AIFS Corporate Plan

AIFS Corporate Plan

2021/22 to 2024/25

Corporate document – August 2021
Grandfather and grandson playing in backyard with gardening tools

Message from the Director

I am pleased to present the corporate plan for the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), which will guide our work over the next four years.

We are the Australian Government's key research body about family wellbeing, including the harms caused by gambling.

Families are neither static nor homogenous. They are evolving all the time: making choices about how they live and organise their lives within the context of prevailing social and economic trends. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the world can be turned upside down by a virus, yet families and their imperative to care for one another remains constant. Listening to families, in all their diversity, is critical to understanding what works best for them. This is a key focus for the Institute as we launch into a new strategy.

We are witnessing a number of trends that are affecting families. For example, discussions about how to organise the often competing responsibilities of household work, child care and paid work in the family home. Prominent public conversations about the harmful impacts of family violence and coercive control. Families with strong ties to their country of origin, and the different cultural norms they carry with them to Australia. Separations caused by restrictions on international travel. Adult children delaying leaving home or boomeranging back to live with their parents (sometimes with their own families in tow). Increased longevity and community expectations about being able to age in place. These trends are affecting families and therefore are influencing our research. They also are an important prompt for us to ask whether we could be telling the stories of what matters to families more effectively.

We are at a significant point in the story of AIFS. We have closed off our Strategic Directions 2016-21. This five-year plan was significant, as it established many of the foundations that will allow us to pursue the ambitions in our next five-year strategy, including:

  • building a high-performance culture
  • defining a theory of change and pathway to impact
  • shifting to outcomes performance reporting
  • improving our infrastructure and IT systems
  • grounding our work in the principles of knowledge translation.

We are kicking off our new AIFS Strategy 2021-26 this year. Our focus for the duration of the new strategy will be to tell the stories of families and put that knowledge into the hands of those who make decisions that improve families' lives. This focus will require us to deepen and reinvigorate our collaboration with families in all their diversity. Ultimately, we want families themselves to better inform and shape our research and priorities.

Putting families at the centre of our work means we will be able to amplify what matters to them, and the evidence we produce will have greater impact.

Our major priorities this year are:

  • Defining our research agenda to articulate the themes, priorities and research questions that will shape our work for the next five years.
  • Developing a research model that considers the frameworks, capabilities, policies, resources and standards to deliver on our strategy.
  • Delivering the AIFS Conference in June 2022 to connect sectors, researchers, policy makers and practitioners with the latest knowledge and insights about families, focused on the conference theme of 'putting families at the centre'.
  • Implementing two rounds of the new Families in Australia Survey for insights and analysis about what matters to families in the way they care for each other, work, learn and participate in their communities.
  • Developing the Wave 10 data collection for Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to capture the experience of this cohort and their families as they transition into adulthood, and out of their teenage years.
  • Finalising the evaluations of two pilot studies in the family law system funded under the Australian Government's Women's Economic Security Package.
  • Undertaking a pilot study for a National Gambling Reporting System (NGRS) to identify and monitor emerging trends in gambling participation and related harms in Australia.
  • Developing an options paper on the future of Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health.
  • Knowledge translation and impact: Capability development among our staff to better tell the stories that matter most to families and increase the uptake of evidence.
  • Finalising the redevelopment of our website: To make evidence easier to find, and easier to apply in practice.

I am excited about the launch of our new strategy and this next chapter of AIFS, which has a proud 40-year history of research about Australian families. I value the relationships we have with our funders, research partners, stakeholders, advisory bodies and collaborators, and look forward to taking them on our journey over the next five years. I'm confident that our staff have the curiosity, commitment and courage to ask hard questions and do their very best work for, and with, families. Working together with families, we'll ensure that decision makers have the evidence to improve the wellbeing of families, children and their communities.

Signature of Andrew Whitecross - Acting Director, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Andrew Whitecross
Acting Director, Australian Institute of Family Studies

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About AIFS

About AIFS

Our purpose: We create and communicate knowledge to accelerate positive outcomes for children, families and their communities.

Our enabling legislation

We are a statutory authority of the Australian Government, established under the Family Law Act 1975. We commenced operation in February 1980 and are based in Melbourne.

The Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) was established under the Commonwealth Gambling Measures Act 2012 and has been in operation since 1 July 2013. The AGRC is situated within AIFS. The AIFS Director governs its operations.

Our vision

Discovering what works for every kind of family to thrive.

Our values

Our shared values underpin our work, our interactions with each other and our interactions with our partners and stakeholders. They help guide our decision making, hold us collectively accountable to behavioural standards and connect us to a higher purpose.

These values, developed by our staff, have been instrumental in transforming our culture and guiding organisational change initiatives, including engaging staff in the design and fit-out of our new premises and the development of our new strategy.

AIFS' values are:

AIFS Values


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AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE VALUES

As public servants, we're also committed to upholding the Australian Public Service (APS) values. At all times, we strive to be:

Impartial

The APS is apolitical and provides the government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.

Committed to service

The APS is professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and works collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the government.

Accountable

The APS is open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of ministerial responsibility.

Respectful

The APS respects all people, including their rights and their heritage.

Ethical

The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all that it does.

What we do

Research

We undertake primary research and synthesise the evidence on a broad range of issues affecting Australian families. Our research involves a range of data collection and analytic methods, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. We also manage a number of major, large-scale longitudinal studies that track participants' lives through time at different ages and stages. We also evaluate policies and programs to discover what works for families.

Our research contributes to a robust evidence base to equip policy makers, researchers and stakeholders with data. This helps to:

  • make progress on some of Australia's most challenging issues for families
  • discover new insights that lead to service and policy improvements
  • lead to better decisions about the funding of services.

Capacity building

We build the capacity of researchers, policy makers and practitioners who provide services to families, children and communities by:

  • providing a wide range of resources and publications
  • offering webinars and conferences to connect them with the latest evidence and insights about families and the implications for policy and practice
  • providing tailored program planning support, training and advice
  • facilitating partnerships between other evaluation experts and service providers.

Knowledge translation

Knowledge translation is the process by which relationships, collaborations and communication channels are used to ensure that researchers are:

  • asking and answering the right questions
  • presenting the evidence in a way that is easy to understand and relevant to the end user.

Our goal is to increase the use of evidence in policy and service delivery to reflect what works for families.

What makes us different

With more than 40 years' experience conducting high quality, responsive and impartial research, AIFS has impeccable credentials to understand the diverse issues affecting Australian families.

