I'm a New Zealand journalist based in New York, specializing in investigative and longform reporting.

My work has appeared in The AtlanticToronto Star, SBS World News and Australian Geographic and more, exploring topics including the collapse of Donald Trump's luxury hotel development in Canada, the heated debate over Australia's last dolphinarium, the sex-trafficking trade in Cambodia and how thrash metal can help save New Zealand's Maori language.

Currently, I am working as a reporting fellow with Columbia Journalism Investigations, focused on energy and the environment. Previously, I worked as a news reporter, copy-editor and digital journalist in Australia, spending three years with award-winning national broadcaster, SBS. 

I hold a Master's degree from Columbia Journalism School and additional degrees in law and arts from Auckland University. I am a 2015 APJC fellow and 2017 recipient of the James A. Wechsler Memorial Award for best reporting on a national issue.

Contact me at sylvia.varnham@columbia.edu or find me on Twitter and Linkedin.


How every investor lost money on Trump Tower Toronto (but Donald Trump made millions anyway)

Toronto Star

Donald Trump called himself a “genius” for investing in Toronto’s Trump Tower. Behind the scenes, he had no money on the line. The inside story of an unlikely bankruptcy, and the investors who lost everything when they bet on the Trump brand. Full story.

Michael Stuparyk/Toronto Star

Michael Stuparyk/Toronto Star

Ngamihi Photography

Ngamihi Photography

Can a Thrash Metal Band Help Save the Maori Language?

The Atlantic

Indigenous tongues around the world are under threat—and modern musicians are trying to keep them alive. Full story.

Disturbing allegations and legal disputes: Inside 'Australia's #1 Life Coaching School'

SBS World News

Exclusive: Former students have spoken out about a cult-like culture of bullying, high-pressure sales tactics and sexual themes at a Melbourne institute that trains people to become life coaches. Full story

The targeted erosion of new zealanders' rights in australia

SBS World News

New Zealanders now make up the second largest group of people inside Australia's immigration detention centres. Why? Full story.


SBS World News

Exclusive: Proposed new legislation will today be unveiled to ban dolphin captivity in New South Wales, following the death of a baby dolphin at a marine park in 2015. Full story

Sex-trafficking survivor: 'I like making other people beautiful'

SBS World News

When P* was offered a job making coffee in Cambodia’s capital city, she jumped at the chance to escape her home life. But the job was not what she was told. Full story


Browse more of Sylvia's reports and long reads