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Content type
Corporate publication

August 2016

Message from the Director

I am pleased to present the second corporate plan for the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) in accordance with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The plan sets out the direction for the Institute over the coming four years.

The Institute operates within the portfolio of the Department of Social Services (DSS), and is responsible to the Minister for Social Services. The Institute also has collaborative relationships with other Commonwealth and state and territory government agencies, community organisations and other research institutes.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies is the Australian Government’s key independent research body in the area of family wellbeing. We conduct original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them. Importantly, we also create evidence-informed resources for use by a range of audiences, from policy-makers to practitioners to other researchers and the general public.

In 2016 we have begun a significant organisational transformation, building on our existing strengths and designed to improve organisational performance and impact. Our four-year strategic outlook envisages increasing our primary research as well as improving our capability in getting evidence into action on the ground through our collaborations with policy and decision-makers, and with practitioners and service providers.

Over the coming years, the Institute will focus its work across four strategic areas. We will:

  • Create knowledge about families and communities;
  • Communicate knowledge about families and communities;
  • Connect research, policy and practice; and
  • Activate organisational capability.

We will continue to build the evidence base and act as a bridge to connect research, policy and practice. We will build our organisational capability and efficiency to achieve our strategic objectives.

I am committed to ensuring the Institute continues to make a profound and positive contribution to the lifetime wellbeing of Australian families by providing research that advances knowledge and informs family policy and service delivery.

Ms Anne Hollonds 
Director Australian Institute 
of Family Studies


The Australian Institute of Family Studies (the Institute) is the Australian Government’s key family research agency in the area of family wellbeing. It is an independent statutory authority established in 1980 under the Family Law Act 1975. The Institute disseminates findings to policy-makers, service providers and the broader community and provides an evidence base for developing policy and practice related to the wellbeing of families and children.

Our mission

The Institute’s mission is to increase the understanding of factors affecting Australian families by conducting research and communicating findings to policy-makers, service providers and the broader community.

Our people

The Institute values the contribution, diversity and expertise of staff across the agency. We:

  • Work collaboratively with clients and key stakeholders to produce authoritative research and evaluation
  • Provide advice that is rigorous, evidence-based and spans the boundaries of research, policy and practice
  • Possess skills in research design and methodological techniques across diverse disciplines, including law, economics, public health, demography, data science, psychology, criminology, sociology and anthropology
  • Show sound judgment, common sense and the ability to think strategically
  • Bring a multidisciplinary expertise combined with a strong understanding of the Australian policy context and service systems in the area of child and family wellbeing.

Our values

At the Institute, our commitment to shared ethical values, consistent with the Australian Public Service values, underpins:

  • our work
  • our interactions with one another
  • our interactions with our partners and stakeholders.

We value:

  • respect
  • integrity
  • impartiality
  • excellence
  • humour
  • innovation
  • accountability.

We show this through:

  • being client-focused
  • making a commitment to genuine consultation
  • maintaining courtesy in all that we do
  • appreciating creativity in all aspects of our work
  • finding inspiration in collaborative work
  • always maintaining confidentiality
  • understanding and promoting diversity
  • sharing enthusiasm and joy in work.

Social and policy environment

Change is a constant in all our lives. Australian families adapt and respond to a range of social, economic and environmental influences and challenges. Some of these include relationship patterns, fertility, gender roles, relationship breakdown, the work and family interface, and the growth of varying family types.

High-quality research can provide evidence and shine a light on issues that assist policy-makers in addressing the needs of Australian families.

Some of the broad trends that are likely to affect the lives of Australian families over the four-year period of this plan include:

Demographic, social and cultural trends

Population growth and changes in the age structure of the population, the movement of people from rural and regional areas to cities, immigration, the changing make-up of families, the effects of relationship breakdown, and child support are just some of the trends at play in this arena.

Economic trends

After two decades of sustained economic growth, changing economic conditions, both domestically and internationally, have challenged Australian families and policy-makers, and intergenerational equity issues have also emerged as key drivers in current economic policy debates.

Technological trends

Developments in information and communication technologies affect how we interact with one another, where we work and how we socialise.

Environmental trends

Natural disasters, climate change and the pressures of increasing urban sprawl in cities with limited infrastructure are just some of the external environmental factors that affect family wellbeing.

Research domains

AIFS has identified three key research domains for the period 2016–20:

  • family relationships
  • social and economic participation
  • child and family wellbeing.

Family relationships

As our society changes, so too do our families. The diversity of modern families is reflected in the choices we make in the way we live our lives.

Over the life course, changes will occur in the structure of families, with key transitions including forming partnerships, having children, leaving home, caring for and nurturing family members, and coping with death, separation and divorce. The complexity of these transitions on family relationships—including between parents and children, siblings and grandparents—may have a profound effect on each family member and the family as a whole.

More broadly, it is important to understand how families support the wellbeing of children and adults through the life course.

The Institute aims to provide research in these areas that assists in illuminating the reality of the lives of Australian families throughout the life course.