We have an established reputation as a trusted and credible source of evidence and advice. We add value to commissioned research by communicating findings via synthesis pieces, research summaries, detailed reports, infographics and animations.

We understand the challenges that policy makers and practitioners face, and we bring a real-world lens to our research. Our work is built on strong foundations of academic excellence; however, we are not confined to traditional academic outputs. Our work is designed to meet the needs of end users, and ultimately to benefit families.

Our relationships

The Institute is responsible to the Minister for Families and Social Services and is part of the Social Services portfolio.

AIFS acts as a bridge between the worlds of research, policy and practice, as they intersect with families' lives, and this is reflected in the breadth of our relationships.

We are commissioned to conduct research or undertake evaluations by numerous Australian Government departments, states and territories.

We work in partnership with our stakeholders to provide evidence, translate knowledge and build capability to address complex social problems and contribute to the design of human-centred policy and services.

Our stakeholders include:

  • Australian Government agencies
  • state, territory and local government agencies
  • families and community members
  • policy makers
  • people who provide services to families and children
  • researchers.

We receive expert advice and oversight from:

  • the Risk Assessment and Audit Committee
  • the Ethics Committee
  • the Australian Gambling Research Centre Expert Advisory Group
  • Specific project advisory groups:
    • Scientific Advisory Group (Ten to Men: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Male Health)
    • Community Reference Group (Ten to Men: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Male Health)
    • Consortium Advisory Group (Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children)
    • Families and Children Expert Panel Project Advisory Group.

One of our key priorities over the next 12 months and beyond is to incorporate processes that capture the voices of families, so they inform and influence the work we do. This means we expect to deepen our relationships with, and engagement of, families.

Figure 1: AIFS' relationships

Figure 1: AIFS' relationships. Read text description


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Pathway to impact: Making a difference

AIFS helps improve the lives of families by:

  • listening to stakeholders to identify the issues that matter most for families
  • conducting research to understand the issues
  • evaluating programs to understand what works for families
  • synthesising findings in formats that are accessible, practical and relevant
  • amplifying the voices of families and what matters to them
  • informing and connecting stakeholders in government, service provision and practice, and creating dialogue between government and the service sector
  • communicating insights in multiple ways, from one-on-one discussions (help desks, briefings and advice) through to events (conferences and webinars) and broadcast media (websites, publications, social media and traditional media).

Governments use our insights to enact systemic change via policy and resource allocation. And service providers use our insights to develop their people, deliver direct action, and enhance their programs and practices for better family outcomes.

Infographic-Pathway to impact: The vision is better understanding of what works for all kinds of families to thrive; The outcome is more effective legislation, programs and practices; The impact is better outcomes for Australian families.


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AIFS Strategy 2021-26

AIFS Strategy 2021-26

Overview

Our five-year strategy for 2021-26 represents an exciting new chapter in our proud history of seeking to understand what helps - and hinders - child and family wellbeing.

From 2021 to 2026, our key strategic focus will be to:

  • Tell the stories of what matters to families through our research and communication activities: We want to use our expertise, skills, data assets and organisational capabilities to provide insight and understanding of the issues impacting families in Australia.
  • Put this knowledge into the hands of decision makers across policy, practice and broader community sectors to improve the lives of families: We want to ensure that our research and the insights we generate influence new conversations that are a catalyst for positive change for families.
  • Actively partner with families in the creation, translation and communication of our research: We want to expand our engagement with families beyond being participants in our research to being active stakeholders in how we do our work and meet our statutory purpose.

AIFS Strategy 2021-26 builds on the achievements of our previous strategy (Strategic Directions 2016-21). Key achievements from our previous strategy include:

  • Improved integration of AIFS' knowledge generation and knowledge translation capabilities: Our core purpose is to create and communicate knowledge to policy makers, service providers and the broader community to improve the wellbeing of children, families and communities.
  • Development of a Families Framework, providing conceptual grounding for how AIFS thinks about the role and functions of family in contemporary Australia, and the factors that support families in caring for each other.
  • Development of an impact pathway that maps out the connections between what AIFS does (i.e. create and communicate research), who the beneficiaries of our work are, and how this results in positive impacts for families.
  • Redevelopment of our performance measures into a performance framework aligned to strategic goals, the impact pathway, and representing a shift from output measurement to outcomes assessment.
  • Strengthened organisational culture: An engaged and high-performing culture committed to achieving our purpose is a key focus area in the Strategic Directions. This has resulted in: the development of AIFS' specific values to complement APS values; comprehensive leadership training; a refreshed PDR program; and a comprehensive induction program for new starters.

The previous strategy also resulted in key learnings and improved organisational capability in strategy development, execution and performance monitoring, which we have drawn on in formulating AIFS Strategy 2021-26.

Planning for success

AIFS Strategy 2021-26 is our blueprint of how we will achieve our organisational purpose and intended outcome.

Structure of AIFS Strategy 2021-26

  • Creates a clear line of sight from long-range goals to mid-point signposts/milestones to annual plans of action.
  • Emphasises good project management and governance practice to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and course correction.
  • Defines alignment between organisational enablers and strategic goals by ensuring the organisational preconditions to implement the initiatives are present.

We have four types of organisational enablers:

  • People and organisational culture: Staff competencies, skills, expertise and experience; workforce development and planning; leadership and management capability; a values-led culture; a focus on staff wellbeing; growing and supporting our leaders.
  • Financial capability and sustainability: Financial capability and practices to support our strategy; sustainability as an independent institute; business and commercial acumen.
  • Systems, processes and tools: Infrastructure, systems and processes to deliver efficiently and effectively; tools and resources to support this.
  • Value to stakeholders and end users: Delivering on our statutory functions and remits; understanding and demonstrating our unique value for stakeholders and the broader community.

Figure 2 and Figure 3 provide a diagrammatic representation of the strategy.

Figure 2: Structure of AIFS strategy

Figure 2: Structure of AIFS strategy. Read text description


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Figure 3: AIFS Strategy 2021-26 on a page

Figure 3: AIFS Strategy 2021-26 on a page. Read text description.


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Annual Action Plan: Year 1

The strategic initiatives will drive the work of the Institute over the next five years. Each year an annual action plan will outline the activities we will undertake. The criteria for selecting and sequencing these activities are their:

  • urgency
  • interdependencies
  • potential for impact

and AIFS' organisational requirements.

The Year 1 action plan will involve the following priority projects (see Table 1).

Table 1: Goals, initiatives and priority actions, 2021/22

Table 1: Goals, initiatives and priority actions, 2021/22. Read text description.


