Under the leadership of President, Justice Iain Ross AO, Australia’s workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, began a national engagement and education program in 2014 to connect with, and provide education and support for, the industrial relations (IR) and human resources (HR) communities. At the same time, WOW’s Associate Professor Keith Townsend was noticing a clear perception from practitioners that scholarly publications were not an “easy read”. Proposing a series of topical (and much shorter) articles by internationally renowned and expert practitioners and academics void of the usual IR and HR theories, tools, and means for measurement, the Commission began its Invited Paper series, with Keith as founding Academic Editor:
“We wanted the general public, and practitioners particularly, to be able to read a freely available document that had been developed with the principles of scholarly rigour and refined with a relevance to IR practice and HR management,” says Keith.
And keeping it practical is key. In coordinating the series’ review process – and unlike traditional scholarly publication outlets – Keith (pictured left), a former manager with ongoing involvement in the field’s professional bodies, includes representatives from both sides:
“The academics address the scholarly rigour and the practitioner adds comment on the contemporary relevance to day-to-day activities. Justice Ross and the Commission ensure though that the series is crafted in such a way that it would be a useful contribution to their engagement.”
The Commission’s Manager for National and International Engagement, Kate Purcell, and Senior Engagement and Research Officer, Lauren Mathes, work closely with Keith to make the series a reality:
“The Invited Papers series is a key element of the Commission’s Workplace Relations Education Series, which forms part of the Commission’s Future Directions strategy. The…strategy aims to improve fairness and access to justice, increase the Commission’s accountability, innovation and timeliness, and support workplace productivity through engagement with industry. We see the role of the Invited Papers series as an important part of this strategy, and a valuable way for us to work in partnership with the academic community to make workplace relations information more accessible to practitioners and the community.”
The series is also about to release its fourth paper, authored by WOW colleague, Professor David Peetz. Based on his July 2014 Brisbane presentation under the Commission’s Workplace Education Lecture Series, the article looks at the connection between industrial relations and labour productivity. Adds Associate Professor Townsend:
“There is often a link between Lecture speakers and Invited Paper authors because the topical nature of each engages with those the Commission is seeking to support through these initiatives: a keynote might be invited to write a paper or vice versa.”