Employment Services research projects

Employment Services Logos

Employment services policy and delivery is constantly in flux. The sector is persistently subject to design, redesign, regulation and reregulation in Australia and elsewhere. The employment services sector needs dedicated, independent, reliable research that can inform policy design and provide both government and providers with evidence of best practice.

The University of Melbourne has a long-standing research program on the reform of employment services which began in 1998 with surveys of frontline staff working in the employment sector in Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Since 2008, in partnership with Jobs Australia (JA), the National Employment Services Association (NESA) and Westgate Community Initiatives Group (WCIG), we have been closely monitoring reforms in Australia and other countries, using surveys and interviews.

Our research in this field continues with the latest Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project, From Entitlement to Experiment: The new governance of welfare-to-work (see top tab below). The project aims to model and explain two organisational dynamics underlying major changes to contemporary welfare states: the shift towards governance driven by performance and the problematic way changes ‘from above’ seek to stimulate real service delivery change. We continue to focus on street level governance, and will be undertaking case studies to assist agencies wishing to innovate in order to help those most in need.

Research team

  • Research project: Entitlement to Experiment: The New Governance of Welfare-to-work (2015-2018)

    his major research project investigates the important organisational dynamics that are generating major changes to contemporary welfare states. For more information please see the From Entitlement to Experiment web page.

  • Research project: Employment Services, Increasing Innovation and Flexibility in Social Service Delivery (2011-2015)

    Dr Siobhan O'Sullican and Professor Mark ConsidineThis project explores how tax-funded social services are delivered by non-government agencies in Australia. As part of the project, investigators develop a new model of the way regulation and innovation interact in these systems, including how they create 'mission drift' for both the program and some contracted agencies. With the aid of comparison with other systems using similar instruments, the project is assisting agencies and government regulators to better understand how service delivery innovation can be achieved without excessive gaming and opportunism by private agencies or the loss of their distinctive mission.

  • Research project: Employment Services, Activating States (2008-2011)

    Dr Siobhan O'Sullivan, Professor Jenny Lewis and Professor Mark ConsidineThe frontline delivery of welfare-to-work services for the unemployed has changed significantly since 1980s in response to structural and ideological pressures. Using benchmark data collected in 1998, the Activating States project investigates whether and how the activation of welfare clients has changed these services. This analysis provides a means to assess the components of the new target and market-driven systems in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands and to compare different tools for managing both clients and frontline staff.

  • Surveys of Frontline Employment Services staff

    2016 surveys

    2012 surveys

    Please note: the reports below were amended in April 2013 to address issues detected in earlier drafts. These are the versions that should be cited. If you have printed or downloaded copies of earlier versions please destroy them and replace them with reports dated April 2013.

    2008 surveys

    1998 surveys

    Considine, Mark. Enterprising States: The Public Management of Welfare to Work. Cambridge University Press, 2001

  • Publications

    Latest news

    Getting Welfare To WorkOur new book Getting Welfare to Work is out! It showcases more than 15 years worth of employment services data collected in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands in 1998, 2008 and 2012. What we discovered is a fascinating insight into social policy restructuring and service delivery adaptation: the devolution emphasis in the Netherlands, the central role of the public provider in the UK and the world’s first fully-privatised employment services system in Australia. In Getting Welfare to Work we demonstrate that under contemporary welfare-to-work models activation isn’t just something that is done to the jobseeker, by frontline staff. It is something that is also done to frontline staff, by the government purchaser.


    • Employment Services for the Future Conference 2013, hosted by the Centre for Public Policy, The University of Melbourne

    Guest editors

    • Social Policy and Administration, Considine, M. and O'Sullivan, S. (eds), (2014), 'Markets and the New Welfare: buying and selling the poor', 48 (2).


    Book chapters:

    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2015), 'Governance, Boards of Directors and the Impact of Contracting on Not-for-profit (NFP) Organisations: an Australian study' in Considine, M. and O'Sullivan, S. (eds.,) Contracting-out Welfare Services: Comparing National Policy Designs for Unemployment Assistance, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 55-74.
    • Lewis, J.M. and Considine, M. (2011) 'Network governance on the frontline', in Torfing, J. and Triantafillou, P. (eds.,) Interactive Policymaking, Metagovernance and Democracy, Warwick: ECPR Press, pp. 29-50.

    Refereed journal articles

    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2014), 'New Public Management and welfare-to-work in Australia: comparing the ALP and Coalition's reform agendas', in Australian Journal of Political Science, 49(3), pp. 469-485
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2014), 'Mission-drift? The Third Sector and the pressure to be business-like: Evidence from Job Services Australia', in Third Sector Review, 20(1), pp. 87-107
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2014), 'Governance, Boards of Directors and the Impact of Contracting on Not-for-profit (NFP) Organisations: an Australian study', in Social Policy and Administration, 48 (2), pp. 169-187
    • Considine, M. and O'Sullivan, S. (2014), 'Introduction: Markets and the New Welfare - Buying and Selling the Poor', in Social Policy and Administration, 48 (2), pp. 119-126
    • Considine, M. and Lewis, J.M. (2012) 'Networks and Interactivity: Ten years of Street-level Governance in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia', in Public Management Review, 14(1), pp. 1-22 (DOI:10.1080/14719037.2011.589613)
    • Considine, M., Lewis, J. and O'Sullivan, S. (2011), 'Quasi-Markets and Service Delivery Flexibility Following a Decade of Employment Assistance Reform in Australia', (180kb pdf) in Journal of Social Policy, 40, pp. 811-833
    • Lewis, J.M. and Considine, M. (2011) 'Interactive governance on the frontline', in Torfing, J. and Triantafillou, P. (eds.,) Interactive Policymaking, Metagovernance and Democracy, Warwick: ECPR Press, pp. 29-50
    • Considine, M. and Lewis, J.M. (2010) 'Front-line work in employment services after ten years of New Public Management reform: Governance and activation in Australia, the Netherlands and the UK', in European Journal of Social Security, 12(4), pp. 357-370

