Our projects

Our projects

The Centre and its members partner with individuals, companies, governments and not-for-profits as a trusted and proven collaborator in all matters related to advancement of ideas, policies and processes that can enhance decent work, productivity, well-being, sustainable business outcomes and community benefits.

The Centre for Workforce Futures aims to be the institution of choice for research into all matters of Decent Work in Australia.

What happens in our local workplaces is linked to national and global trends. Our society and our economy depend on getting the balance right between people, profits and public good. We are here to help them understand the complexity of their challenges as the world around us changes to new ways of thinking and new ways of working.

Today's employers, employees, workplace regulators and legislators face very complex workforce challenges. To achieve the best outcomes for individuals, organisations and the economy they need to understand and address a variety of critical issues affecting employee engagement and productivity.

These issues include:

  • Automation and digital disruption
  • Climate Change and work
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Employment and participation in work
  • Incomes policy and social goals
  • Industrial and Employment Relations
  • Inter-generational Change
  • New Forms of Work Organisation
  • Profits and Shared Value Creation
  • Regulation and the workplace
  • Supply Chains and globalisation
  • Workers Capital/Superannuation
  • Workers’ health
  • Workforce Planning in a changing world

The Centre For Workforce Futures has conducted numerous projects since its establishment in 2011 to address such issues. In 2019, its members are undertaking Australian Research Council-funded projects, and government- and industry-funded projects, and it has signed partnership agreements with a number of external organisations.

Please see below for past and current projects.

Research projects 2011–2018

Year(s) Project name Staff MembersNotes
2014–2017 Affinities in Multicultural Australia Lucy Taksa, Ellie Vasta and Fei Guo Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP140100424 ($230,000)
2015–2016 Web-based Analytical Platform for China Datasets Fei Guo and Zhiming Cheng Macquarie University Research Infrastructure Scheme Grant ($150,000)
2015 Analyses of Historical Patterns of Schooling, Religion, and Socio-demographics of Australia’s Population and Creation of Public Access Databases Nick Parr, Lucy Taksa and Nikki Balnave Catholic Education Commission ($49,706) and Macquarie University Enterprise Partnerships Scheme Pilot Research Grant ($49,706)
2016 Analyses of Historical Patterns of Schooling, Religion, and Socio-demographics of Australia’s Population and Creation of Public Access Databases Nick Parr, Lucy Taksa and Nikki Balnave Catholic Education Commission ($70,000) to extend research on the project entitled
2016– Web-based Analytical Platform Hosting China’s Labour Market, Migration, Household and Demographic Dynamics Survey Datasets CIs: Fei Guo and Zhiming Cheng A Macquarie University Strategic Infrastructure Scheme grant ($150,000). The platform structure has been built and is currently hosting a number of survey datasets on China’s labour market, migration, employment and demographics in a test environment. An online analytic tool is also available that allows users to generate descriptive results of the data without downloading the original datasets. A further refinement of the platform with on-going IT support is needed to enable the full functionality of the platform.
2017 Analyses of Historical Patterns of Schooling, Religion, and Socio-demographics of Australia’s Population and Creation of Public Access Databases Nick Parr, Lucy Taksa and Nikki Balnave Catholic Education Commission ($50,000) to extend research on the project entitled
2018 Enabling longitudinal research on Religion, Education and Population in NSW through a Public Access Database Nick Parr, Lucy Taksa and Nikki Balnave Macquarie University Small Research Infrastructure Scheme ($69,626) and Faculty of Business and Economics (now Macquarie Business School) ($15,000)
2018 'Diversity in the Workforce' multi-country survey Lucy Taksa The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris-Dauphine University, Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI) and Centre for Workforce Futures, Macquarie University
 A National Portable Long Service Leave Scheme
  • Professor Ray Markey
  • Ms Shauna Ferris
  • Dr Tim Kyng
  • Dr Catriona Lavermicocca
  • Dr Salut Muhidin
  • Dr Sharron O'Neill
  • Associate Professor Nick Parr
  • Dr Louise Thornthwaite
  • Dr Chris Wright (USyd)
 Superannuation Regulation and Fund Performance
  • Professor Ray Markey
  • Dr Louise Thornthwaite
  • Associate Professor Sue Wright
  • Ms Shauna Ferris
  • Dr Mike Rafferty (USyd)
 Organising Works 20th Anniversary 
 Impact of NSW Workers Compensation Legislation 2012 
 Australia Anywhere Working (Telework) Research Network 
 Workforce Futures and Climate Change Project 
 Effectiveness of procurement regulation
  • Dr Chris F. Wright
 Supply Chains and Aviation Safety 
 Population Challenges for the Local Court of New South Wales 
 Employee Voice in Australia
  • Professor Paul Gollan
  • Professor Adrian Wilkinson

New projects 2019

The Centre For Workforce Futures has numerous projects commencing in 2019.

