse background in business operations across multiple industries. In her current position, she holds key responsibilities in strategy, operations, and finance, aiming to enhance engagement on both international and domestic fronts. Katrina is dedicated to supporting growth initiatives and expanding the centre's capabilities.


Don Debats - Foundation Director and UVA Lead

Prof Don DeBats is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Flinders; he is a Visiting Research Professor at the University of Virginia and a Resident Fellow at Virginia Humanities. He is joint CI on defence contracts, providing leadership on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies and network methodologies and analysis.  His research interests are comparative Australian-Canadian-US politics and political history, US foreign policy, democracy and governance. His historical research is supported by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Program and explores earlier challenges to democratic norms. His most recent publications demonstrate the operational independence of social and spatial networks.


Dr Jessica - JBC Policy Hub, Lead

Dr. Jessica Genauer is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the College of Business, Government and Law. Jessica is an expert in international conflict and provides regular analysis for national and international media outlets on global conflicts. Jessica's research interests include conflict, threat perceptions, and post-conflict institution-building with a focus on the Middle East as well as Russia / Ukraine.

Jessica also focuses on innovative curriculum design, with a particular interest in participatory educational methods to develop professional and interpersonal competencies including conflict management, cultural capability, leadership and negotiation skills.

Together with an expert team, Jessica is currently developing an Aboriginal Cultural Capability toolkit for South Australian Local Government. Jessica is also the lead on delivery of a microcredential for the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) on cultural capability and engagement in the Pacific region, to be delivered to Australian Public Service employees.