Go to top of page

CEO's report

Barry Sandison, AIHW CEO
2018–19 was a year that combined the continued delivery of our well regarded products and services with a growing role in advising on data related activities and developing new strategic assets. Our Vision for Stronger Evidence and our five strategic goals have maintained their relevance and guided our priorities. Importantly, with growing concerns over cybersecurity and data protection, privacy and strong governance have remained central to our work. The AIHW acknowledges that the data assets we manage contain large amounts of personal and sensitive data and we maintain rigorous controls to determine access to, and the release of, this information.

While the rising demand for our services and products reflect positively on the AIHW brand, these opportunities come with increased challenges and risks.

The Australian Public Service (APS) cap on staffing levels has led to a significant increase in the use of contract staff, almost 31% of active staff at the end of June 2019. The flexibilities that come with use of contractors also provide some challenges in terms of retaining corporate memory and capabilities.

There is increasing demand for up-to-date information that is easily accessible, available in real time and integrated at national, state and territory, and local levels. There is also growing interest in data being presented in more flexible, user-friendly and interactive formats. In addition there is a need for data at geographical levels to support service planning and delivery information requirements.

In 2018–19 we continued our transformation from publishing traditional reports to more dynamic and interactive products and enhanced geospatial reporting, without compromising our rigorous standards of privacy and confidentiality.

Our operations

It was an eventful year for the AIHW in 2018–19. Our enabling legislation, the AIHW Act, was amended to improve our governance and operational efficiency. This was the first significant change to this legislation since the addition of the welfare functions in 1992.

We re-aligned our work units with existing and emerging work streams to foster greater collaboration across the AIHW and meet the needs of our stakeholders. This restructure included the establishment of a new Data Governance Group with a new unit to focus on My Health Record (MHR) data governance and the secondary use of MHR data. We also established a second data linkage unit to help meet the demand for data linking services.

Our staff continued to be engaged with the work of the AIHW. I was pleased that we had an 89% response rate for the APS Census and the extremely strong results compared very favourably with other APS agencies.

The high level of support for our purpose and the degree of willingness to ‘buy in’ to what we do, are a huge part of our organisational culture and what will continue to make us a high-performing organisation. This is also reflected in the large numbers of high quality applicants for vacancies at both the APS and executive level positions.

2018–19 highlights

Key achievements in 2018–19 included:

  • establishment of the first version of the National Integrated Health Services Information Analysis Asset (NIHSI AA) to enable reporting on patient journeys through the health and aged care sectors
  • an updated burden of disease suite of products that included analysis of the burden attributable to risk factors, burden for population groups and risk factor burden for socioeconomic groups
  • the first Profile of Australia's veterans to understand the factors that influence veterans’ health and welfare
  • national consultations with stakeholders to inform the development of an enduring National Primary Health Care Data Asset
  • a series of innovative longitudinal reports that analysed the use of homelessness services and inaugural release of regional data on the use of homelessness services
  • playing a key role in the development of a proposed data improvement plan for the National Agreement on Housing and Homelessness
  • drafting 10-year plans for improved data and information for both mental health and palliative care
  • high level involvement in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety which drew heavily on data published on our GEN—Aged Care Data website
  • further gains in working with Centrelink data, which are crucial to understand outcomes, particularly for vulnerable population groups
  • publishing of a report on opioid harm authored with the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)
  • collaboration with the Healing Foundation to undertake work focused on the Stolen Generations.

The 2019 federal election involved a significant focus on health and some of the debate was informed by our data and products. This use of our data assets demonstrated the independent role played by the AIHW and the high level of trust in the reliability of our data.


The success of the AIHW is the result of contributions and efforts of many people including:

  • Australian and state and territory governments, non-government organisations, professional bodies and academics who participated on our advisory committees, provided subject matter expertise and reviewed our products
  • our Board Chair, Mrs Louise Markus, as well as current and former members of the AIHW Board for their strategic guidance
  • the senior executive and staff of the AIHW who have continued to show their commitment to improving the health and welfare of Australians through better evidence.

Looking ahead

In 2019–20 we will publish our biennial flagship reports on Australia's health and Australia’s welfare. We will also launch a completely revised and updated Metadata Online Registry (METeOR).

Both the Prime Minister and Minister for Health have placed a high priority on mental health and suicide prevention. The AIHW received funding in the 2019–20 budget to create a new national suicide information system. In addition, funding has been provided to establish an Indigenous Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse.

We will play a significant role in reporting under the new Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Health Agreement, through the ongoing development of the Australian Health Performance Framework (AHPF). During 2019–20 the AIHW will also lead the development of a National Health Information Strategy.

We are developing a Secure Remote Access Environment—a cloud-based researcher analytics environment built on the University of New South Wales’s ERICA researcher platform.

To achieve our goals for 2019–20, we will continue to build on the relationships with our partners in health, housing and community services across Australia to maintain our role as a major national agency for information and statistics.

Barry Sandison