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Webinar #19: Rebooting your academic career after an extended leave

Are you considering returning to academia after having a significant amount of time off, or have started thinking about taking an extended leave?

Getting back to the workforce after a long leave such as for maternity leave, an extended illness or travel break can be a daunting prospect. It can be a challenge to re-enter the workforce and pick up where you left off, let alone to deal with the negative perceptions that sometimes come with extended leave.

However, with the right strategies and management of expectations, resuming your job after a break can also be a rewarding experience.

In this webinar, lead of the Women in Research initiative, ARC Laureate Fellow and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Sharon Parker (Curtin University), was joined by ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Kerrie Mengersen (Queensland University of Technology) and Dr Rachael Potter (Research Fellow at the University of South Australia).

Here are the key takeaways from Professor Sharon Parker's insightful talk on navigating work challenges, time management, and finding motivation:

Some valuable tips provided by Dr. Rachael Potter on navigating work-related discrimination, leave policies, and a national survey she is leading on parent’s work conditions:

  • Work-related discrimination against pregnant persons, parents on leave and those returning to work is prevalent across Australia and exists in various forms.

  • There are legislative frameworks that are designed to protect those needing to take extended leave, including the Sex Discrimination Act, State and Territory Anti-Discrimination laws, the Fair Work Act (National Employment Standards) and Work Health and Safety Laws.

  • Join the National Tertiary Education Union for support

  • Universities and grant funding bodies have various policies that take extended leave into serious consideration when applying for promotions and/or undertaking research projects.

  • Prior to leave, communicate your expectations and needs to your employer (e.g. access of ‘keeping in touch’ days). Implement a transition plan at work and at home. Know that there must be consultation with you regarding any work-related changes.

  • Helpful resources for navigating leave can be found on the Supporting Working Parents page, created by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Good support and resources are also available at The Parenthood and the Working Women’s Centre (SA)

  • Please take part in (and share!) a national survey on parent’s work conditions, including pregnancy and parental leave. More information can be found on the UniSA website: National Study on Parents’ Work Conditions: Pregnancy, Leave and Return to Work - Research - University of South Australia (

Professor Kerrie Mengersen provides valuable insights and tips on navigating the challenges of balancing work and parenting:

  • Acknowledge and embrace the changes that occur in our lives when we have kids or face any major disruptions

  • We tend to set high bars for ourselves, but we should lean into the fact that some things will not happen as planned.

  • Finding a support network is difficult in our society, but it's worth exploring various options such as family, friends, or colleagues.

  • An extended leave presents an opportunity for enhancing personal and professional development, whether it's pursuing further education or enhancing skills

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