Dr Bird has worked in international development for over a decade, with a particular focus on human rights and ethnic minorities in Asia. This work has included heading the China Office of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, managing programs on the Thai-Myanmar border for EarthRights International and coordinating the Australia-China Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program for the Australian Human Rights Commission. A qualified lawyer with degrees in Law and Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney and a Master of Asia-Pacific Studies from the Australian National University, he became the first graduate from the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre PhD program in 2016.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
Dr Bird's thesis 'Entrepreneurs and Ethnicity: Economic Development in China's Northwest' engaged with the Chinese Government's assumptions that the country's ethnic minority nationalities differ from one another primarily in their levels of economic development, and the assertion that ethnic divisions and identities will fade with the gradual achievement of economic and social equality. Dr Bird's research, including interviews with entrepreneurs from minority and non-minority nationality backgrounds across five locations in China's Northwest, revealed that ethnic—and other—identities inform the nature of economic participation. Entrepreneurs' business motivations, selection of industry and products, customers and personnel differ markedly between minority and non-minorities nationalities. Similarly, the obstacles inhibiting economic engagement tend to reflect minority/non-minority divisions. Therefore, economic participation, even when successful in achieving its economic outcomes, may actually serve to reinforce and strengthen minority nationality identity—perhaps even at the expense of national Chinese identity.