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Research highlights 2018/19

During the past year we worked on 33 projects, including seven new research projects, and continued to extend our expertise and experience to make a significant contribution to practice and policy development in a wide range of family wellbeing areas.

Child Care Package Evaluation

The Australian Government Department of Education introduced the Child Care Package on 2 July 2018. In December 2017, AIFS was commissioned by the Department to lead an evaluation of the Child Care Package, with consortium partners the Centre for Social Research and Methods (CSRM) at the Australian National University; the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at the University of New South Wales; and the Social Research Centre (SRC). Extensive evaluation activities took place in the 2018/19 financial year following the implementation of the Package. Key activities for AIFS were:

  • data collection from families, services and other stakeholders (including some survey data and interview data collected by AIFS, as well as data collected by consortium partners with input from and oversight by AIFS)
  • analysis and reporting on data collections, and on other information relevant to the evaluation (the key deliverable was the first of the evaluation reports, an Early Monitoring Report, finalised in 2018/19)
  • reporting on evaluations of two specific programs, the In Home Care program and the Inclusion Support Programme
  • provision of support to the Department of Education on their Post Implementation Reviews
  • ongoing liaison with the Department, stakeholders and consortium partners to manage the evaluation project, and participate in briefings and discussions on issues relevant to the Child Care Package.

Australian Gambling Research Centre

Globally, gambling has expanded at a rapid pace, and related harms are an increasing concern. The Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) undertakes policy-relevant research that enhances understanding of the nature and extent of gambling participation and related harms, and advances knowledge of ways to prevent and reduce harm among at-risk populations, their families and communities. The AGRC has conducted several significant research projects in the past year, including:

  • the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering in Australia: Baseline Study, which the Department of Social Services commissioned as part of a larger four-phase evaluation of the National Consumer Protection Framework
  • Pints, Punts ’n’ Peers, a study exploring the relationship between alcohol consumption and sports betting among young Australians, see ‘Report on performance’ for more information
  • The Relationship Between Gambling and Domestic Violence Against Women, a national project investigating the nature of the relationship between gambling and domestic violence, funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety
  • Identifying lessons from public health policy for interventions to prevent gambling-related harm, a project involving a review of evidence from the fields of tobacco control, alcohol and obesity prevention to recommend ways to adapt successful policies and interventions from these fields to gambling and funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
  • Gambling in Suburban Australia, a study investigating environmental factors that contribute to gambling consumption and related harm at the local level.

Building a New Life in Australia

Building a New Life in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants (BNLA) is a long-term research project examining how humanitarian migrants settle into a new life in Australia. Close to 2,400 individuals and families living in communities around Australia, who have been granted permanent humanitarian visas, are taking part in the study. In 2018/19, the fifth wave of data for the study was collected. The study has continued to be well-received by participants, with very high response rates.

Two presentations were given by the BNLA team in July 2018. A presentation about the factors associated with psychological distress among recently arrived humanitarian migrants was presented at the 25th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (Gold Coast). A presentation on English language proficiency among humanitarian youth was given at the AIFS Conference in Melbourne.

The first four waves of data from the BNLA study are available to approved researchers from government, academic institutions and non‑profit organisations. Wave 5 data are anticipated for release in late 2019.

Child Family Community Australia

The Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange, funded by the Department of Social Services, provides evidence-informed resources, publications and support for professionals working in the child, family and community welfare sector. In 2018/19, CFCA increased user engagement with its website with over 3.5 million page views. Over 16,450 subscribers receive the fortnightly CFCA News, a 36% increase on 2017/18. CFCA produced 13 publications this financial year and its expanded webinar program attracted large numbers of attendees per session (almost 12,000 participants across 14 webinars; a 50% increase on 2017/18) – playing a significant role in professional development for the sector.

User feedback indicates that CFCA content contributes to the increased use of evidence in policy and practice, and increased knowledge of the latest research.

Family law research

Following the completion of the Children and Young People in Separated Families study and Direct Cross-Examination in Family Law Matters research in June 2018, the Family Law and Family Violence team engaged in significant dissemination activities during this financial year. These activities included giving 19 presentations and preparing three submissions in response to key inquiries and reviews.

In April, the Australian Attorney-General’s Department announced that the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Act 2018 had commenced. Last year we were commissioned by the Department to explore data relevant to direct cross-examination, involving self-represented litigants in family law matters, involving allegations or substantiated instances of family violence. Legislation that was passed in Parliament last December and which has now been enacted drew on our report Direct Cross‑Examination in Family Law Matters: Incidence and Context of Direct Cross-Examination Involving Self-Represented Litigants. From 11 September 2019, personal cross-examination will be banned in family law proceedings in certain circumstances, including when there are allegations of family violence.

The team continued its important research in the area of elder abuse, as the lead research organisation in the Elder Abuse National Research Stage 1: Strengthening the Evidence Base project. This now-concluded research comprised three components, including the development of an Australian definition of abuse of older people for application in research; the development and testing of instruments to measure the prevalence of abuse of older people in Australia; and the analysis of existing datasets. The Attorney-General’s Department has commissioned the Institute to conduct a prevalence study of elder abuse in Australia. This 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.

The team is also engaged in research activities for the Singapore Ministry of Family and Social Development aimed at understanding trends of co-parenting in Singapore.

Families and Children Expert Panel

The Expert Panel Project aims to help Families and Children (FaC) Activity service providers to better articulate the evidence underpinning their programs and to build program monitoring and evaluation into their routine. Its ultimate aim is to support evidence-informed programs for parents and children, and help those programs to achieve better outcomes for parents and children. For more information, see ‘Report on performance’.

Growing Up in Australia

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) follows the development of 10,000 children and their families in urban and rural areas and continues to provide insights into the paths Australian children and their families take through life.

Wave 8 fieldwork was completed during 2018/19 and the data are planned for release in 2020. For more information about Growing Up in Australia, see ‘Report on performance’ for more information.

Ten to Men

Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health is the first national longitudinal study in Australia focusing exclusively on male health and wellbeing. The study aims to fill the gaps in knowledge about male health and wellbeing across the life course and to contribute to the development of health programs and policies targeted to the special health needs of men and boys. Activities in 2018/19 included fieldwork for the Wave 3 data collection, refreshing the Ten to Men logo and identity, and upgrading the study website. For more information about Ten to Men, see ‘Report on performance’.