Social and economic participation

A critical aspect for maintaining positive functioning and resilient families is engaging in the economy and, more broadly, with society.

An adequate income and ongoing financial security is crucial to people’s wellbeing. As both dual-parent employment and single parenting becomes the norm, the need to understand the effects of work on family life increases, as does the role of child care in helping balance parents’ work lives and children’s learning and development needs.

We need innovation to address entrenched social problems including intergenerational disadvantage, child abuse and domestic and family violence. These and other complex social issues are barriers to social and economic participation. We need to build the evidence of “what works” in prevention and early intervention. How we support those requiring assistance in a time of increasing costs, due to the ageing of the population, will continue to be a challenge in coming years.

Child and family wellbeing

While the early years of a child’s life provide the foundation for future health, development and wellbeing, responding to child and family wellbeing issues involves taking a developmental life course approach and addressing cultural factors. The Institute is developing a roadmap for research to provide an evidence base for the development of prevention and early intervention strategies throughout life.

Family violence and sexual abuse is also increasingly recognised as a major issue in Australian society. Understanding the many causes and effects of family violence and child abuse, and ways of preventing and responding effectively, is an important area of research for the Institute. Knowledge of protective and resilience-promoting factors is critical to identifying effective prevention and legal and therapeutic responses. The Institute’s work also addresses other serious problems including mental illness, drug and alcohol addictions, and gambling-related harm.

Strategic priorities

The Institute delivers its agenda through four strategic priorities. We measure success against these priorities to demonstrate the Institute’s achievement of its purposes.

Our mission: To increase the understanding of factors affecting Australian families by conducting research and communicating findings to policy-makers, service providers and the broader community.

What we do

Create knowledge about families and communities

Undertake high-quality, impartial research relating to family wellbeing

Communicate knowledge about families and communities

Disseminate findings through multiple channels to target audiences

Connect research, policy and practice

Value and deepen our relationships with relevant organisations

Activate organisational capability

Build and maintain a successful organisational culture

Our 2020 goals
  • We are recognised as the premier family studies research organisation in Australia
  • Our research and advice is sought by diverse stakeholders across government and non-government sectors
  • Our resources are used to inform national policy on family wellbeing
  • We are the leading source of accessible, timely and relevant resources to support policy and practice
  • We are recognised as thought leaders in accelerating positive outcomes for families and communities
  • We influence national conversation about family wellbeing
  • We maintain an ongoing program of incoming research and consultancy
  • We are an organisation of choice for Australia’s best social researchers
  • We have robust systems and practices to accurately plan, monitor and deliver our work
Our measures
  • Commissioning bodies
  • Research projects
  • Longitudinal projects
  • Publications released
  • Publications disseminated
  • Media mentions
  • Presentations given
  • Bibliographic records
  • Events hosted
  • Attendance at events
  • Partnerships with relevant organisations
  • Government submissions
  • Staff qualifications
  • Reductions in operational costs
  • Client satisfaction
  • Stakeholder satisfaction


A world-class family research organisation for Australia

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has been delivering innovative, impartial and high-quality family research to governments and community organisations for 36 years. Over the four-year period of this plan, the Institute will be uniquely positioned at the intersection of policy, research and practice and be able to generate research data as well as provide sophisticated analysis, synthesis and interpretation of data regarding the complex issues affecting Australian families.

We will deliver research capabilities and expertise through empirical research, including longitudinal studies, data linkage and integration, evaluation and research synthesis.

Some of the Institute’s research has included:

  • understanding the effects of the interactions between different legal frameworks and systems on families
  • identifying the factors that promote children’s healthy development and wellbeing and positive family functioning
  • exploring the implications of diverse societal trends for families
  • examining the challenges confronting culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families
  • providing information about the effects of family violence, abuse and neglect on children and families
  • studying the complexity surrounding the balance of work and family responsibilities
  • working with Indigenous families and communities to understand the challenges they face
  • building understanding of the nature and extent of gambling and gambling-related harms
  • highlighting the complex issues arising from past adoption practices and forced family separation.

The Institute continues to advance understanding by policy-makers of key issues affecting Australian families. Current research priorities include ageing, children and their care, grandparents, Defence Force families, families and the law, Indigenous families, humanitarian migrant families, past adoption practices and forced family separation, gambling, and responses to family violence 
and sexual abuse.

Communicating knowledge about families

The Institute is building on its extensive knowledge translation and knowledge brokering experience to more effectively assist decision-makers and service delivery. This will include policy and practice briefs, evidence reviews, roundtables and symposia, as well as our biennial international conference.

We are also currently developing systems and capability to articulate our understanding of families and their importance in society. These understandings will inform the supports families need from governments and civil society to flourish, and to participate fully in all facets of Australia’s social and economic life.

Our achievements

The Institute has a proven track record in the design and delivery of high-quality research and evaluation projects, and the synthesis and dissemination of research findings. The Institute employs highly skilled and well-regarded staff with a wide range of relevant experience across disciplines and sectors.

