Move Forward To Find Opportunities To Have An Impact

ECA Blog: May 2024
Helen Scudamore, Early Career Academic Committee Secretary

I tossed up between doing a GOAT (Greatest of All Time) experience or a failure. The tendency is to want to talk about what went well in the past and accomplishments, but for a little bit of fun let’s consider a “failure”.

One that jumps out in my mind is when I was not successful in renewing a contract. At the time it was a tremendous blow. I had prepared project reporting, budgets, projects and plans for the future. I also went to several planning meetings with different stakeholders, and this was all pre-covid where there was more then a little bit of driving to travel to different partners (there is something to be said about the normalisation of virtual meetings these days especially when travel time is a factor). Ultimately even after working hard on this health promotion portfolio, it all came down to a sit-down interview with the lead, me. I had prepared to the best of my ability and I believed at the time that I presented myself and the work that had been done to date effectively. However, the work was not renewed.

As we know if this line of work if budgets are not approved, contracts are often not renewed either. In short order I found myself shutting down a lot of things in the pipeline for the area while informing others that there wasn’t any more work for them and looking for a new job myself.
It’s not a nice feeling and yes I did feel like I had failed.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can look back on the whole experience. I still believe the portfolio was doing good work and that I did convey the outputs and outcomes effectively in meeting. More experience in the public health industry has given me more context that budgets and projects change rapidly with a change in leaderships, restructures and various other decisions at a higher level. I took the end of what I had been leading as a personal failure. That I didn’t talk effectively at the time, didn’t maintain the right amount of eye contact during the contract review, didn’t have the right resources ready to go… I have since spoken with others who were involved in the same project and I believe the decision had already been made before I walked into that meeting.
The takeaway? Our public health sector has a unique composition of changing projects and research.

We can advocate for the continuation of work that we believe in, but if you’re not successful at the time I would advise that is it not a result of a personal failing. Find another opportunity to work in that area, on that issue, with different people, or even how you could affect change at a higher level.

I went on to flourish in my next role. Taking with me all those lessons and experiences and now being able to work with a larger array of influential stakeholders. I would advise ECAs to not cling too tightly to where they currently are, if it’s not working, if funding changes or organisations restructure. It is the nature of the times we’re living in. There are a multitude of opportunities, projects, research and other organisations that are trying to improve health and wellbeing.
Move forward, you may just find an even better way of working effectively.



Helen is a Lecturer and Academic Placement Coordinator at La Trobe University. Working with industry partners to find and develop effective non-clinical placement experiences for students to start working in the public health field. Helen has worked across a range of different health, community health, not-for-profit and local governments over the years. Focusing on health promotion, place-based, co-design and systems thinking.


The last TV show that you binged and loved: Easy! Parks and Rec. Let us all have an much energy and determination for change in our community as Leslie Knope. If you haven’t seen it and work in public health I highly recommend the show.