What we do
Producing and sharing research that promotes the welfare of families
AIFS undertakes high-quality research that is:
- rigorous and ethical
- high-quality and cost-effective
- relevant and responsive to policy and practice settings.
Most especially, we respect and value the commitment, views and input of all those who contribute to our research.
- manage numerous research projects (including some major longitudinal studies)
- produce research reports
- hold conferences and events
- host webinars
- prepare submissions to government inquiries.
We also build the capacity of practitioners, and disseminate our research findings within the families sector and the wider community.
We produce and share research that promotes the welfare of Australian families and increases understanding of the issues that affect them.
AIFS does research that makes a real difference to Australian families.
We don’t just study families, we interact with them, engage them and collaborate with them. We work with families to learn what their needs are, what the gaps in knowledge are and how what we do can be useful to them. That means answering their questions, not just ours.
We achieve impact through:
- Providing national research leadership
- Being a leading source of relevant, timely and accessible knowledge and resources
- Influencing national conversations and action on child and family well-being
- Maintaining sustainability as an independent research institute.
By conducting research and bringing policy makers and practitioners together to engage with this knowledge, AIFS provides access to high quality, timely and relevant information and resources. Our work provides deeper understanding into the trends, issues and challenges facing families and helps build capacity across communities.
AIFS has a proud record of high-quality, responsive and impartial research into the wellbeing of Australian families. Our work helps governments and services to design policies, legislation, programs and practices that better meet the needs of families. Policy makers use our research and resources to enact systemic change through policy development and implementation. Service providers use our research to develop their workforce, deliver direct action, and enhance their programs and practices for children and families.
The end result is better laws, policies, systems, services and practices to support the well-being of children and families.
Areas in which we have made and continue to make a positive difference include:
1. Federal government childcare subsidy program
A recent example of the impact our work can have is an evaluation we conducted of the federal government’s childcare subsidy program. The study investigated the policy of fee relief intended to make childcare more affordable and to strengthen the safety net around vulnerable children. Our study made six recommendations to the government of changes they could make to improve the policy. The government adopted four of our six recommendations.
2. Victims of domestic violence
Another example of AIFS research that can make a profound impact on families is a study into the cross-examination of victims of domestic violence in family law disputes. Previously it was possible for a victim of domestic abuse to be directly cross-examined by their violent partner in the family court. AIFS research into the experience of victims of domestic abuse in the family court was tabled in federal parliament and contributed to a change in policy.
3, Longitudinal studies
A very different type of research we do involves tracking various segments of Australians in the long-term. These longitudinal studies follow the same research volunteers, tracking a variety of outcomes, to give us the widest and fullest possible perspectives possible. Several of these studies are ongoing, including one involving Australian children that has been in the works for almost 20 years, and another tracking men’s health.
4. Submissions to government
AIFS regularly prepares research submissions to government inquiries and reviews. Governments use inquiries and reviews to help formulate policy and legislation. Our submissions help governments at a federal and state level make better policy based on the best available evidence.
Tools and methods
For over 40 years, AIFS has been conducting high-quality research relevant to policy and practice. We are the experts in family research.
AIFS has expertise in a range of research methodologies, and a host of tools, datasets, systems and resources to support our researchers, clients, partners and networks.
AIFS projects with a significant reliance on data collection, representative sampling, and data and statistical analysis include:
- Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
- Building a New Life in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants
- Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health.
Accessing our datasets
Access to the datasets of current AIFS projects requires either an individual or organisational licence. To apply, go to National Centre for Longitudinal Data Dataverse.
Datasets derived from past research undertaken by AIFS are available from the Australian Data Archive.
AIFS is an Accredited Integrating Authority. We can access a rich variety of administrative and other data sets to provide new information for research and policy making. See Data Linkage at AIFS, below.
We use qualitative research methods to uncover trends in thoughts or opinions and gain a deeper understanding of how a person feels on a particular issue. Recent research projects with a significant qualitative research component include:
- Weighing up the odds: Young men, sports and gambling
- Children and Young People in Separated Families
- Child Care Flexibility Trials.