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To support and enable these priority actions, a number of projects will be implemented across AIFS (see Table 2).

Table 2: Organisational enablers and projects, 2021/22
Organisational enabler 2021/22 Projects
People and organisational culture Capability framework development
Financial sustainability and capability Financial capability uplift - skills and capabilities
Systems, processes and tools Finance capability uplift - systems and processes

Website Redesign Project

Project management capability and system uplift

Value to customers and stakeholders Performance framework redevelopment for new strategy

Measuring our strategic and operational performance

AIFS' Strategy 2021-26 will continue building on our commitment to robust performance measurement to:

  • provide accountability and transparency to government, funders, stakeholders and the broader community
  • demonstrate impact against our strategy - key results, achievements, and outcomes
  • demonstrate our operational effectiveness and efficiency.

We will do this by measuring our:

  • Strategic performance: How we are performing against our strategic initiatives and overall strategy statement in terms of implementation and impact.
  • Operational performance: How effective and efficient we are in delivering our core functions of creating and communication knowledge to improve outcomes for children and families. Measures include:
    • research products are accessible, relevant and useful to our stakeholders
    • projects are delivered effectively
    • resource utilisation is efficient
    • financial stewardship is responsible.

Measuring strategic success

AIFS' strategy statement is:

We tell the stories of families and put this knowledge in the hands of those who make decisions that improve the lives of families; we do this by actively partnering with families in the creation, translation and communication of our research.

Our four strategic goals describe how we will achieve our strategy over the next five years and what success looks like (see Table 3).

In the first half of Year 1, we will develop a measurement framework to measure and monitor performance in the goals. This measurement framework will integrate with our current performance framework, which measures achievements in our core functions.

Table 3: What success looks like

Table 3: What success looks like. Read text description.


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Measuring operational performance

AIFS has a single outcome statement as set out in the Portfolio Budget Statement:

The creation and communication of knowledge for policy makers, service providers and the broader community to improve outcomes for children and families.

Our performance measurement framework uses a program logic model to link inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts against our Outcome Statement:

  • Inputs are our resources, staff and assets.
  • Activities are what we do on a day-to-day basis.
  • Outputs are the products, resources and organisational practices produced as a consequence of these activities.
  • Outcomes are the results we wish to see as a consequence of our activities and outputs, namely: our research is sought out by our stakeholders; our research is seen as relevant by our stakeholders; and our organisational capabilities support our research activities.
  • Impacts are the consequences for stakeholders of using our work, namely: better understanding of issues affecting families; improved capacity to use research; and deeper insights into what works in policy and practice to support families.
Operational performance for 2021/22-2024/25

Performance measures for outputs, outcomes and impacts in 2021-25 are detailed in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Performance measures: Outputs, outcomes and impacts, 2021-25

Figure 4: Performance measures: Outputs, outcomes and impacts, 2021-25. Read text description.


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Table 4: Output performance 2019-2021
What we produce (outputs): measures and metrics 2019/20 2020/21
Robust, credible research on issues facing Australian families
Total number of projects (total) 31 30
Number commissioned 29 24
Number of commissioning bodies 14 14
Access to high quality research and information
Number of publications and products released 58 59
Number of external presentations 55 45
Number of AIFS webinars 18 19
Platforms and opportunities for cross-sector dialogue and collaboration
Number of AIFS events 1 0
Number of event attendees 70 0
Number of partnerships 24 32
Number of advisory group representation 39 37
Practices, processes and culture that ensure sustainability
Learning and development sessions 17 18
Wellbeing sessions 7 5
Number of APS new starter induction training 9 15
Table 5: Outcomes performance and targets, 2019-24
Stakeholder engagement (outcomes): measures and metrics 2019/20 2020/21 target 2020/21 actual Forward targets
      20/21 21/22 22/23 23/24
End users seek out AIFS' research, resources and expertise
Number of e-news subscribers 31,840 40,000 42,832 ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Accessing publications (number of page views) 3.4M 4.5M 3.4M ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Number of webinar attendees 11,447 13,000 23,075 ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Number of media citations 3,661 3,600 3,150 ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Number of media comment sought 107 50 81 ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Stakeholder survey - Frequency of engagement (min. monthly) 78% 70% 74% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
End users and stakeholders find AIFS research and resources relevant to their work
Stakeholder feedback survey            
AIFS' resources are easy to find 79% 70% 79% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
AIFS' resources are accessible and easy to understand 86% 80% 87% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Whether used AIFS' resources in work practice 86% 80% 77% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Organisational capability enables AIFS to achieve impact
APS employee census scoresa            
Staff engagement 77% 77% 74% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Staff wellbeing 76% 76% 76% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Innovation NAb 70% 68% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23

Notes: a) The APS Census is usually held in May each year. In 2020, due to COVID-19, it was postponed to October. b) There was no question about innovation in the 2019/20 Census.

Table 6: Impact performance and targets, 2019-24
Impact: measures and metrics 2019/20 2020/21 target 2020/21 actual Forward targets
      20/21 21/22 22/23 23/24
Better understanding among stakeholders about issues facing Australian Families
Stakeholder feedback survey            
AIFS resources expand my knowledge 95% 80% 90% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Improved capacity of stakeholders to use research to inform policy and service design
AIFS resources are incorporated into work practice 84% 75% 83% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
AIFS resources are used to make evidence-based decisions 85% 75% 80% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Deeper insight into outcomes and impacts of policy and service design on children and families
AIFS resources are used to debate and discuss different options for action 84% 70% 75% ≥20/21 ≥21/22 ≥22/23
Our research

Our research

Families Framework

Our What Works for Families Research Framework (Families Framework) articulates our understanding of families, their role, and the supports they need from government and civil society to flourish.

Families Framework. Life stages & transitions; Family relationships; Social & economic participation; Challenges for families. Read full text description.


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Families Framework (cont.)

Families Framework tree. Read text description.


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Research program

One of the key activities in 2021/22 is to develop a Research Agenda for the Institute, in line with our new AIFS Strategy 2021-26. The purpose of the agenda is to expand our understanding of the most important questions that relate to families' lives, so that we can feed this into our self-initiated research program and into the choices we make about the commissioned research we undertake.

In tandem, we are undertaking a significant piece of work to develop a collaboration framework to include families in our research. This involves several aspects, such as engaging families as research participants, including them in research design, and using inclusive research methods.

A complementary piece of work for the research program in 2021/22 is to develop a Research Model. The purpose of the Research Model is to ensure that we have the right people, capabilities, policies, systems and standards to deliver on our strategy and strengthen our standing as a research institute.