    Other publications

    • Considine, M. and O'Sullivan, S. (2012), 'Les réformes de l’activation des aides aux chômeurs en Australie' (The Reform of Active Labour Market Policy in Australia), Informations Sociales
    • O'Sullivan, S., Considine, M. and Lewis, J. (2009), 'John Howard and the Neo-liberal Agenda: The regulation and reform of Australia's privatised employment services sector between 1996 and 2008', Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) Conference 2009
    • O'Sullivan, S., (2009), 'Activating States: transforming the delivery of 'welfare-to-work' services in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands' Working Brief (Journal of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion), May, pp. 16-18

    Industry reports


    Conference Presentations

    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2014), 'Work Program and the Black Box', Politics and Policy, Bristol, UK
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2014), 'New Public Management and Information Asymmetries: An Australian employment services case study', International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM), Carleton University, Ottawa
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2014), 'The left and right of Australian employment services policy: a comparison of Job Network and Job Services Australia', Public Policy Network Conference, University of Canberra
    • O'Sullivan, S., Nguyen, P. and Considine, M. (2013), 'Who delivers the service? The changing gender profile of Australia's frontline employment services staff', Australian Social Policy Conference (ASPC), University of New South Wales
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2013), 'Social Service Contracting, Red Tape and Flexibility: findings from the 2012 survey of Australian frontline employment services staff', Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) annual conference, Murdoch University
    • O'Sullivan, S. (2013), 'How much does policy matter? Comparing the findings from the 2012 survey of frontline employment services staff in Australia and the UK', National Employment Services (NESA) International Conference, Sydney
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2013), 'Employment Services Reform and its Impact on Not-for-profit Boards of Directors in Australia', International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM), Prague
    • Considine, M., O'Sullivan, S. and Nguyen, P. (2013), 'Employment Services Reform: Impact on Boards of Directors in Not-for-Profit Organisations', Social Policy and Administration Roundtable, The University of Melbourne.
    • O'Sullivan, S. (2012), 'Lessons in Innovation: A Comparison of the Australian and the UK Employment Systems', Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion annual conference, Birmingham, UK
    • Considine, M., Lewis, J. and O'Sullivan, S., (2010), 'Social Policy from Left to Right: A ten year Comparison of Services for the Unemployed in Australia and the UK', Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) Conference, The University of Melbourne
  • Completed PhDs

    Wilma Gallet

    Wilma GalletWilma Gallet has a breadth of experience in the employment services sector spanning over 25 years including management and policy and program development roles within the public sector and the community sector. She was responsible for the establishment of The Salvation Army Employment Plus and as the founding CEO built this enterprise from a zero base to the largest community provider of employment services under the Government's Job Network umbrella. She has a keen interest in the evolution of employment services and in particular how these services interact with other social service sectors such as the Homelessness Service Sector the Youth and Family Services Sector, Mental Health Services and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Service Sector to ensure that people with complex needs are effectively engaged and supported into meaningful and sustainable employment. In 2010, she undertook a major project on behalf of the National Employment Services Australia (NESA) and Homelessness Australia focusing on developing strategies to assist Job Services Australia and Homelessness Providers to work more collaborative to provide integrated support services to homeless job seekers. In 2013, she was appointed to the Australian National Council on Drugs by the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and served a 2 year term.

    Wilma completed her PhD in 2016 at The University of Melbourne. Her thesis entitled Christian Mission or an Unholy Alliance, focused on the impact of the contracting environment on the mission, identity and behaviour of church-related organisations delivering government funded welfare to work programs in Australia.

    Wilma has a continuing interest in investigating the marketisation of welfare services and in particular the effect that the increasingly competitive environment has on the not-for-profit sector. She has authored various reports and journal articles and is currently engaged in a number of research projects specifically examining current issues that impact churches and their agencies.

    Sue Olney

    Sue OlneyDr Sue Olney completed her PhD, False Economy: New Public Management and the welfare-to-work market in Australia, in 2016. She also holds a Master of Public Policy and Management and a Bachelor of Education and Training from the University of Melbourne.

    Sue has worked for the Victorian Government Departments of Education and Training, Planning and Community Development, Human Services and Health, at TheUniversity of Melbourne, and for Jesuit Social Services. She has been involved in numerous cross-government and cross-sector initiatives, committees and working groups to promote access and equity in education, training and employment in Australia, as well as related research. Sue is currently working in the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and the Melbourne School of Government at The University of Melbourne.