ARC 2024 projects announced
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > ARC announces 2024 Discovery Projects, with ECEC taking a starring role

ARC announces 2024 Discovery Projects, with ECEC taking a starring role

by Freya Lucas

November 01, 2023

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has announced the outcome of the 2024 Discovery Project applications, outlining how more than $220 million will be spent on 421 research projects to be undertaken as part of the ARC Discovery Projects scheme.


Individual researchers and research teams will be supported by ARC funding to provide economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits to the Australian community.


ARC CEO Ms Judi Zielke PSM said research funded by the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program such as those awarded under the Discover Projects scheme, delivers excellent outcomes, with every $1 of research that the ARC funds generating $3.32 in economic output back into the Australian community.


Early childhood education and care (ECEC) and allied fields have a prominent position in the winning projects, including a project that aims to address the chronic shortage of early childhood teachers in Australia, a project that aims to enhance educator-child interactions to support young children’s social and emotional learning in ECEC, and an interdisciplinary study that aims to explore Australian Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) children’s experiences of affirming their gender.


“The Discovery Projects will share funding that supports excellent basic and applied research to expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability, and enhance the scale and focus of research in the Australian Government priority areas,” Ms Zielke added.


ECT shortage project


Associate Professor Marianne Fenech, Professor Sandie (Sandra) Wong, Associate Professor Megan Gibson, Professor Susanne Garvis, Associate Professor Wendy Boyd, Dr Tracy Durksen and Professor Magdalena Janu will receive $664,259 to explore the ‘chronic shortage’ of early childhood teachers (ECTs) in Australia, which is compromising quality and return on investment in early education. 


The project expects to generate new understandings about this specialist teacher workforce through an innovative, ecological, longitudinal design that will track ECT career trajectories and develop a world-first tool to assess early childhood teacher quality. 


Findings are expected to inform policy including the Australian Government-endorsed 10-year national Workforce Strategy and the Australian Government’s Early Years Strategy to support the future sustained supply of a quality ECT workforce and improve outcomes for young children.


Educator/child interactions 


Dr Claire Blewitt, Professor Helen Skouteris, Professor Susan Edwards, Dr Heather Morris and Dr Hannah Kirk from Monash University have been allocated $525,095 towards a research project which aims to enhance educator-child interactions to support young children’s social and emotional learning in ECEC. 


At the conclusion of their work the researchers expect to generate new knowledge about adult-child interactions for improved child outcomes by examining the effectiveness, theories of change and implementation of an online Social-Emotional Engagement and Development Program to promote educators’ engagement with three tiers of social and emotional learning strategies. 


The intended outcome is a confirmed evidence base supporting the program at scale and aligned professional learning resources. This project has potential to mitigate against the financial and social costs associated with mental ill-health in early childhood.


Climate change


Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Professor Tracey Bunda, Professor Alexandra Lasczik, Associate Professor Louise Phillips, Adjunct Professor Kim Snepvangers, Professor Dr Rita Irwin, Dr Shannon Leddy will use $581,715 to explore climate change education by co-researching with Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, youth and Elders across Australia and Canada. 


The project conceptualises and advances climate change education with Country, and aims to address concerns that climate change education is not adequately understood within Western science. 


Western perspectives on climate crises are in deep contrast to Indigenous perspectives enmeshed in continuous storying with descendants, ancestors, and Country. Collaborating with Elders, this project will generate child and youth-led transcultural curriculum and pedagogical understandings of climate change education with Country. It delivers on the United Nations Convention on Climate Change through corresponding quality education.


Economic causes and consequences of child maltreatment


Monash University’s Associate Professor Nicole Black, Professor David Johnston, Professor Leonie Segal and Dr Trong Anh Trinh will investigate the economic causes and consequences of child maltreatment with their ARC funding of $402,980. 


They hope their findings will generate new knowledge by applying microeconometric methods to large Australian administrative databases that track children’s health, education and welfare receipt over time. The expected outcomes of this project include an expanded knowledge base on how economic shocks affect maltreatment, the economic consequences of placing children in out-of-home care, and the value of economic policies for reducing the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment. 