Research program areas

Our researchers work across six program areas:

  • Families and Society
  • Family Law and Family Violence
  • Family Policy and Service Systems
  • Child and Family Evidence
  • Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC)
  • Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies.

All programs use a variety of methods and lenses to explore cross-cutting themes.

Families and Society

The Families and Society program area focuses on the major factors that shape and influence family life and wellbeing. Major activities in 2021/22 include the following.

Families in Australia Survey

The Families in Australia Survey is AIFS' self-initiated survey program. It explores the current contexts of family life in Australia. Its scope is every person in every type of family.

We will run the survey twice yearly to help us paint a picture of Australian families and their relationships, connections, the care they give and receive, and their work and finances.

We will share the insights from the Families in Australia Survey with the public and with non-government and government agencies to help them develop the supports that families need.

Financial circumstances of families

In 2021/22 we will be developing a research program focused on the financial circumstances of families, exploring how families access their financial resources through work, government transfer payments, child support and intrafamily transfers. As part of this work we will explore how families see dependency and financial responsibility, how they make decisions, and the impact of financial hardship on families.

Working families

Work is important for families to gather the resources to meet their needs and pursue their goals as individuals and as a family. Nurturing family relationships, caring for each other, and supporting the growth and development of family members is also important. Finding the best ways to achieve these different goals is an issue that affects all Australian families. Increasingly in Australia, both parents work outside the home either in full-time or part-time employment. This results in challenges in various areas of family and working life including child care, parenting responsibilities, housework and employment flexibility. A key project in this space is the finalisation of the evaluation of the 2018 Child Care Package for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Family roles and responsibilities

Family members may have different roles and responsibilities in helping and supporting each other. Our research examines how couples share unpaid work in the home, including housework and caring for children, and how they allocate time to paid work. We also investigate the roles of different family members in providing help and care - including the provision of child care by grandparents, and the provision of care to older family members or family members with a disability or health condition; and we explore how these roles impact the wellbeing of the care providers themselves.

Family trends

Family trends analyses and disseminates information on broad trends in the patterns of family members leaving home, couple and family formation, family stability, and family dissolution and reformation, along with associated values, attitudes and beliefs. As well as providing a better understanding of society's core values, the monitoring and analysis of these trends are important for policy development and adjustment, and for the timely development and design of research projects.

Family Law and Family Violence

The Family Law and Family Violence program undertakes research in the areas of family law, family violence and elder abuse. The aim of this research program is to produce a rigorous evidence base that will inform the development of policy, programs and practice in these areas.

Family law has been a core focus for AIFS since its inception as part of the Family Law Act 1975. With family law reform on the government's agenda, we will leverage our extensive evidence base to contribute to thinking and understanding about the circumstances and needs of separated families, with a focus on children. In the past decade, the family law research program has produced a series of reports that have had a significant influence on family law policy, including highlighting the nature, prevalence and impact of family violence among separated families.

Major activities in 2021/22 include the following.

Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

The National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study is the first large-scale effort to assess the nature of elder abuse and the extent to which it occurs among those in the Australian population aged 65 and over and who live in the community. It is one of the activities in the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (2019-23). The final report was submitted to the Attorney-General's Department for consideration in April 2021.

Evaluation of the Small Claims Property Pilot

We are evaluating the Small Claims Property Pilot, a new court-based model for small value property matters (up to $500,000 excluding debt and superannuation) to be trialled in four Federal Circuit Court Registries (FCCoA). The pilot aims to increase access to mechanisms to resolve post-separation property matters for parties, particularly women, when the value of the property pool may make it uneconomic to pursue an outcome through family law system services (mediation or a court process) due to a gap in the availability of efficient, low-cost avenues for property settlement. The pilot is an initiative funded under the Australian Government's Women's Economic Security Package.

Compliance With and Enforcement of Family Law Parenting Orders

This project will research how parenting orders from the family law courts work in practice. As well as looking at whether parents comply with parenting orders, this research will examine how the enforcement regime operates and how well the legal options for responding to non-compliance with parenting orders work. This project is currently in the fieldwork phase. It has been commissioned by the Australian National Research Organisation for Women's Safety.

Evaluation of the Lawyer-Assisted Property Mediation: Legal Aid Commission Trial

We are evaluating a trial program for legal aid commissions to provide legally assisted mediation for small value property matters (upto $500,000 excluding debt and superannuation). The pilot aims to increase access to mechanisms to resolve post-separation property matters for parties, particularly women, when the value of the property pool may make it uneconomic to pursue an outcome through family law system services (mediation or a court process) due to a gap in the availability of efficient, low-cost avenues for property settlement. The pilot is an initiative funded under the Australian Government's Women's Economic Security Package.

Family Policy and Service Systems

The Family Policy and Service Systems program area researches and evaluates policies and services for families and children, as well as providing capability-building supports to the child and family service sector to develop their own evidence base.

The research, evaluation and capability-building activities undertaken by our multi-disciplinary team aim to:

  • increase understanding of the effects of government policies and services on families
  • increase the use of evidence-informed practice by governments and service providers
  • help governments and service providers use appropriate evidence that will improve family wellbeing.

Family Policy and Practice uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to undertake research and evaluation in the areas of family support, family violence, early childhood education, child protection, and service supports for current and ex-serving defence force members.

Major activities in 2021/22 include the following.

Families and Children Expert Panel

This project builds the capacity of service providers funded under the Department of Social Services' Families and Children Activity (FAC) to deliver evidence-informed programs and practices and to build the evidence base through evaluation. It provides tiered support to FAC service providers, with support ranging from published papers, practice guides and videos on how to undertake evaluation through to tailored one-on-one support for individual service providers who are seeking advice about how to plan and evaluate their programs.

Child and Family Centre (Northern Territory) Evaluation

The Northern Territory Department of Education and the Reform Management Office have commissioned AIFS to review and evaluate the six existing Child and Family Centres (CFCs) in the Northern Territory and examine the establishment of three additional CFCs in new locations in the Territory. The evaluation is also intended to focus on determining whether the older CFCs are helping to empower Aboriginal communities by allowing for Aboriginal leadership and meaningful engagement in decision making, and to assess the role of Aboriginal self-determination and decision making in the establishment and operation of the newer CFC sites. The project has been extended due to delays caused by COVID-19.

Identifying strategies to better support foster, kinship, and permanent carers

We are partnering with the Aboriginal-owned consultancy firm Murawin on this project. The purpose of the project is to build the evidence base about the characteristics, support needs and experiences of foster, kinship and permanent carers in Australia. Because they are over-represented in out-of-home care (and among kinship carers), the study has a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care. The Aboriginal evaluation and research consultancy Murawin is leading the consultation. The project has been extended due to COVID-19 related delays to fieldwork.