We are extremely pleased to announce that the Centre's members were successful in obtaining Australian Research Council grants to support their research. Two ARC-funded projects are located in the Centre — one Discovery grant and one Discovery Early Career Award. Two other Discovery grants have been obtained by members in the Arts Faculty at Macquarie University.

Projects Located in Centre for Workforce Futures

Project Name Project MembersDescription
Corporate Women’s representation in Australian and Chilean business elites, 2000–2019 Erica Salvaj, Lucy Taksa Australia-APEC Women in Research Fellowship awarded to Associate Professor Erica Salvaj (UDD Chile & CWF International Scholarly Advisory Committee Member) sponsored by Professor Lucy Taksa. This fellowship will fund Associate Professor Salvaj to visit the Centre between 20 December 2019–1 March 2020.
Biomedical engineering workforce Chief Investigators (CIs): L. Taksa, D. Hull, F. Guo, S. Kalfa, R. Appleyard, D. Turner. This project (with the SAX Institute and NSW Ministry of Health) investigates the biomedical engineering workforce in order to identify strategies and opportunities for the development of the biomedical engineering workforce to ensure supply is in line with NSW Health service demands now and into the future.
Demographic and social dimensions of migrant ageing and wellbeing in Australia (funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Scheme) Chief Investigators (CIs): Fei Guo, Lucy Taksa, Zhiming Cheng, Massimiliano Tani
Partner Investigators:
Lihua Liu (University of Southern California) and Klaus Zimmermann (Bonn University)
This project aims to examine the deterioration of health and wellbeing in migrant communities in Australia over time. Some migrant groups suffer higher mortality and morbidity in older age, despite having better health than non-migrants upon arrival in the host country. By consolidating and analysing a wide range of quantitative data and conducting qualitative fieldwork among ten migrant groups in Australia, the project aims to produce new estimates of healthy life expectancy and investigate how social capital sustains health throughout the ageing process. The project will inform government policymakers, migrant aged care service providers, and migrant communities in supporting quality of life outcomes.
A history of Australian businesswomen since 1880 (funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award Scheme) Chief Investigator: Catherine Bishop
Lucy Taksa
This project aims to produce a substantive history of Australian female small business owners since 1880. It will introduce new methodologies and directions to business and feminist history and engage in global conversations about historical female entrepreneurship. The project seeks to provide new knowledge about the gendered nature of economic, legal and networking structures and how they have impeded or supported female participation in small business; it will trace representations of businesswomen over time. The project expects to enable broader, socially-embedded and historically-informed understandings of how gender has operated in business, and contribute to current debates about gender, diversity and small business.
Employee Engagement at Port of Newcastle Daryll Hull Professor Daryll Hull will undertake a whole-of-organisation engagement study with the Port of Newcastle starting in February 2019. This follows the signing of a 5-year collaboration agreement with the Centre. This is the initial project under that agreement. It will be based on narrative research methods developed over the past 4 years and successfully applied in other organisations. The outcome will be a clear view of the Port organisation and its work culture, leading to further research into possible strategies for workforce development.
Australian Maritime College (AMC) collaboration on new technologies Daryll Hull Under the recently signed collaboration agreement between the Centre and the College a series of projects will commence. The first of these is a coordinated review of the use application of drone technology in ports and shipping. This will involve the Centre, AMC and at least one national shipping company. Professor Daryll Hull will lead this work on behalf of the Centre.
Fair Work Commission living database Daryll Hull, Anna Booth, Nour Dados

Work will be undertaken on the creation of a “living database” for all knowledge concerning what has been termed “new approaches” in collective bargaining in Australia. This project combines the efforts of Fair Work Australia, the Centre and various industrial organisations. It will be based at the Centre, and will be accessible and open to researchers across the campus and beyond. It will contain both current and historical information. Professor Daryll Hull and Deputy President Anna Booth of the Fair Work Commission will co-design the database.

Preliminary research has been undertaken by Dr Nour Dados, Post Doc Fellow in the Centre.