This should provide significant benefits, such as providing practical evidence to policy makers and service providers that help prevent child maltreatment and reduce its harms.


The effects of COVID-19


Dr Jinhu Li, Dr Yijuan Chen, Professor Emily Lancsar and Professor Nattavudh Powdthavee from the Australian National University will use their $546,194 allocation to identify the causal effects of counter COVID-19 school closures, stay at home mandates and government support programs of the educational and developmental outcomes of Australian children. 


The project will, for the first time, establish a comprehensive causal evidence base on the average and distributional impacts of these policies on children across the spectrum of schooling years from preschool to secondary school completion. 


This project expects to advance understanding of child skill accumulation and the relative importance of schools, parents, peers and government intervention. Anticipated benefits include providing policy recommendations to restore student learning outcomes and reduce educational inequality in Australia.


Online child sexual abuse


Monash University researchers Professor Jonathan Clough, Associate Professor Campbell Wilson and Associate Professor Lennon Chang will spend $226,412 on a project which aims to gain a deeper understanding of the nature and extent of online child sexual abuse prosecutions in Australia. 


Using empirical studies to draw on the practical experience of law enforcement and other stakeholders, it will generate new knowledge concerning the suitability of Australia’s legal and policy frameworks to effectively investigate and prosecute such offences, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region and the use of new technologies. 


Expected outcomes include evidence-based recommendations on criminal law reform and enforcement policy that aim to improve the international enforcement of online child sexual abuse offences, and to provide a model for other forms of serious transnational online crime.


Intergenerational connections and technology


Professor Alethea Blackler, Associate Professor Linda Knight, Dr Bernd Ploderer, Dr Jane Turner, Dr Nicole Vickery and Dr Shital Desai have been allocated $751,389 to explore the lived experiences of older people and their young relatives/grandchildren who are geographically distanced and who cannot currently experience closeness in tangible ways, which are the natural ways they would play and build relationships in “real” life. 


Enabling this connection would have positive impacts for both groups, and two types of technologies – Mixed Reality and Tangibles – can be explored to allow us to understand how to do this. We will develop approaches to distanced tangible intergenerational interaction which are designed specifically to increase intergenerational closeness and to be innovative and subtle so that they fit seamlessly into the lives of older people and young children.


Interdisciplinary study


Researchers from the University of Western Sydney have been given $360,698 to conduct an interdisciplinary study which aims to explore Australian Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) children’s experiences of affirming their gender. 


It is innovative methodologically for inclusion of arts-based methods with children, and multiple perspectives from TGD children (5-16 years), peer allies, parents, healthcare professionals and educators. TGD young people are a rapidly growing population, disproportionately affected by intentional self-harm and suicidality. 


The project expects to generate new understandings of gender, the lived experiences of TGD children and families, and protective factors in their lives. Significant benefits should be informing theory, policy, and early interventions and co-development of resources for key stakeholders.


Children with blindness and low vision 


Children who are blind or have low vision (BLV) often have difficulties accessing and interacting with playgrounds, most of which are not equipped to support them. 


Through consultation, collaboration and co-creation with the BLV community, foundational knowledge on the user experience of playgrounds, an evaluation framework for auditing existing playgrounds and design guidelines for creating or retrofitting playgrounds will be developed that support the unique challenges of BLV children and carers. 


Importantly it will promote access, orientation, physical and social play for BLV children, with improved cognitive, physical and social development, thus enabling a more inclusive and healthy society.


The University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Dagmar Reinhardt, Dr Matthew Butler, Professor Kimbal Marriott, Ms Leona Holloway, Dr Lian Loke, Dr Susan Silveira and Associate Professor Kathleen Tait have been given $398,033 to continue this work. 


For a full list of funded Discovery Projects for 2024, including a snapshot of funding by state and territory, please view the ARC announcement kit here.


Expressions of Interest for Discovery Projects commencing in 2025 will open on 22 January 2024. For more information, please visit the ARC website.

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button