Published: June 26, 2019


Economics and Education, Health and Mental Health, and Gender and Family were the three main themes of the Life Course Centre 2019 Research Retreat held in Perth, Western Australia.

More than 50 Centre researchers, students, professional staff and representatives of our government and community partners gathered at The Vines resort in the Swan Valley for the two-day retreat on 8-9 May, 2019.  Life Course Centre Director Professor Janeen Baxter said it was pleasing to have so many people associated with the Centre attend, and paid tribute to the retreat’s Working Group of Kirsten Hancock, Juliana Silva Gonçalves, Jan Kabátek, Sara Kalucza, Jack Lam, Leanne Scott and Carla McCarthy. “It was a very informative and productive two days and a chance to meet new Centre members and renew acquaintances,” Janeen said. “Our findings are stronger when we work together and the retreat was an important opportunity to hear about our research at early stages, and provide comments and suggestions. It was also an opportunity to plan our next steps, discuss what we have achieved so far, any gaps in our research and, importantly, how we can leverage our findings into outcomes.”

The retreat featured a range of presentations from Life Course Centre researchers and students, as well as open discussions, planning sessions, professional development, networking and social activities. Two sessions at the retreat were devoted to planning flagship projects, including those that bring together a number of researchers across nodes, synthesise major research findings, and explore outcomes that could be achieved. The retreat also welcomed representatives of key Centre partners – Peter Deakin and Mark Jennings of the Department of Social Services and Julie Connolly of the Brotherhood of St Laurence – who provided valuable input on ways to translate research findings into practical outcomes.

Research at the retreat was presented in three main themes:

Economics and Education. Presenters within this theme included Deborah Cobb-Clark, David Ribar, Sarah Dahmann, Daniel Christensen, Emma Adams, Juliana Silva Gonçalves and Yangtao Huang, with topics ranging from self-control, perseverance, the growth mindset and financial well-being to positive teaching practices and the causal effect of parental education on children. In a summary of this theme, PhD student Peter Rankin said the depth and breadth of presentations across this theme highlighted the discipline-specific rigour required to analyse the many mechanisms that drive education and financial well-being outcomes.

Health and Mental Health. Presenters within this theme included Berihan Dachew, Sally Staton, Simon Smith, Nathan Kettlewell and Karen Thorpe, with topics ranging from sleep, maternal hypertension disorders and food security to the association between depression and risk taking. In a summary of this research theme, PhD student Madonna Boman highlighted the importance of research that tells the personal stories of those suffering from health and mental health issues.

Gender and Family. Presenters within this theme included Sara Kalucza, Hayley Fisher, Jordy Meekes and Jan Kabátek, with topics ranging from young motherhood and perceptions of money ownership in couples to gender differences in job displacement to the academic achievement of children of same-sex parents. In a summary of this theme, PhD student Laetitia Coles said so much of the Centre’s research could be seen through a gender lens perspective, and the impact that this had on the life course outcomes of women and children.

The retreat also featured presentations and a panel discussion chaired by Lorraine Mazerolle on some of the Centre’s current Social Intervention projects. This included presentations by Kylie Burke on the Every Family project, Stephanie Cardwell on the Ability School Engagement Program, Emina Prguda on positive parenting in the context of the criminal justice system, and Azhar Potia on a field experiment on prosocial incentives and attendance with Indigenous high school students.