Skills Verification with QTAC Daryll Hull The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) and the Centre plus industry partners will undertake a pilot study in skills verification software subject to negotiation for a beta site in Queensland, on the ground in a major transport company. The project was outlined in the Lighthouse News in December 2018. Professor Daryll Hull is facilitating a network of partners during 2019 to bring this project to fruition in 2020.
Social Business Incubation (SBI) Daryll Hull, Graham West, Mauricio Marrone

The Enterprise Partnership Agreement between the Centre and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) has finished the first stage — development of a business case to roll out a new form of business start-up support in regional NSW. Termed Social Business Incubation (SBI), it proposes a blend of commercial business incubation and social enterprise. During 2019 the business case will be marketed to SVDP philanthropy networks and to Government. The project is designed to run for 5 years and will seek an investment of $14 million. The Centre will provide monitoring and evaluation of the project over the 5 years.

The project is under the supervision of Professor Daryll Hull, with the support and leadership of The Hon Graham West (Honorary Fellow of the Centre). Dr Mauricio Marrone from the Faculty of Business and Economics (now Macquarie Business School) was also engaged in the business case preparation.

Future Ports 2050 Chief Investigators (CIs):
  • Daryll Hull, Director of Centre for Workforce Futures
  • Peter Creeden, Honorary Fellow, Centre for Workforce Futures

Collaborative Investigator:

  • Prashant Bhaskar, Director Centre for Ports and Shipping, Australian Maritime College

In the past decade there has been unprecedented global corporate and technological shifts in the maritime sector. Work in Australian ports and beyond is fundamentally and directly affected by these changes. Work organisation and skills, knowledge and capabilities are being transformed beyond recognition. As international companies merge and reform themselves, and re-create themselves as supply chain operators rather than dedicated shipping, stevedoring or logistics groups, the impact on the nature and direction of work itself in these areas is overwhelming. The next two decades will be a tipping point for workforce development, skills and job design.

To address these issues a research consortium is being created to address, along with industry stakeholders, two key questions:

  • What are the current and emerging challenges and opportunities for today’s port workforce?
  • What public policies and management strategies can foster decent work, along with sustainable and inclusive workplaces?

In October 2019, the Centre held a half day workshop, 'Research Themes at 2020', at Macquarie University to discuss and debate potential relevant port sector research themes for HDR students to consider when undertaking a Masters of Research or a PhD within the Program.

Future Skills in Rail Engineering Daryll Hull The National Office of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and the University will seek support from experts in the field, from employers and from Government at all levels to co-design and implement a new learning pathway for rail engineering skills. A Scoping Paper will be produced during early 2020 for discussion and adoption by all interested parties. Given the present (and growing) interest in rail engineering from several stakeholders in the rail sector, it is proposed that we explore the idea of a single integrated learning and certification pathway in rail track engineering from the track to university, linked and seamless from Certificate 1 through to Higher Degrees. This pathway is to be open to members who join it from jobs in track building and maintenance, to university graduates who join the railways direct from their time in higher education. The focus is to be on a balance between practical on-the-job learning, local understanding of conditions, and a decent amount of theory to underpin the practice.
Producing Knowledge in Precarity: Research, Universities and Labour InsecurityChief Investigator: Nour Dados
Mentor: Lucy Taksa
This project investigates how employment insecurity affects the creation of new knowledge at universities. It seeks to understand the impact of insecure employment (casual and fixed-term) on professional identity formation, intellectual labour process and the creation of research-based knowledge among academic workers. The research will examine the personal, social and institutional dimensions of undertaking research-based knowledge work and contribute to a better understanding of the experience of knowledge producers in insecure work.

Members’ Projects — External to Centre

Project Name Project MembersDescription
The case for work Chief Investigator: Professor Jean-Philippe Deranty This project aims to make a substantial contribution to theoretical debates about the future of work. There is growing concern that technological advances will lead to a crisis of work in the near future and challenge the idea that work is central to social inclusion and personal development. This project will systematically map out and respond to the arguments against the centrality of work. The expected outcome is a significant reduction in complexity regarding fundamental assumptions in debates on future work. The project will aim to advance the national conversation on a crucial issue of social and economic policy.
Challenging the Bystander Effect via documentary film Chief Investigator: Kathryn Millard This project aims to challenge the Bystander Effect. Social experiments from the 1960s have entrenched the view that in groups we fail to act to prevent harm to others in public emergencies. Film has played a significant role in promoting this theory. Drawing on an innovative screen performance method, this project is likely to generate knowledge about how bystanders can co-ordinate their actions to safely intervene; it will result in an innovative and accessible documentary. The project has the capacity to contribute to a reduction of violence in public spaces and more effective responses in the face of emergencies.
Communicating with people who have limited English proficiency Chief Investigator: Professor Ingrid Piller This sociolinguistic project aims to investigate how fluent English speakers interact with people who have limited proficiency. In contemporary Australia such mundane interactions may determine employment, education or health outcomes. While research into language barriers has mostly focused on the experiences of migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds, this project will investigate how English speakers deal with increasing linguistic diversity. Expected outcomes include an understanding of the role of majority members in facilitating the integration of newcomers. This will provide significant socioeconomic benefits for institutions and individuals as they navigate everyday intercultural communication.

