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 to overcome deep and persistent disadvantage.

Public policy often focuses on individual risks and capabilities that are thought to produce poorer outcomes for children and families without interrogating the opportunity structures in which they develop and act. Access to opportunity covers the ability to exploit factors such as education and employment that provide pathways out of disadvantage. It also considers how personal, family, and community capabilities may be mismatched to available opportunities or supports.

Through our Opportunities program, Life Course Centre researchers are investigating structural access to opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges of overcoming disadvantage. This includes enhancing measures of structural access and examining changes in opportunity structures that can impact disadvantage in both positive and negative ways. Our research pinpoints the hurdles in existing opportunity structures, using longitudinal analysis and machine learning to identify structures and their features, to better understand the obstacles for Australian children and families in accessing opportunities, and inform solutions to address these bottlenecks.

Key research themes within our Opportunities program include:
  • Longitudinal Study of Life Opportunities: the long-term outcomes and broad-based effects of innovative social interventions funded by the Commonwealth Government, working in collaboration with our partner, the Australian Government Department of Social Services.
  • Education Investments: customised community-driven and personalised approaches to increase access to educational opportunities, targeting children and young people experiencing disadvantage.
  • Enduring Family Factors: analyses of linked administrative data to uncover what works to improve life outcomes for women, men, and children in fragile families.