Australian Military and Veterans' Families Study

This is a qualitative research study of the families of current serving and recently transitioned Australian Defence Force (ADF) members. The study looks at how family experiences and perspectives inform, or shape, continued service in the ADF and how member and family experiences of transition from service can be improved. The study focuses on young families with children (including single parents) where at least one member is a current serving ADF member or has recently transitioned to civilian life in the last five years.

The project is scheduled to run from May 2021 to November 2022. Activities undertaken in 2021/22 include completing a project plan, application for ethics approval, research methodology development, participant recruitment, qualitative interviews with the families of current serving and ex-serving ADF members and data analysis.

SNAICC Genuine Partnerships Project

The Genuine Partnerships Project is a collaboration between AIFS, the Department of Social Services and SNAICC, the national non-government peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The goal of the project is to support genuine partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and non-Indigenous service providers funded under the Department's Families and Children Activity by:

  • highlighting the skills and strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in the design and delivery of services to families
  • consulting with non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers
  • building the capacity of non-Indigenous organisations to deliver more culturally appropriate services.

Child and Family Evidence

The Child and Family Evidence program delivers funded projects focused on building the capability and capacity of service providers and policy makers to use evidence in their decision making when working with children and families.

The program champions a knowledge translation for impact approach. We achieve impact when evidence is taken up and used by practitioners and policy makers in their work. Knowledge translation bridges the gap between what we know and what we do. The knowledge translation for impact approach comprises three key elements: evidence synthesis, engagement and co-production, and evaluation and impact measurement.

A priority of this work is to develop AIFS capability and processes to enable our researchers to produce policy and practice relevant research. By engaging with stakeholders, research users and research participants throughout the research process, and effectively communicating with audiences, we will improve the use of evidence in decision-making.

Major projects in 2021/22 include the following.

Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange

This project, funded by the Department of Social Services, is the leading source of evidence-based web resources, publications and professional development for the child, family and community welfare sector. In addition to its publications, CFCA hosts a program of webinars to give our target audiences access to the latest evidence and practice implications on a range of topics.

The National Workforce Centre on Child Mental Health (Emerging Minds)

We are one of four agencies contributing to the delivery of the Emerging Minds program, which aims to equip professionals with resources to identify, assess and better support the mental health needs of children aged 0-12 years. AIFS synthesises and translates evidence and provides expertise in evaluation to support the use of evidence by the Centre and its stakeholders and audiences.

The Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC)

The Australian Gambling Research Centre performs policy-relevant research that enhances our understanding of the nature and extent of gambling participation and related harms, and advances the knowledge of ways to prevent and reduce harm among at-risk populations, their families and communities.

Major activities in 2021/22 include the following.

National Gambling Reporting System (NGRS) Pilot Study

The purpose of the NGRS is to identify emerging trends in gambling participation and gambling-related harm (within and across Australian jurisdictions) that are likely to have implications for gambling policy and practical responses.

The NGRS Pilot Study is a major focus this year and will:

  • determine the feasibility of monitoring gambling consumption and related harm among people, in three Australian jurisdictions, who gamble weekly or more often
  • inform any changes to the proposed methodology and data collection instruments (prior to potential national scale-up)
  • identify any issues requiring further investigation or a strategic response, in a timely and cost-effective way.

Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies

Following a large group of people over a long period of time is a powerful way to learn about people at different ages and stages. It provides a level of research and statistical insight not available from one-off or repeated cross-sectional studies.

The Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies Program supports policy makers, researchers and the general public by:

  • identifying patterns and pathways of development
  • exploring how problems arise for some people but are avoided or resolved by others
  • investigating some of Australia's most challenging issues
  • discovering new insights, leading to service and policy improvements.

The Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies program specialises in the design, implementation and management of large-scale longitudinal research projects. These projects generate important insights to help understand family life, developmental trajectories, relationships and wellbeing.

Major activities in 2021/22 include the following.

Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is a major study following the development of around 10,000 children and their families from urban and rural areas in all states and territories of Australia. A key aim of the study is to identify policy opportunities for improving supports for children and families, and for early intervention and prevention strategies. The study also provides valuable insight into the paths Australian children and their families take through life.

In 2021/22 LSAC will publish six 'snapshots': brief and accessible summaries of policy-relevant research findings. And preparations will continue for Wave 10 data collection, with a pilot phase scheduled for the first quarter of 2022/23.

Ten to Men: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Male Health

Ten to Men is the first national longitudinal study in Australia to focus exclusively on male health and wellbeing. The study aims to fill the gaps in knowledge about male health and wellbeing across the life course. Its findings will contribute to the development of health programs and policies that are targeted to the special health needs of men and boys.

  • The Wave 3 data release is scheduled for September 2021, and data products to accompany the release are being prepared. A report, Social connectivity, isolation and community participation among Australian males, is planned for release in the second half of 2021.
  • An Insights Report that will analyse data from all three waves of the study is anticipated for release in the first half of 2022.
Building a New Life in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants

This study examines how humanitarian migrants settle into a new life in Australia. Five annual waves of data collection have been undertaken. The study has followed participants from their early months in Australia to their eligibility for citizenship, to better understand the factors that influence - positively and negatively - settlement outcomes. Close to 2,400 individuals and families are taking part. Almost all arrived in Australia in 2013 and experienced trauma and persecution before their arrival.

Operating environment

Operating environment

COVID-19

The impacts of the pandemic continue to affect day-to-day family life. The findings below are from our three Families in Australia Surveys, which ran in May-June and November-December 2020, and May-June 2021.

Working from home

  • During November-December 2020, 67% of parents were sometimes or always working from home, compared to 42% pre-COVID.
  • While many were enjoying the increased flexibility, 49% of parents surveyed who were working from home reported finding it difficult to combine work and care responsibilities, compared to 40% of those who never worked from home.
  • Twenty-two per cent of parents were always or often actively caring for children while working, while 15% of parents were passively doing so. This was especially true for mothers, of whom 23% were often actively caring for children while working compared to 15% of fathers.

Caring for children

  • Prior to COVID-19, 30% of families used parent-only care. During COVID-19 this rose to 64%, but by December 2020 it had decreased to 36%.
  • Prior to COVID-19, 52% of parents were using formal child care, but by May-June 2020 just 26% of parents were using it. Many parents initially withdrew their children from child care in response to a range of factors, including parental job losses, increased rates of working at home, and financial and health concerns.
  • Parents began returning to formal child care, following the start of the period of free child care that was central to the Child Care Fee Relief Package. By November-December 2020, 47% of parents were using formal child care, when parents were again paying full fees.

