Thilak Mallawaarachchi is an applied economist who has made a sustained contribution to the economics profession, working across government, industry, and academia in Australia and internationally. Since 2002, Thilak worked as Principal Research Fellow at the Risk and Sustainable Management Group in the School of Economics at the University of Queensland, where he is currently an Honorary A/Professor. Thilak served as a Senior Economist at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and worked progressively on several Australian public policy areas including land degradation, water, biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and climate change, since 1989. He also held senior policy roles within the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) including on drought policy, climate adaptation, food, and natural resource management. He has worked previously at the Australian National University, and held senior research positions at CSIRO, and the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Sugar Production, on secondment from ABARES.
After completing a BAgSc with first class honours at Lincoln College in 1977, Frank worked for the New Zealand Meat and Wool Board Economic Service and then the Christian Leaders Training College in Papua New Guinea. He completed a PhD in agricultural and resource economics at University of Hawaii. Currently he is Head of the School of Accounting, Finance, and Economics, having previously served as Dean of the Waikato Management School from 2008 through to 2013. Under Frank’s leadership Waikato has built an outstanding economics team with excellent publication records, strong links with iwi, industry, Government and international agencies. This would not have been possible without the support of international colleagues, many of them affiliated with AARES.
Thilak’s focus has been to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of agriculture and enhance the role of markets in the efficient allocation of water and other natural resources. His international development work with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has examined options to reduce farm-level risks across farming communities in East and Southern Africa, development of farming systems in Africa and Cambodia, and policy and institutional reform in Pakistan horticultural markets. His latest work focuses on mitigating food loss in emerging economies in Asia and capacity building for climate adaptation and inclusive development.
Thilak is an Associate Editor of the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management. His strong publication record includes books, journal articles and policy offerings, which draws on multidisciplinary collaborations across institutions and integrated tools for agricultural and resource economics policy modelling, to support decision-making under uncertainty, in production and for conservation.
Thilak holds a BSc Agriculture from the University of Peradeniya Sri Lanka, a Master of Agricultural Development Economics from the Australian National University, and a PhD in Economics from James Cook University.
As AARES President in 2023, Thilak plans to enhance the value of AARES for early career professionals and work closely with members and well-wishers to build on AARES reputation as a conduit for disseminating knowledge for improved policy and practice, as we face several cascading risks and new opportunities to shape the future. He sees it particularly opportune to be ‘future ready’, in the context of global commitments to mitigate and adapt to climate change, address resource use externalities, and improve the capacity of agriculture and food system for greater social well-being.
Thilak’s incoming President’s statement to the AARES Annual General Meeting is available here.