Published: April 23, 2019

The Life Course Centre was pleased to host a recent visit by the Director and Deputy Director of the Centre of Methods and Policy Application in the Social Sciences (COMPASS) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr Barry Milne, Director and Dr Nichola Shackleton, Deputy Director, spent two days visiting the Life Course Centre’s University of Queensland node at the Institute for Social Science Research. They presented a seminar highlighting some of the COMPASS research methodologies and current research projects, and also attended workshops and small group meetings with Life Course Centre researchers and students. COMPASS, which was established in 2008, uses quantitative social science methods to understand the drivers of health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on child outcomes and whole of population data analyses.

Mark Western, Janeen Baxter, Barry Milne, Nichola Shackleton, and Karen Thorpe.

Professor Janeen Baxter, Life Course Centre Director, said there were many synergies between the research focus of the Centre and COMPASS that both organisations could benefit from. “There is overlap, as well as some key differences, in what we both do and this presents valuable opportunities to learn and exchange experiences. It was great to have COMPASS visit and, as one of our nearest international neighbours, we look forward to continuing to share knowledge with each other and potentially working together in the future.” The COMPASS visit to the Life Course Centre was borne from Professor Baxter’s keynote address to a New Zealand life course conference hosted by the University of Otago, Wellington, in October 2018.

In their seminar at the Institute for Social Science Research, Dr Milne and Dr Shackleton showcased the work of COMPASS by describing four current research projects: a project using simulation to test policy scenarios for child outcomes; a project investigating loneliness over the life course; a project assessing associations between child poverty and health outcomes; and a program of research that seeks to understand the drivers of healthy weight, successful learning and literacy, and mental health resilience among children and young people. Dr Milne said most of the research to date on loneliness in New Zealand had focussed primary on the elderly, but it was now becoming clear that loneliness effects people of all ages. The COMPASS project is investigating the different risk factors for loneliness in children and adults as well as examining the extent to which lonely children become lonely adults. Dr Shackleton gave an insight into New Zealand’s ‘A Better Start’ national science challenge that aims to improve the potential for all young New Zealanders to lead a healthy and successful life. This program includes the B4 School checks that provide early assessment of health, wellbeing and school readiness among New Zealand children before they commence school.


You can find out more about COMPASS by visiting their website.