Continuing projects 2020

Name MembersNotes
Demographic and social dimensions of migrant ageing and wellbeing in Australia Researchers: Professor Lucy Taksa (Lead Chief Investigator, CWF), Professor Guo (MBS), Professor Max Tani and A/Professor Zhiming Cheng (UNSW)
Partner Investigators: Lihua Liu (USC, USA) and Klaus Zimmerman (GLO)
Funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Scheme $478,000.
A history of Australian businesswomen since 1880 Researcher: Dr Catherine Bishop
Professor Lucy Taksa
Funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award Scheme $396,828.
Corporate Women’s representation in Australian and Chilean business elites, 2000–2019 Researchers: Professor Erica Salvaj (UDD Santiago and CWF Member of International Scholarly Advisory Committee) and Professor Lucy Taksa Funded by an Australia-APEC Women’s Fellowship $19,000 (to support the visit to CWF and collaboration).
‘Women in corporate networks’

Editors: Stéphanie Ginalski (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Erica Salvaj (School of Business and Economics, Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile and Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina), Susie Pak (Saint John University, USA), Lucy Taksa (CWF, MBS).
Including contributor: Dr Claire Wright (MBS and CWF Core member)

Accepted Special Issue of A-Ranked journal.

New projects 2020

Project Name Project MembersNotes
Continuity and change in the Australian industrial landscape Researchers: Professor Lucy Taksa (CWF, MBS), and CWF Associate Members at University of Wollongong: Professor Chris Gibson, Lead Chief Investigator, Dr Chantel Carr and Dr Andrew Warren
Partner Investigator: Professor Steven High (Concordia University Canada)
Funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Scheme (UOW Administering Organisation) $376,874.
Identifying, measuring and developing future skills: an interdisciplinary modeling assessing the impact of organizational transformations due to digital technologies and artificial intelligence on employment systems Researchers: Professor Tania Saba (Montreal University and CWF Associate Member), Félix Ballesteros-Leiva (Laval University), Marie-Thérèse Chicha (University of Montreal), Nolywé Delannon (Laval University), Julie Dextras-Gauthier (Laval University), Marie-Eve Dufour (Université Laval), Jaya Nalakantan (Dawson College), Laurent Ruhlmann (Dawson College), Suzanne Bruyère (Cornell University), Eddy Ng (Bucknell University USA and CWF Associate Member), Mustafa F. Ozbilgin (Brunel Business School and CWF International Scholarly Advisory Committee) and Professor Lucy Taksa (CWF, Macquarie Business School) Funded by Quebec Research Fund Observatory on the Societal Impacts of AI and Digital Technologies (OBVIA) $160,000.
Research to Support the Aims of the Aged Care Industry Researchers: Dr Sunil Badami, Professor Lucy Taksa and Dr Nour Dados Funded by SkillsIQ $35,000.
History, heritage and environmental change in a deindustrialised landscape Researchers: Professor Lucy Taksa (CWF, MBS), MQ Arts Faculty and CWF Across MQ Members A/Professor Tanya Evans (Lead Chief Investigator) and Associate Professor Shawn Ross, Dr Susan Lupack (MQ Arts Faculty), Dr Penelope Crook (La Trobe University)
Partner Investigators: Professor Steven High (Concordia University Canada), Ms Fiona Leslie (MTS HERITAGE), Dr Rebecca Parkes (Lantern Heritage Pty Ltd) Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute Ltd, National Parks & Wildlife Service
ARC Linkage application 2020 $162,000.
Future Ports 2050 Researchers: Professor Daryll Hull, Professor Norma Harrison, Peter Creeden (CWF Honorary Adjunct Fellow)

Preliminary funding Port of Newcastle, Port of Auckland, Flinders Ports and AFIF (Australasian Federation of International Forwarders).

October 2019 Workshop

The Centre held a half day workshop in October 2019 at Macquarie University to discuss and debate potentially relevant port sector research themes for HDR students to consider when undertaking a Masters of Research or a PhD within the Program.