Employment

  • Almost half of people said they or their partner had lost employment or had reduced hours or wages during the early months of the pandemic.

Older people

  • Limited technological skills were a common barrier to older people connecting with family.
  • Many grandparents found their regular patterns of care of or contact with grandchildren disrupted by COVID restrictions and felt disconnected and isolated from their children and grandchildren.
  • Despite this, 14% of respondents with grandchildren aged under 13 years provided child care daily or several times a week and another 16% provided child care about once a week.

Financial wellbeing

  • During the survey in May-June 2020, just under half (49%) of respondents had experienced some reduction in income, and 30% a significant reduction in income due to COVID-19. Six in 10 respondents were at least 'a little concerned' about their current financial situation, while slightly more (seven in 10) were concerned about their future financial situation.
  • In the same survey, more than one in 10 (11%) of survey respondents said they, or someone in their household had applied for early access to their superannuation. Among households where there had been a significant reduction in income, this number jumped up to more than a quarter (26%).

Living arrangements

  • Twenty-one per cent of young people aged 18-29 years reported a change in their living arrangements during the early months of the pandemic.

Volunteering

  • Of those who volunteered at some time during 2020, 62% continued to volunteer throughout the year, 20% volunteered before COVID and had yet to return to volunteering, 6% started volunteering after COVID, 4% stopped volunteering during COVID but returned to volunteering, and 4% volunteered only during COVID. The number of respondents volunteering after COVID restrictions were lifted in 2020 never equalled the numbers volunteering before restrictions, suggesting that volunteer numbers across Australia will take some time to recover to pre-COVID levels.

Fertility

  • In November-December 2020, over one in 10 women reported that they and their partner had been trying for a first or additional child before the pandemic. However, 18% of these women ceased trying to conceive, at least partly because of the pandemic.
  • For those who stopped trying to conceive at least partly owing to the pandemic, concerns about their current and future financial situation had contributed to their decision.
  • A small proportion of women were pregnant at the time of survey, with 22% of these women indicating that COVID-19 had 'very much' or 'somewhat' affected the timing of their current pregnancy.
  • Around one-fifth of women reported that COVID-19 had had an impact on their intentions of having children.

Social trends

In addition to the changes a 'living with COVID-19 world' present, families are also adapting to a range of other social, economic and environmental influences and challenges.

The changing shape of families; the persistence of what matters

Families and family households continue to evolve. Where couples with dependent children were once the most common family formation, couples without children are now the most common type of family structure.

Single-parent families and extended family households are also increasing. There is an increasing prevalence of same-sex-couple families with children. The proportion of young people remaining in (or returning to) the family home when they are aged in their 20s and 30s is also increasing. Despite the changes to family types, the importance of and our ties to family remain strong: the majority of people are satisfied with their family relationships, regardless of their structure.1

Trends in how we live

Patterns of home ownership (whether outright or with a mortgage) compared to renting have changed over time. In the last 30 years, renting has increased from just over a quarter to almost a third of Australians. Single parents are more likely to rent, and home ownership has fallen considerably for those under the age of 35. The reality of purchasing a home has become more challenging.

Overall, the percentage of households that spent at least 30% of their gross household income on housing has increased from 14% of households in 1994/95 to 17% in 2017/18. While couples with children have the highest average housing costs, single-parent families spend a higher percentage of their income on housing. In 2017/18, single-parent families with dependent children spent 24% of their income on housing, on average, while couples with dependent children spent an average of 14% of their gross household income.

For some families, this increase in housing cost, whether mortgage repayments or rental costs, is a source of financial stress. This is particularly the case for single-person households and single parents with a dependent child. Moreover, the increases in both the value of homes and in rent payments can lock lower-income families out of secure housing close to work, family and friends, schools and critical amenities such as community and health services.2

Persistence and change in gender roles

Women have greater access to education and employment opportunities and are increasingly occupying leadership roles in the workplace. However, in the home, the sharing of child care and domestic work has changed more slowly.

The gendered nature of work and care reflects continuing social norms, which affects the uptake of flexible working arrangements. It also reflects labour market factors such as the continuing gender pay gap and lack of access to family-friendly work arrangements (in some jobs). The gender divide is most apparent at the transition to parenthood, at which time women tend to take a period of leave from work, change to part-time work or withdraw altogether from the workforce. Men's workforce participation generally does not change at this time.

Our Families in Australia Survey (over two data collection periods May-June 2020 and November-December 2020) found that within opposite-sex couples, there is a gendered distribution of housework. In couple families, household tasks were always done by the female 12% of the time, and usually done by the female 30% of the time. By comparison, in only 2% and 8% of couple families, respectively, were household tasks always or usually done by the male. Forty-seven per cent of couple families shared household tasks evenly.

Respondents' comments about the sharing of housework illustrated the varied reasons for the way these tasks are distributed. Sometimes these reflected negotiated arrangements. Sometimes they reflected one partner being constrained in time or opportunity. And sometimes they reflected gendered attitudes or roles that had been in place for a long time. Among respondents, there was a great sense of dissatisfaction that the contribution of 'executive tasks' related to running a household were somewhat invisible but were a considerable burden. Comments from respondents indicated this aspect of household work is very often undertaken by females.

An ageing population

Australia's greatest demographic challenge is the ageing population, caused by increasing life expectancies and falling fertility rates. From 2019/20 to 2060/61, the number of people aged 65 and older will double to 8.9 million. In 2060/61, 23% of the population is projected to be 65 and older, an increase from 16% in 2019/20.3

On the one hand, an ageing population is a good news story. It reflects advances in health care, education, employment and living standards over the last century. Other positives include increased volunteering and caring capacity and strengthened intergenerational bonds.

On the other hand, this success presents social and economic challenges for individuals, families, communities and governments. The desire for - and benefits of - ageing in place with a high quality of life will likely require a redesign of how aged care is currently delivered and funded.

Further, the benefits of an ageing population are not distributed equally. The social determinants of health and wellbeing play a large role in contributing to outcomes for older Australians. An ageing population will face more chronic health conditions, both physical and cognitive. Gender and socio-economic status both have an influence on the economic and health outcomes of older Australians. As a group, older women are more likely to experience financial stress in their older age.

