The research of the Life Course Centre is focussed on identifying and understanding the causes and consequences of deep and persistent disadvantage, and on developing and trialling innovative solutions to address it. We bring together diverse research disciplines, advanced methods and cutting-edge data to tackle disadvantage and improve life course opportunities and outcomes for all Australian children and families.

As an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence, the Life Course Centre is committed to delivering transformational research on the complex, multi-dimensional problem of disadvantage. Building on the foundational knowledge of our 2014–2020 research programs, our research is broadening and deepening understanding of how disadvantage takes hold in particular places, at particular times, for particular people.

Our research is organised into three interrelated research programs:
  • People: the individual experiences of disadvantage, including pioneering work in the cognitive science of disadvantage, to determine how decisions are made and can be enhanced to respond to multiple socio-economic stresses.
  • Places: community-driven contexts exploring the concentration of disadvantage in place, including local community barriers to overcome and local enablers that can be mobilised to shift communities out of disadvantage.
  • Opportunities: the impact of external conditions and support systems on pathways out of disadvantage, including access to opportunities in education, employment and other services and the effectiveness of social programs and solutions.

Our three research programs are producing in-depth knowledge of how disadvantage is entrenched in Australian society across the different levels of the individual, the community, and the system. The three tiers of People, Places and Opportunities not only reflect the factors comprising disadvantage, they are also the key mechanisms for overcoming it. Through this structure, our research defines and measures the lived experiences of disadvantage in more detail than ever before, and produces innovative responses tailored to individual and community contexts. The evidence, capacity, partnerships and impact we deliver will inform personalised, community-based policies and programs to benefit Australian children and families suffering from disadvantage in their daily lives.


Our People research program positions the Life Course Centre, and Australia, at the forefront of an emerging field of study – the cognitive science of disadvantage. This work represents a major innovation in the Centre’s research that investigates the two-way relationship between deep and persistent disadvantage and individual cognition, decision-making and choices.


Our Places research program is generating transformational knowledge about the community dynamics of disadvantage. Where you grow up and where you live matters to disadvantage. These ‘places’ play a big part in determining whether you have access to quality schooling, higher education, employment, and other life opportunities.


Our Opportunities research program focuses on structural access to opportunities in Australia. It examines existing opportunity structures and obstacles that hinder people from accessing seemingly available opportunities, and drives evidence-informed decision-making about what works to assist Australian children and families.

Working Paper Series

The Life Course Centre Working Paper Series showcases important and well-timed research from across our networks, and is the ‘go to’ place for the most up-to-date research on social disadvantage.

Journal Articles

Academic publications are a key research output from the Life Course Centre. Click here to explore the variety of research undertaken.

Fact Sheets

As part of our commitment to making the research of the Life Course Centre more accessible, our Fact Sheets highlight key areas of research focus and findings.