Julia Laidlaw, a food security professional and researcher, has been with the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme since 2011. She initially took up an internship as part of her Masters in International Urban and Environment Management with RMIT University. She was later employed as a Project Officer with the Cities Programme and had an Acting Manager role for a period in 2012. Julia has a Bachelor of Arts (International Community Development and Spanish) from Victoria University, which included a year of study at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico. She lived in Latin America for a number of years and is a fluent Spanish speaker.
Julia has been supported by the Cities Programme to conduct research that has built on her keen interest in environmental conservation and social and cultural sustainability. She is particularly interested in systems that enhance food security and integrate food cultivation into the urban environment and lifestyle. In 2012, Julia reverted her Masters to Honours study in order to pursue research into international growth and applications of urban aquaponics. Her Honours research was inspired and informed by the Milwaukee aquaponics project, Sweet Water Organics. Julia travelled to Milwaukee in September 2012 with the support of The Water Council and the City of Milwaukee.
This research into aquaponics became the basis of her Honours thesis, which was a comparative case study analysis of two urban aquaponics social enterprises in the cities of Melbourne, Australia and Milwaukee, USA. Her thesis, From Innovation to Sustainability: Surviving Five Years as an Urban Aquaponics Social Enterprise, was supervised by Dr Liam Magee.
In July 2013, Julia presented on this research at the International Sustainable Development Research Council (ISDRC) 19th Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
Julia’s interest in this critical area has extended to building urban food networks, in Australia and internationally, and working to develop an issue platform and tools for the Cities Programme on fair food systems and urban agriculture. In April 2014, Julia developed and led a networking session – Fair Food Systems and Networks in Australia with International Perspectives – at the World Urban Forum 7 in Medellín, Colombia.
Julia developed an academic paper from her research – Towards Urban Food Sovereignty: The Trials and Tribulations of Community-based Aquaponics Enterprises in Milwaukee and Melbourne – which was published in the high ranked Local Environment journal in 2014.
From September 2014, Julia commenced work with communities in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, holding as a Food Security Officer with the Vanuatu Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on the island of Tanna. Following the devastating category 5 tropical Cyclone Pam in March 2015, Julia’s role evolved to one of post-disaster recovery and rebuilding, working for CARE International as a Food Security Technical Advisor in the TAFEA province.
Julia is currently completing a Masters in Agroecology through the University of Cordoba in Spain.