There are opportunities to respond to these challenges with policy and system reform to reduce ill health, isolation and disability among segments of our older population.

The increasing role of technology

Developments in information and communication technologies affect how we interact with one another, where we work and how we socialise. For example, recent studies indicated digitisation and the greater use of artificial intelligence is likely to replace about half of known jobs within 20 years. Technology is also blurring the distinction between work and home, and allowing greater flexibility in work patterns, with a rise in people working from home (driven in 2020/21 by pandemic restrictions). This trend presents new opportunities and new challenges for how families work. It remains to be seen what impact the increase in remote working as a result of the pandemic will have on work and family life.

Challenges and adversity

Interpersonal violence over the lifespan

A significant proportion of Australians have experienced some form of interpersonal violence over their lifetime, most often perpetrated by those in a care giving or familial role. Around one in 10 children have experienced physical abuse at the hands of a caregiver or guardian. Up to 17% have reported experiencing emotional abuse. And around one in 10 boys and one in four girls have experienced some form of sexual abuse. As adults, around one in six women have experienced sexual violence and approximately a third of women have experienced violence by a current or former partner.

Such experiences of violence have profound effects on individuals' psycho-social wellbeing.

The needs of families experiencing these issues can be complex. The last decade has seen increased awareness and commitment from governments to address the complex and overlapping nature of child abuse and neglect, family and domestic violence and sexual violence. Increasingly, the imperative is to develop integrated, coordinated and appropriately tailored support systems to improve the long-term outcomes for survivors, as well as facilitate the prevention of family and interpersonal violence and child abuse.

Mental health

Mental illness is a significant issue across the life course in Australia, with approximately one in five people aged between 16 and 85 experiencing a mental illness in any year. The effects on families can be significant, and high-quality support and services to families and affected family members are crucial. Mental illness impacts not just the individuals affected but also the family relationships around them, including parents and children. The pandemic may leave a legacy of negative impacts on mental health, particularly in vulnerable or socially isolated populations. This may lead to increased demands on formal services for treatment and added pressure on families for informal support.

Poor mental health has a range of personal, social, economic, health and productivity impacts. The complex interplay of these on individuals and families means that the coordination of policy and services across sectors, systems, levels of government and portfolios is crucial to delivering timely and appropriate support to individuals and families. Reducing discrimination and the stigma of mental illness are also important as these are often barriers to individuals seeking support for mental health.

Disadvantaged families

Despite sustained economic growth, the existence of families experiencing persistent disadvantage continues to challenge Australian policy makers. For many of these families, the challenges persist over time, or even across generations. New challenges such as less secure work and rising housing costs make it harder for some families to achieve financial security and raise their children. These conditions have become magnified by the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Trends in services for families

To do their job well, families need the right supports at the right time. At every stage of life, at major transitions, families face a range of issues, challenges or external influences that shape their relationships and their social and economic participation. Over the last decade, Australian governments have endeavoured to redesign social and human service systems to better meet the needs of families and communities. Key trends include:

  • a shift to person-centred or consumer-centred service design and delivery
  • a shift to prevention and early intervention approaches to address health, safety and wellbeing issues
  • more holistic, systems-level rather than service or sector-level reform
  • increased outcomes-based commissioning to improve service outcomes.

Collaboration with stakeholders

AIFS is uniquely located at the nexus of government and community-based service providers, researchers and policy makers. We collaborate with other organisations that have a stake in research, policy and practice that affect family wellbeing. These relationships help to build research capability and communications reach, for the benefit of families and the Australian community.

Our strategy for this reporting period to 2023/24 is focused on increasing the impact of translating our knowledge into practice. We will focus on achieving information exchange and cross-sector dialogue through forums such as roundtables, workshops and seminars.

We will also enhance our collaborative relationships through a research partnership strategy.

Business environment

AIFS undertakes a mix of commissioned and self-funded research. Almost three-quarters of our revenue comes from commissioned research projects, and around one-quarter from appropriation funding. Our new strategy is focusing on exploring new collaborations with stakeholders and deepening our relationship with families themselves to identify the most important questions that will contribute to positive outcomes for children, families and communities. This will lead to research that is well-targeted and translated into accessible and engaging formats for those who make decisions that improve the lives of families.

We continue to implement business improvement activities to strengthen our business processes, resource planning and utilisation. Improved processes will generate better business intelligence on our costs and effort so that we can maximise our efficiency and quality of service delivery.

1 aifs.gov.au/publications/households-and-families

2 aifs.gov.au/publications/housing

3 Commonwealth of Australia (2021), 2021 Intergenerational Report: Australia over the next 40 years. Retrieved from 2021 Intergenerational Report (treasury.gov.au)

Our capability

Our capability

To succeed in delivering on the strategy it is essential to have the right skills, capabilities, systems, processes, financial capability and organisational culture. We consider these organisational enablers to be the bedrock of our strategic and operational performance. In our 2021-26 strategy we have strengthened the alignment between organisational capability and our external-facing strategic goals.

The programs of work under the Strategic Initiatives and the corresponding Annual Action Plans will include both outwards-facing activities and internal capability development.

Research excellence

Current capability

We have research capability in a broad and diverse range of issues affecting Australian families. Our multi-disciplinary teams span social science disciplines such as sociology, psychology, economics, demography, law and public health, as well as data sciences.

A key strength is our wide range of expertise across disciplines, and our ability to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research to create useful evidence to inform policy on complex social problems. Research staff biographies are also available. 

Our research excellence is underpinned by a range of capabilities, as shown below.

Collaborative approach

We have a very strong track record of working in close cooperation with a range of administering departments, partner organisations, scientific advisory groups, fieldwork providers and study participants. We are renowned for our collaborative approach, capacity to maintain open and responsive communication, and delivery of solutions that meet the needs of diverse stakeholders.

Willingness to support customised methodologies

We have a breadth of experience with innovative studies that require complex solutions, including data collections with diverse populations (such as children and young people, people who have experienced violence and trauma, and who may have multiple vulnerabilities, and older people), as well as diverse data collection approaches such as online surveys, computer-assisted interviews, tablet-based surveys and paper-based surveys.

Excellence in survey methodology

We have a highly dedicated team with world-class expertise in the development of instruments and questionnaires for use in national surveys and with diverse populations, including instrument development, longitudinal survey design, implementation and management.

Demonstrated excellence in data analysis

We have expertise in the analysis of large-scale longitudinal datasets, complex surveys, and linked and administrative data. Our researchers and analysts include those with specialist knowledge in applied mathematics and statistics, as well as experts in applying quantitative methods to a range of subject areas, including health and the social sciences, psychology and econometrics.

