Education and Work: Equity, Participation and Opportunity

Spiral display of books

Research within our Education and Work theme draws on the population diversity of Western Sydney to underpin research that explores educational access on a global scale. This research theme supports individuals and communities in achieving their economic, social and cultural aspirations through education.

Our research is concerned with the potential for education to transform the way people live and learn. Education needs to be responsive and inclusive, especially in times increasingly being influenced by rapid social, economic and technological change. Research in this theme draws together researchers from across our Schools and Institutes. The School of Education’s Centre for Educational Research brings together researchers with a long history of engagement with educational institutions and schools across Western Sydney and beyond. Through Western’s MARCS Institute, and in collaboration with the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, the School of Education, and the School of Nursing and Midwifery, we promote improved early childhood learning, focussing on the building blocks of speech and language learning. The critical need for improved outcomes in STEM connects researchers across the School of Education, MARCS, and the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, among others.

As western economies transition from manufacturing to knowledge industries as the key driver of productivity and economic prosperity, educational attainment and economic success will be twinned. This is true both for the individual and the nation. There is a need for effective, comprehensive and inclusive education at all levels.

The University’s backyard is a microcosm of this global challenge. With a changing industry mix and manufacturing as a diminishing source of employment, understanding and addressing issues affecting access to education is crucial to the prosperity of Western Sydney and the nation.

Theme Champions

Theme Fellow

  • Selection process underway

Research Excellence in Education and Work

The University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development has a focus on the promotion of improved early childhood learning, focusing on the building blocks of speech and language learning. The Centre for Educational Research is a hub for researchers with a long history of engagement with educational institutions and schools across Western Sydney and beyond. Improving STEM literacy is a critical priority under this research theme, as is the pivotal role of the humanities and arts in optimising educational frameworks and outcomes in a digitally disrupted era.

Impact Snapshot

Futuro Infantil Hoy: Our Children’s Future, Today

It might be a truism that it takes a village to raise a child, but most of the time families and communities are left outside the school gates with no way to participate in the education of their children. Futuro Infantil Hoy (FIH), a project led by Associate Professor Christine Woodrow from the Centre for Educational Research, addressed the absence of family and community engagement in schools in Chile and Western Sydney.

FIH built peer support for early childhood learning through local, networked communities of practice. Parents were invited to meet with teachers to inform curriculum and pedagogy – not just when their children were in trouble! Through careful and consistent engagement, a new pedagogical model was established that could be owned, adapted and managed by the community. Early childhood centres provided the ‘hub’ for integration and capacity building among parents, engaging them to be active partners in their child’s learning.

The impact of FIH has spread from 20 schools in Chile to 18 pre-schools in Western Sydney, with over 5,000 children and their families – alongside 500 educators – experiencing the benefits of family and community engagement in education, including dramatic increases in language and maths performance.

White Papers

The Education and Work Research Theme is proud to support the development and dissemination of White Papers. The White Papers serve as a vehicle to highlight the capabilities of our researchers in specific areas to external organisations and bring Western researchers together from across disciplines to tackle a shared problem.

What’s the bloody big deal? How Australian workplaces and educational institutions can help break the menstrual taboo

What's the Bloody Big Deal?

The paper details the disadvantage faced by people who menstruate in both educational and workplace settings. Research evidence is presented that highlights the stark outcomes of being educated, and working, in an environment where menstruation is taboo. The authors champion that giving voice to women and girls and the natural experience of menstruation is needed to address this widespread problem. Without appropriate support, they argue, women and girls’ wellbeing and success in education and work will continue to be limited. To address this challenge, the authors present a vision for future policy, practice and research that is needed within educational and workplace settings. Exemplar practices in a number of workplace settings are provided to demonstrate what is possible when organisations set out to address this problem and support women and girls. Finally, the research team extend an invitation to organisations to join them to address this problem within their local context and lay out a plan for how this collaboration might be realised.

Download the What's the Bloody Big Deal? White Paper (PDF, 5027.73 KB) (opens in a new window)

Currently Funded Projects

Cadetships in Construction
Documenting the role of cadetships in improving employability of Construction Management graduates

Professor Vivian Tam
Associate Professor Mary Hardie
AW Edwards Constructions;
Taylor Constructions;
Quasar Constructions;
City-Country Student Exchange
Evaluating the City-Country multi-school program: Promoting intercultural understanding through student exchange

Professor Kevin Dunn
Dr Alanna Kamp
Dr Oishee Alam
Dr Rachel Sharples
Ms Zarlasht Sarwari
City Country Alliance


Research Capacity Map

The Research Capacity Map (PDF, 228.85 KB) (opens in a new window) highlights key areas of research strength at our metropolitan precincts related to the Research Theme. If you would like to know more about a specific precinct or key capacity, please contact the Champions of this Research Theme.


Education and Work Research Theme 2020-2021 Report cover imageThe Education and Work Research Theme is proud to present a summary of some of the activities and achievements within the theme throughout 2020–2021. During this period, researchers and the community alike faced immense challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Within this context, Western researchers continued to produce cross-disciplinary, collaborative and innovative research. Most notably, this report showcases our partnership with industry and community and our collective impact on lives and communities in the field of education and work. You are invited to connect with our Research Theme Champions to find out more.

Download the 2020-2021 Education and Work Research Theme Report (PDF, 11523.15 KB) (opens in a new window)