Survey data collection
AIFS runs numerous surveys, some of which collect information on very sensitive topics, including violence and safety, mental health, gambling and substance abuse. Recent AIFS projects with a substantive survey component include:
- Families in Australia Survey
- Gambling Trends Study
- National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study
- Compliance with and Enforcement of Family Law Parenting Orders.
Program evaluation is the systematic process of investigating if a program or service achieves its aims. AIFS has conducted innumerable program evaluations in the child and family sector. AIFS staff also work with sector professionals to build their capability to conduct their own program evaluations. Some of the many evaluations AIFS has conducted include:
- Families and Children Expert Panel Project
- Cradle to Kinder program evaluation
- Child Care Flexibility Trials.
AIFS is an Accredited Integrating Authority, which means we are authorised to undertake high-risk data linkage projects involving Commonwealth data for statistical and research purposes. Our accreditation allows us to negotiate and arrange access to a rich array of administrative and other data sources. Our linking of data sets provides valuable new information for research and policy making, in a secure, privacy-preserving manner.
We can provide the following services:
- Data scoping: AIFS can identify data sources that can enhance research and provide new insights. We will assess the availability, feasibility and benefits of linking data.
- Integrating data: Our established procedures for data integration comprise the actual process of data linkage and provision of documentation around the linked information. AIFS will ensure privacy and confidentiality during and after data integration.
- Analysis and research using linked data: AIFS has more than 30 years’ experience conducting high-quality, responsive and impartial research. We are experts in planning, developing, collecting and analysing complex quantitative and qualitative data using a variety of research methods.
As well as linking administrative, person-level data, AIFS can enhance data sets using geographic and organisation data, including:
- Socio Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)
- distance data (e.g. distance to coast, travel time to GP)
- MySchool information
AIFS’ data-linkage expertise includes:
- linkage of unit record (e.g. persons and organisations) using probabilistic and deterministic methods
- integration of data: bringing together content data from various sources, either at the person or organisation level, or by geographic matching
- privacy, including adherence to the Privacy Act 1988 and the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012, and capacity to undertake Privacy Impact Assessments
- provision of useful metadata to data users
- understanding of data quality issues, including the capability to report on and manage data quality issues in analysis and interpretation.
AIFS collaborates with data custodians and partnering data linkage agencies to optimise development of data assets.
Privacy and data security
AIFS adheres to a rigorous set of protocols to maintain a high degree of physical and information security, ensuring data linkage is conducted in a secure, privacy-preserving manner.
Our risk-management policy ensures all data are risk-assessed and evaluated for the potential of a privacy breach. All data are identified and confidentialised prior to release and subsequent analysis.
All data linkage undertaken by the AIFS is subject to approval by the AIFS Human Research Ethics Committee.
AIFS Data Linkage and Integrating Authority
AIFS’ library catalogue gives access to the Institute's collection of international and Australian research on family wellbeing in Australia.
The collection features 'grey literature' reports, books, journal articles, conference papers and book chapters. It covers a broad range of areas including: child abuse prevention; child development and psychology; family law; economics; demographics; family violence; sexual assault; and parenting.
Australian Family & Society Abstracts
Produced by staff at the Institute's Library since 1984, the Australian Family & Society Abstracts database:
- records the research, policy and practice literature about Australian families and the social issues that affect them
- draws upon a wide range of social science disciplines, including sociology, psychology, demography, health, education, economics, law, history and social work
- contains abstracts for journal articles, conference papers, books, book chapters, government reports, research reports, discussion and working papers, unpublished papers, statistical documents, theses and grey literature.
The Family Thesaurus provides a list of the subject terms developed for indexing and retrieving information in the Australian Family & Society Abstracts database. Terms included in the thesaurus reflect the database's multidisciplinary approach to factors affecting life in Australian society and are drawn directly from the literature being indexed.
Interlibrary loans and document delivery
Other libraries are welcome to contact us about inter-library loans and copies. We follow the Australian Interlibrary Resource Sharing (ILRS) Code and prefer arrangement via the Libraries Australia Document Delivery (LADD) system.
Phone (03) 9214 7888 and ask to be put through to the library or fill in the AIFS contact form and direct your enquiry to the library.