High-level expertise and experience in data linkage

We are one of seven accredited Data Linkage Integrating Authorities in Australia. This means we are authorised to undertake data integration projects involving sensitive Commonwealth data for statistical and research purposes. Data linkage has been a key element of many of our longitudinal studies, and we have exceptional skills in this area.

Knowledge translation and dissemination

We have extensive experience in writing for a broad range of audiences, including policy makers, researchers, practitioners, study participants and the general community. We can produce a wide variety of communications products, ranging from complex reports and peer-reviewed journal articles to fact sheets, infographics, videos, posters and social media.

Capability development

We embed continuous improvement in all our research practices and develop our researchers' capability for engaging families both as participants in research and partners in research design.

Capability development pathway (2021/22 to 2024/25)

Developing the activities and success measures for this capability is a major activity for this, the first year of the AIFS Strategy 2021-26.

People and culture

Current capability

We have a diverse and committed workforce of around 80 full-time equivalent employees. Our Employee Census results consistently identify strong employee engagement and wellbeing as our strengths. Three quarters of our staff are women and just under 30% of our staff were born outside Australia, with over 21% having a first language other than English.

In the face of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff demonstrated resilience, flexibility and agility. We offer flexible working conditions to attract high-quality professional staff who wish to balance their work and caring responsibilities or other commitments. This is consistently identified by staff as one of our organisational strengths. Nearly half our staff work part-time. Following successive lockdowns in Melbourne, many staff continue to combine work at home arrangements with work in our office, where our connections with each other are highly beneficial to our work and wellbeing.

Just over 60% of staff hold postgraduate degrees, which reflects the fact that our work is complex and specialised, requiring highly developed skills and qualifications.

Infographic: Over 60% of staff hold postgraduate degrees; Over 45% of staff work part-time; Over 76% of staff are women.

Capability development

We are ensuring our workforce has the skills and knowledge required to deliver and communicate high-quality research by delivering outcomes across workforce planning, capability development, organisational culture and leadership.

Capability development pathway (2021/22 to 2024/25)

Our people's capability will be developed by undertaking specific activities to:

  • ensure we have staff with the right capabilities to meet our goals, by establishing workforce planning and capability frameworks
  • build new skills and expertise to work directly with families, including enhancing co-design, formal and informal collaboration and stakeholder engagement capabilities
  • invest in the career development and ongoing learning of our staff through development programs that increase adaptability and research expertise
  • strengthen and ensure research integrity by integrating the principles of responsible research into people management systems
  • encourage leadership within our workplace and in the conduct and delivery of our research
  • build on our successes to date in creating a strong organisational culture supported by the values and behaviours that make us a great place to work.

Information management and technology

Current capability

Our information management and technology systems play a critical role in supporting the Institute's operations and are in the middle of a transition to help enable the AIFS Strategy 2021-26.

Capability development

Over the next four years, we will continue to enhance our business capability by using technology to innovate and improve the way we manage and deliver our services. We will ensure that our Information Management and Technology resources align with and support the delivery of the AIFS Strategy 2021-26 by using the following principles:

  • Be agile: Deliver solutions using a customer-centric agile approach that encourages people and projects to adapt as needs change and to deliver fit-for-purpose solutions.
  • Be financially responsible: Reduce cost without loss of service with solutions that are value for money.
  • Be digitally integrated: Enable a vibrant and digitally integrated environment that supports and enhances the user experience.
  • Reduce complexity: Allow simple and secure access to systems and information to enable agility and innovation.

Capability development pathway (2021/22 to 2024/25)

Key initiatives include:

  • developing and implementing an information management governance strategy
  • ongoing implementation of technological solutions to increase collaboration within AIFS and between our partners, which includes completing the rollout of Microsoft 365 products
  • the implementation of SharePoint as the basis of AIFS' electronic document and records management system
  • the development of a new AIFS website, which will be a trusted source of user-friendly information for people who are seeking to increase their knowledge about evidence relating to families and their wellbeing.

Financial sustainability

Current capability

The Finance function manages the budget process, and cash and accounting, and ensures that financial systems support informed and accountable decision making.

Capability development

The uplift in financial capability is critical to delivering on the AIFS Strategy 2021-26. We will transition our finance systems, processes and skills to better support informed and effective decisions through consistent, well-documented processes. We aim to ensure the sustainable management of resources and bring a commercial mindset to drive growth.

Capability development pathway (2021/22 to 2024/25)

Key initiatives include:

  • a capability framework to uplift the finance team to become trusted business partners
  • an upgrade of the financial management information system to introduce a single source of information that improves financial reporting
  • the redevelopment of budgeting tools and processes
  • the redevelopment of our internal pricing and costing tool, with the focus on quality financial outcomes for AIFS and better understanding of resource investment through transparent calculations
  • replacing paper-based approval processes with a digital workflow tool.
Risk oversight and management

Risk oversight and management

Our governance structures are based on accountability, transparency and fairness, and we are committed to promoting a proactive, positive risk culture across the agency. The Director and the Executive Team oversee our risk management, information and privacy management, and control and compliance requirements. They are supported by the Risk Assessment and Audit Committee (RAAC), which ensures effective and efficient use of public resources by providing an external review of the performance and operation of our internal controls and performance management systems.

The RAAC reports directly to the Director and is chaired by an external member. It meets four times a year, addressing a range of issues including internal budgets, Portfolio Budget Statements, compliance with the Protective Security Policy Framework, internal and external audit processes, fraud control, risk register and risk profile, PGPA Act compliance reviews, oversight of our privacy management plan and updates of our Accountable Authority Instructions.

We also receive strategic advice on our research through the Ethics Committee and a range of expert advisory groups.

Internally, the Senior Leadership Group reviews our risk register and privacy management plan every quarter. Risk management is an integral part of our project governance. Project managers undertake risk assessments for all projects and are required to report regularly on risk and mitigations. They also develop privacy impact assessments on all projects that involve handling personal or sensitive information. Risk management is an ongoing and iterative process and each risk in our risk register is reviewed at least annually, with higher rated risks reviewed every quarter. In line with the implementation of the new AIFS Strategy 2021-26, we will be renewing our Risk Management Framework during the 2021/22 financial year, as well as refreshing and aligning our risk register with the new strategy and introducing improvements to our risk assessment and review processes to further build our risk management capability.

Acknowledgements

Featured image: © GettyImages/eclipse_images

Publication details

Corporate document
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, August 2021
ISBN:
978-1-76016-231-3

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