Participants included representatives from Macquarie University, the Stevedoring, Port, Port Authorities, Federal government, non-government organisations, shipping lines, trucking companies and industry advocates. The workshop was facilitated by Prof Daryll Hull (Co-Director, Centre for Workforce Futures). Participants were asked to raise and discuss research ideas that would contribute to public debate, assist government and NGOs in decision-making, and aid in formulating strategy and policy within the wider supply chain or ports sector. Participants were also asked to consider the need for achievable research questions in terms of data and time constraints.

Five main research themes emerged from the workshop:

1. Ports productivity and its integral role in the wider supply chain (supply chains)
2. Impacts of future port developments in relation to urban planning (urban planning)
3. Alignment of the port strategy with the regional city or hub planning (Regional Development)
4. Impact of automation on port economic outcomes (e.g., productivity and workforce requirements)
5. Digitisation of the supply chain and the use of predictive analytics (Big Data)

Each of these research themes are further discussed below, along with potential research questions that could be explored within a Master of Research or PhD under the Program.

1. Ports productivity and its integral role in the wider supply chain

Ports are integral elements in the supply chain. They are the primary node between the maritime, aviation, road and rail systems. Focus on the long supply chain of aligning these systems into a seamless ‘end-to-end supply chain’ requires a better understanding of the ‘last-mile’or interface between the mode issues.

Potential research questions include:

  • What is the correlation between port pricing (current and future) and the port productivity improvements (landside/waterside)?
  • How do we position future ports to be the focal point for domestic and regional (IMEX) supply chains?
  • How can Australian ports secure a sustainable future in circular economy that demands reduction of waste in a low carbon world?
  • What are the skills and requirements needed in a future port workforce?
  • Are there alternative corporate/organisation models that would benefit a future port in the wider supply chain?

2. Impacts of future port developments on urban planning

Ports have traditionally been key investments and integrated in the city planning or urban developments. Many of the ports have been divested and sold to independent capital infrastructure investment funds and are not as integrated in local, state or federal governments. Managing and aligning the ports priorities to the wider urban planning requirements have taken on a new level of complexity.

Potential research questions include:

  • What is the future of intermodal transport in and around ports in urban areas across Australia?
  • What are the strategies to better align current and future ports with the emerging urban landscape?
  • What is coastal shipping’s role in the national freight task, its impact on port growth and infrastructure, and impact on the workforce and surrounding supply chain?

3. Alignment of the port strategy with the regional city or hub planning

Ports are a central part of a wider integrated freight strategy. Building the right freight handling precinct that balances the need for the wider communities while driving a reduction in the cost of doing business by improving container and cargo productivity should be the ultimate aim of a well-developed urban planning system.

Efficient and reliable access to rail and road networks are essential to enable the streamlining and cost-effective transition of freight intermodally. Ports, by their very nature, must incorporate infrastructure, facilities and services which are in close proximity to possible warehouses and distribution centres to ensure the smooth consolidation or deconsolidation of the freight.

In order to assess the effectiveness of ports to the wider urban planning, the development of scenarios around alternative ‘international gateway’ or ‘hub’ port configurations would help test their effectiveness to the wider urban planning.

Potential questions include:

  • How to create a port/park/city/region strategy that aligns all stakeholders and highlights the benefits for ports around Australia?
  • Could regional ports thrive under a future open coastal shipping policy?
  • How to assess the effectiveness of the current port configuration and examine possible alternatives

4. Impact of automation on port economic outcomes

Ageing populations, unattractive work, cost pressures, velocity requirements, and skills shortages are all are driving a push to automation. Smart infrastructures such as the role out of Internet of Things (IoT) devices will only accelerate the move towards automation. How do we harness these driving forces and best understand the role of automation and the benefits it will bring to the ports.

Potential questions include:

  • What are the likely impacts and demographic changes to port community/industry in the wide scale application of automation technologies?
  • Do emerging technologies support the diversification/gender balance of the port workforce?
  • How does standardisation in truck (or other modes) configuration add or support improved automation at the port?
  • What is the possible strategy of transitioning waterside/stevedoring workers to technology/office workers?
  • What are the industrial relations impacts of automation in future ports?

5. Digitisation of the supply chain and the use of predictive analytics

Digitisation in the supply chain has been discussed for a few years but the relentless pressure on costs has forced most players in the supply chain to embrace the wave of digitisation and has brought predictive analytics into the forefront of how ports should optimise. Interoperability of systems across the transport modes are now urgently in need.

Potential questions include:

  • Digitisation of the supply chain, predictive analytics and systems integration are progressing slowly. How can we use digitisation to drive collaboration in the supply chain?
  • What does big data mean for organisation and management of ports in the future?
  • What is the future of ports in a supply chain with real time information and comprehensive data?
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