The report shares the results of research conducted during a coaching program for staff with caring responsibilities.
Recommendations from the Supporting Carers at UNSW Sydney: Findings from the 3C initiative report include:
- appointing carer advocates to support carers in work planning, carer’s leave management and career progression
- ensuring University performance metrics and promotion processes positively acknowledge carer responsibilities and adjust for the impact of part-time status and carer’s leave
- establishing a carer network to improve carer visibility and build community.
The report is the result of research associated with Career Coaching for Carers (3C) – UNSW’s first initiative to champion staff with carer responsibilities beyond parental care. The 3C program was developed in 2021 as a targeted response to the impact of COVID-19 on the career progression of cis and trans women academics with carer responsibilities.
Initiated by Associate Professor Lizzie Muller, co-gender champion in UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, 3C aims to deliver immediate support to academic women carers at UNSW through career coaching.
A/Prof. Muller developed the 3C program in response to her own experience of suddenly becoming a carer for an elderly parent.
“I was hearing from many colleagues who, like me, needed support to work out how to achieve our career goals alongside our caring responsibilities,” she said.
“I proposed a small coaching program to the Women’s Wellbeing Academy, and with the support of Emeritus Professor Richard Henry the project grew and became more ambitious.”
The 3C program delivered coaching to staff across six faculties and all career stages in 2022. UNSW’s Athena SWAN program office provided additional funding to conduct research with the participants to find out more about carers’ experiences at UNSW.
Research finds carers face multiple challenges in the workplace
The report revealed the challenges that many carers face at UNSW, including the need for greater visibility and training for managers on what caring entails. It emphasises the lack of existing data about carers working at UNSW and the need for an organisational carer definition that aligns with national legislation and distinguishes between parental and carer responsibilities.
The study was conducted by Dr Catherine Thompson and Dr Trish Hill, experts in carer research from UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre.
A/Prof. Muller said both Dr Thompson and Dr Hill brought a wealth of experience and deep knowledge of research and good practice globally.
“They were able to place the UNSW experience in the context of state and national carer policy, which is a growing priority for government,” she said.
National action to improve support for carers
In October, the Australian government launched a new Carer-Inclusive Workplace Initiative to ensure carers are better supported to participate in the workforce. This builds on the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care 2023 which called for “a new right to care, alongside the right to work”. The 3C initiative and this report are part of a national movement towards increased recognition and provision for carers.
“Everyone at some point in their lives will require or give care. And anyone can become a carer at any moment. This is an issue that affects everyone,” said A/Prof. Muller.
“UNSW has already made some great steps towards supporting carers through flexible work, carers’ leave and funding programs, but now is the time to do more. This report offers a clear and achievable action plan to make UNSW a carer-inclusive workplace.”
The Supporting Carers at UNSW report was launched on Tuesday 21 November in the Council Chambers.
UNSW Provost Professor Vlado Perkovic hosted the launch, and Chief HR Officer Deena Amorelli also spoke. Both welcomed the report and emphasised that UNSW is committed to supporting carers and taking further action based on the recommendations in the report.
If you are interested in being part of the process to implement the reports findings at UNSW, please contact A/Prof. Muller: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Event image caption: Guests at the report launch, from left to right: Emeritus Professor Richard Henry AM FRSN; co-author of Supporting Carers at UNSW Sydney Dr Catherine Thomson; CEO Carers NSW Elena Katrakis; Academic Lead, Athena SWAN Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton; Academic Lead, Women’s Wellbeing Academy Associate Professor Mehera San Roque; CEO Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Dr Janin Bredehoeft; UNSW Provost Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic; Chief HR Officer Deena Amorelli; lead author of Supporting Carers at UNSW Sydney and Director of 3C Associate Professor Lizzie Muller.