The Institute:

  • has a long history of managing major collaborative longitudinal studies, including the Australian Temperament Project (ATP) and Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)
  • hosts the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange, which synthesises and disseminates information and resources, and provides interactive support for professionals in the child, family and community welfare sectors
  • is one of only three Data Linkage Integrating Authorities in Australia
  • includes the Australian Gambling Research Centre
  • disseminates its research in over 100 peer-reviewed publications and project reports each year
  • places a strong emphasis on communicating findings from its research through multiple channels, including its publications, website, social media and a range of online and face-to-face events
  • delivers Australia’s foremost family studies conference for policy-makers, researchers and practitioners every two years
  • has its research findings mentioned widely in national and international media (more than 6,000 mentions in 2015–16)
  • attracts over 14,000 subscribers to its online newsletters
  • maintains a library that holds one of Australia’s most comprehensive specialised collections of Australian and international family research and information, including 5,000 titles that are only available at AIFS
  • has a demonstrated commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ issues and aspirations, and has developed two Reconciliation Action Plans outlining the agency’s initiatives to achieve reconciliation.

The way we operate

The Institute realises its vision by:

  • undertaking high-quality research that:
    • uses best practice and applies creative and innovative approaches to research design
    • is rigorous and ethical
    • is timely and cost-effective
    • is relevant and responsive to the needs of our clients in policy and practice settings
    • uses and expands the datasets available to AIFS and other researchers
    • encourages collaboration with other organisations
    • respects and values the commitment, views and participation of all those who contribute to our research.
  • sharing our information through:
    • publishing our findings in peer-reviewed reports, articles and other works
    • ensuring our research is accessible, synthesised and relevant
    • targeting multiple communication channels to reach a broad range of audiences
    • an agile and responsive approach to our work with clients and collaborators.
  • valuing and deepening our relationships with:
    • policy-makers, practitioners and organisations with a shared interest in the lifetime wellbeing of all Australian families
    • national and international partners involved in family research and policy.
  • building and maintaining an organisational culture that:
    • ensures high standards of performance, underpinned by ethical behaviour, sound risk and resource management, effective governance, and rigorous accountability procedures
    • embraces and encourages creativity, innovation and collaboration
    • supports a rewarding and flexible working environment
    • provides opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge
    • builds staff capability to deliver our research and dissemination programs
    • encourages continuous improvement in order to realise the Institute’s objectives.

Risk oversight and management

The Institute’s governance structures are based on accountability, transparency and fairness. Internal management groups ensure external risk, control and compliance requirements are met. The Director and Executive team oversee these activities, with strategic advice in respect to research provided through our external advisory groups, including the Risk Assessment and Audit Committee, the ethics committee, the Advisory Council and a range of expert advisory groups assembled for major research projects.

The Institute recognises that risk management is an essential component of sound management and good corporate governance. Its Risk Management Policy and Framework that will operate over the four-year period covered by this plan, provides a process for undertaking realistic and proportionate risk identification, management and mitigation. All staff are provided with the tools to identify, analyse and develop plans for managing risks in their areas of responsibility, including business planning and project management.

Performance measures

The performance measures outlined in the following page were included in the Institute’s 2016-17 Portfolio Budget Statements and will form the basis of the Annual Portfolio Performance Statement to be included in the 2016-17 Annual Report.

The Institute reviews its performance information annually to ensure we are meeting our targets and responding to the changing environments in which we operate.

The Institute measures its performance against a number of key performance indicators in order to demonstrate and evaluate the success of its research agenda and dissemination strategies.

Create knowledge about families and communities
No. of bodies commissioning work by AIFS20202222
No. of research projects at AIFS45454747
No. of longitudinal studies at AIFS5555
Communicate knowledge about families and communities
No. of publications disseminated or downloaded from AIFS website3 million3.2 million3.2 million3.4 million
Total media mentions of AIFS research3,5005,0006,0006,500
No. of publications released by AIFS100100100100
No. of presentations given by AIFS staff100100120120
No. of bibliographic records generated at AIFS2,0002,2002,3002,400
Connect research, policy and practice
Total attendance at AIFS conferences, seminars, webinars and forums2,5003,0003,2003,500
No of partnerships, MOUs and collaborations in place8101212
No. of conferences, seminars and forums hosted by AIFS18182022
Government submissions12121515
Activate organisational capability
Percentage of research staff with postgraduate qualifications60%60%65%70%
Reduction in operational costs5%5%5%Steady
Percentage of clients satisfied with AIFS’ services80%85%85%90%
Percentage of stakeholders satisfied with AIFS’ services80%85%85%90%



I, Anne Hollonds, the accountable authority, as the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, present the Corporate Plan, as required under paragraph 35(1)(a), section 95(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The plan is prepared in accordance with the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Rule 2014.

This plan has been prepared for the 2016–17 financial year, and covers the four financial periods 2016–17 to 2019–20. It is to be reviewed annually, or more frequently as required.

Anne Hollonds
Australian Institute of Family Studies
31 August 2016