'Workers deserve access to a reliable and decent income, and safe working conditions.'

The spark

'I have a deep fascination with the way people across the world sustain their livelihoods. This developed through my travels across six continents. I have a genuine concern that all workers should have access to a reliable and decent income, safe working conditions, and workplaces which provide opportunities for voice and positive social interactions.'

Research aim

'To deliver critically informed recommendations to respond to insecure, non-standard forms of work. Creating the conditions for sustainable work will benefit individuals, families, and communities, encourage positive economic and environmental outcomes, promote health and social cohesion, and support long-term business investment and productivity.'

The challenge

'Work is a central human activity, critical to social cohesion, future economic prospects and the fulfilment of human potential. There has never been a greater need to understand the extent, nature, experiences and impacts of secure and insecure work.'


'My teaching is framed by four principles: learning requires sustained engagement with knowledge derived from diverse disciplinary perspectives; connecting concepts at different analytic levels allows for deeper understanding to develop; engagement between students and teachers is enhanced through relevance and pragmatic experience; and educators should understand the current employment, educational or practice environment in which students seek to participate.'

Key achievements

  • Named Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) (2021).
  • Awarded ARC Future Fellowship which examined how young Australians conceive of their rights and responsibilities in employment and how they anticipate their future engagement in the formal economy (2013-16).
  • Published a major Australian-first report from a national survey commissioned by the Victorian Government which revealed the prevalence and contours of digital platform work in Australia (2019).
  • Awarded an ARC Training Centre for collaborative robotics in advanced manufacturing (2020-25).
  • Provided expert evidence to The Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety (2020) and to the Senate Inquiry into the Future of Work and Workers (2018).
  • Consulted to the Canadian House of Commons, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Legal Aid Qld, Qld Corrective Services, the Attorney-General of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Victoria Police, the United Nations, and the UN World Food Program on workplace sexual harassment, sex discrimination and predatory behaviour.

Key collaborators

  • Queensland Health
  • Metro North Hospital and Health Service
  • Victorian Department of the Premier and Cabinet
  • United Nations World Food Program
  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • United Nations Women
  • Suncorp
  • Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
  • Queensland Department of Corrective Services
  • Queensland Department of Education
  • SYC

Key publications

McDonald, P. (2018). How flexible are the anticipated careers of young people? Human Relations, 71(1), 23-46.

McDonald, P., Thompson, P. & O’Connor, P. (2016). Profiling employees online: Shifting public-private boundaries in organisational life. Human Resource Management Journal 26(4), 541-556.

McDonald, P. (2012). Workplace sexual harassment 30 years on: A review of the literature. International Journal of Management Reviews, 14(1), 1-17.


Researchers elected to Academy of the Social Sciences

Three leading QUT academics have been named Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) for their work in improving public health, education, and workplaces.


Contact Professor Paula McDonald or connect on social media.

Connect with Professor Michael Milford